Fire marshal patrols for fire-risk tower blocks will cost Bristol City Council eye-watering £10million

Bristol City Council is responsible for 62 high-rise blocks, two of which have suffered fires this year

Fire marshals patrolling council tower blocks in a waking watch will cost Bristol City Council £200,000 a week. Plans show 77 wardens will be paid to patrol tower blocks with flammable polystyrene cladding until the council installs new fire safety measures like smoke alarms and sprinklers.

Each of the 37 tower blocks with expanded polystyrene (EPS) cladding, plus one block with similar cladding, will see waking watch wardens patrolling the building around the clock. These wardens will alert residents if a fire breaks out, following recent fires at two blocks.

The estimated cost to taxpayers of paying for a temporary waking watch is twice as much as the council initially planned to spend on installing sprinklers inside tower block flats, in January 2019. Since that promise was made only one building has had sprinklers installed.

After fires at Twinnell House in Easton and Eccleston House in Barton Hill, council chiefs promised to “accelerate” their sprinkler installation programme, although there remain important questions about how long the whole programme will take. They also pledged to replace all EPS cladding, but this work could take up to a decade.

In the meantime, the council will pay for temporary fire marshal patrols. The cabinet will be asked to approve spending £14.4 million on waking watches, at a meeting on December 6. Cabinet papers revealed the scale of the cost of new fire safety measures.

Each warden will cost £2,604 per week, costing an estimated £4 million up to March, and then £10 million over the next financial year. Removing EPS cladding is expected to cost £48 million, although this could be spread over the next 10 years. Recent fire safety inspections cost £1 million to carry out, while new smoke alarms are expected to cost £9.9 million.

A cabinet report said: “Bristol City Council is responsible for fire safety at 62 high-rise blocks. Since the Grenfell tragedy in 2017, we have carried out checks and reviews of our blocks to ensure they don’t have the same cladding and were assessed as safe. We have installed fire breaks, improved compartmentation and replaced fire doors in many blocks.

“However, there has been development of new knowledge within the industry as a result of extensive testing of insulation types, and risk aversion and legislation is changing, shifting focus to materials other than aluminium composite material cladding [found in Grenfell Tower].

Avon and Somerset Police has confirmed one person has died and eight remain in hospital following a fire on the top floor of a flat in Easton.

“Inspection reports indicate that, despite EPS cladding being installed to building regulations at the time and in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions, interim measures are required while remediation works are undertaken.

“The introduction of waking watches as interim measures will help ensure the safety of residents remains paramount and secure. The council must commission this service as a precautionary measure to protect the health and welfare of residents of high-rise blocks where EPS is present.”