The MP for Crewe and Nantwich says she is seeking answers following the major fire at a retirement complex.
Laura Smith has said that the incident raises serious questions about building and fire safety regulations. She has written to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, calling for regulations that put people before profit.
She said: "I await the outcome of the formal investigation into the fire before reaching any conclusion but I believe that the government needs to urgently review our building regulations. I was shocked to discover that elderly people, many of whom had disabilities and care needs, had been housed in a timber-framed building without any sprinklers and a ‘stay put’ policy in the event of a fire.
“At the time of construction, the company boasted that it had the largest timber content of any development in Europe. This will have undoubtedly helped to deliver their PFI contract with the council on budget and on time. At the end of the day, companies will work to the rules set by government and we need those rules to put safety first. We need more assisted living homes but we also need to know that people are safe in their beds.
“I have also challenged whether the ‘stay put’ policy is appropriate in these circumstances. Thankfully, the Incident Commander made the right call to override the policy and lives were saved. I have asked Cheshire East Council to urgently audit buildings in the area to identify any sites where there is a similar risk and to work with Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service to make sure that appropriate fire safety plans are put in place. This is especially important where there are children or vulnerable adults with mobility issues involved.”
Firefighters are now leaving the scene, after being at the site since Thursday afternoon.
People living on Royce Close and Railton Avenue, next to the Beechmere facility, have also been told they can now return to their homes.
Ms Smith says she has also sought assurances from Cheshire East Council regarding continuity of local care services.
“It is really important that those residents with care needs continue to have those needs met with minimal disruption and at no extra cost. So much of our social care system has been privatised and outsourced, which means there is now uncertainty for residents and their families. These elderly and disabled residents deserve to receive care that is at least of the same standard and without having to worry about paying more for it.
“I am also concerned about the care workers at Beechmere, whose livelihoods have been put at risk through no fault of their own. It is vital that they get support after such a traumatic incident and I have called on Avantage and Cheshire East Council to do everything they can to make sure they remain in employment. I have heard many first-hand accounts of how the care workers stayed and helped to get the residents out, despite the ‘stay put’ policy. Care workers are too often forgotten at the best of times but we should all recognise their bravery in putting the residents they care for ahead of their own safety.”