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Fire risk fears as fraud probe halts safety work

Wodehouse Place
Wodehouse Place residents are seeking assurances on fire safety

Residents in flats where emergency safety works have paused after a fraud investigation at the council have said essential fire safety work has not been completed.

They spoke out after a letter published in the Guildford Dragon raised concerns over whether a fire risk assessment had been acted on at Wodehouse Place.

Guildford Borough Council, which owns the building, had previously said that communal spaces had been tested by an electrician and were safe.

The council said on Wednesday that work had been recommended after a visit by Surrey Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) last week and would be completed within three months.

'Stay put' policy

A spokesman for the Wodehouse Place Residents' Association, who asked not to be named, said: "Last year in the summer we had some emergency works take place in our corridors which we were told were necessary for new fire legislation that was coming in."

He said after the fraud investigation started last September, contractors in their building were terminated and they were left with unfinished work.

The ongoing fraud investigation at the council is looking into the council's housing maintenance service. Last week, police made an arrest.

He said residents saw a copy of the fire risk assessment last November and found outstanding issues.

"The loft space is not compartmentalised," he said. "That was going to be done and we don't believe it has been done."

He said fire doors were apparently "not strong enough to withstand a fire for half an hour".

After the fire risk assessment referred to a "stay put" policy, where residents stay in flats during a fire, he said: "This has not been communicated to residents."

He said: "Guildford council keeps saying the property is safe, but that seems to be based on an electrical inspection. In terms of the fire element, we are not getting any reassurance."

Letter to residents from the council
Council letters were hand delivered on Wednesday, residents said

A Guildford council spokeswoman said all the authority's homes were routinely inspected and its priority was safety.

She said: "We have now received advice from SFRS about some additional recommended works that will complete our maintenance programme at Wodehouse Place. These will be completed within the SFRS recommended three-month timescale."

Rob Jenks, SFRS group commander, said: "SFRS have audited the premises as part of our inspection programme, and we are working with the owners to ensure that the premises and its residents remain safe.”

A council letter hand-delivered to residents on Wednesday said the authority's new chief executive would visit in the coming weeks.

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