Councillors were shocked to learn the authority has to replace, on average, 15 fire doors in its high-rise blocks per month, for £20,000 a month, due to damage inflicted by tenants. While the tenants responsible for the damage are charged and reported to the police, there is “little likelihood” of the council getting its money back.
However, changes are in place to “expedite replacement” of the doors with a new company to act reactively to broken fire doors. Replacement times for new fire doors were previously up to three weeks.
Ian McLackland, service director, of repairs and building maintenance, said: “Tenants have put holes in the fire doors, broken them, kicked them in, smashed them open etc, etc. Tenants are charged but there is little likelihood of the money coming back.”
Dunston and Teams councillor Brenda Clelland, chair of Gateshead Council’s housing, environment, and health communities overview and scrutiny committee said: “This is council taxpayers’ money we are spending, which we don’t have a good chance of getting back from these people. It is not just an act of vandalism, which it is, it is putting your neighbours at risk.”
These figures come as the council registers its high rises with the Building Safety Regulator and awaits potential safety inspections, starting in April 2024. High rises expected to be included in future inspections are Eslington Court, Redheugh Court, Regent Court and St Cuthberts Court, with a combined total of 576 flats.
The council’s report on building compliance states that a quarterly inspection of its 1,534 commercial fire doors is underway and on target. The document also states that “any high-risk repairs are addressed immediately” and a “significant amount of work” has taken place to meet safety legislation and regulations.
Such work includes ongoing fire risk assessment programmes, block evacuation processes, and high-rise audits with the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.