£350k spent to keep fire engine outside Nova House

Almost £350,000 was spent in six months by Slough Borough Council on a private 24-hour fire crew outside a tower block with dangerous cladding.

The council’s spending was in response to growing safety concerns over Nova House in Buckingham Gardens.

It failed a Government-backed cladding safety test in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire in June last year.

The council says it paid roughly £63,000 a month for the appliance and a crew of four, provided by Event Fire Solutions, between September 27, 2017 and March 16, amounting to just over £2,000 a day.

The measure was put in place as a precaution by Slough Borough Council (SBC).

During that time the council oversaw safety improvements in the private seven-storey tower, including heat sensors in the hallways.

The council bought Ground Rent Estates 5 Ltd (GRE5), the freehold company that owned Nova House, in March due to safety concerns.

Leaseholders in the tower block were written to in April and told the condition of the building was ‘much more serious’ than originally thought, with a number of safety issues other than the flammable cladding made of aluminium composite material.

A council spokeswoman said GRE5 was pursuing an insurance claim and taking action against third parties involved in the development, building and cladding of Nova House.

She also confirmed that the fire engine is no longer required but GRE5 pays two people to keep watch in the building over a 24-hour period.

Slough Conservative Group deputy leader Cllr Rayman Bains (Con, Upton) said: “As always SBC haven’t thought through the ramifications of their decisions. The acquisition of Nova House was nothing more than a PR stunt and didn’t have the support of the entire cabinet at the time.

“The decision was badly thought through with them failing to prioritise the safety of the residents and the cost to the taxpayer for future works.”

Responding to Cllr Bains’ comments, the council spokeswoman said: “Cabinet agreed to take control of Nova House to protect the safety of residents and because of concerns about the capacity of the previous owners to carry out the major works

required. The Government was aware of the council’s reasoning for the takeover. Resident safety rather than cost was the primary consideration.”

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