New £100,000-a-year director of safety starts work at Town Hall in wake of Chalcots crisis
Former Labour councillor says he will work to ensure people "do not have to suffer bad things”
06 November, 2017 — By William McLennan
A NEW £100,000-a-year council director brought in to look after resident safety in the wake of the Chalcots evacuation has begun work at the Town Hall.
Keith Scott, who arrived at his desk on Thursday, said: “If you want to put it in plain speak: my job is to try and help people not have to suffer bad things.”
Asked if he had been appointed to prevent Camden ever again having to face a crisis similar to the evacuation of 3,000 residents in June, he said: “Risk management is not about preventing completely. It’s about trying to avoid bad things if we can. My job is to make sure we identify the most significant hazards for residents and then [make sure] we actually target our actions to try to prevent those and then mitigate them.”
Fire risk assessments, carried out at the Chalcots estate, had found some of the problems, such as faulty doors, that were identified by the fire brigade, but steps to fix them had not taken place within the allotted 12 months.
Council leader Georgia Gould pledged to set up the new position as questions were asked in the days after four tower blocks along Adelaide Road were judged to be unsafe for habitation by the fire brigade. It followed the discovery they were covered in the same type of cladding used at Grenfell Tower, where a fire claimed at least 80 lives on June 14.
Asked if he would be making sure all recommendations in fire risk assessments would be made in future, he said: “I will give my advice and make sure that the risk assessments are done to a good quality. I’m seeing my role will be along quality assessment of what’s going on. The operational people do the operational stuff and I’m looking at how do we support them technically and then make sure there’s quality assessment going on.”
Camden is the first council to appoint a director of resident safety. Mr Scott, a former head of safety at Royal Mail, is known in Greenwich as a former Labour councillor in the 1990s. He said of that political role that it was “many moons ago,” adding: ” I’ve almost forgotten I was a councillor. I understand about working as a servant of the people, which councillors are. I found that that was really rewarding.”
Mr Scott said: “I’m hoping we can help lead the way for other local authorities and housing associations to actually follow in our footsteps. I want to make a wider impact, if we can.”
Mr Scott has a Masters Degree in Health and Safety Management and Security and Risk Management from Leicester University. He is a Chartered Fellow of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, a Fellow of the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management and an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Industrial Accident Investigators.
Cllr Gould said Mr Scott would “help us build a new culture where we work more closely with residents to act quickly on emerging issues”.
Work to remove flammable cladding at the Chalcots is expected to be finished by Christmas. Tenants were shown at Swiss Cottage Library on Tuesday options for what should replace the cladding. One option would leave the towers with their original concrete exterior exposed. This has led to concerns about the costs