News Daily: Grenfell prompts sprinkler demand, and Storm Aileen

Grenfell: Fire chief calls for sprinklers in all council high-rises

At least 80 people died when fire spread through Grenfell Tower, in west London, in June. Now London’s fire commissioner has said the disaster must mark a “turning point” in safety standards. Dany Cotton is calling for sprinklers to be fitted in all high-rise council flats.

They’ve been compulsory in new-build high-rises over 30 metres tall since 2007, but the stipulation doesn’t apply to older buildings, like Grenfell, which was built in 1974. “I support retrofitting – for me, where you can save one life, then it’s worth doing,” said Ms Cotton. “This can’t be optional. It can’t be a nice to have. This is something that must happen.”

The government said public safety was “paramount” and promised to look at all recommendations made by the independent review of building regulations and fire safety that it has commissioned.

What’s causing homelessness to rise?

The number of households living in temporary accommodation has risen by more than 60% since 2010/11, according to the National Audit Office – the public spending watchdog. It’s accused the government of having a “light-touch approach” to the problem of homelessness and it argues that reforms to the local housing allowance are “likely to have contributed”.

Welfare reforms announced in 2015 included a four-year freeze to housing benefit, which came in last year. The government said tackling homelessness was a “complex issue” and that it was working to “restore fairness” to the system and provide a “strong safety net” for the most vulnerable in society.

Storm Aileen hits UK

Parts of England and Wales will experience winds of up to 75mph (121km/h) as Storm Aileen hits. Gusts have already reached 69mph on the Isle of Wight and 60mph on the Welsh coast. But Met Office chief forecaster Frank Saunders said the winds should pass “swiftly from west to east”. Meanwhile, a yellow weather warning for rain is in place for parts of Northern Ireland, northern England and southern Scotland – with up to 1.6ins (40mm) of rain expected to fall within six to nine hours.

Boris Johnson to visit Irma victims

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is due to arrive in the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla later to survey the damage caused last week by Hurricane Irma. About 1,000 UK soldiers are now in the region to deliver aid, and officials say more personnel and supplies are due in the next few days. The UK and other European governments have faced criticism that they have not done enough to help hurricane victims – which they have denied.

Analysis: Is school uniform over-priced?

By BBC Reality Check

Clothing and shoes for young children have been charged a zero rate of VAT since the introduction of the tax on 1 April 1973. The problem is that there is no definition of the term “young children” in VAT law. Instead, the VAT relief is based on the maximum size an average child will be on their 14th birthday. So clothes for older children, as well as many children under the age of 14 who are larger than the average figures, are taxed at 20%. And this includes school uniform.

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What the papers say

There’s a mixed reaction to the government’s decision to stop the 1% pay cap for police and prison officers. The Financial Times says it ends “one of the most divisive austerity measures imposed by the Conservative-led government”, but the Guardian focuses on what it calls “derision” from Labour and unions, some of whom are threatening strike action in demand for higher wage increases and for the pay cap to be removed across the public sector. Elsewhere, the Daily Mirror reports that the NHS is facing a “huge ‘flu crisis” this winter. And The Daily Star headlines on Storm Aileen, calling it a “killer 75mph hurricane”.

Daily digest

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Today’s lookahead

09:30 The Office for National Statistics publishes the latest UK unemployment statistics, for the three months to July.

10:30 The shortlist of six authors for the Man Booker 2017 prize is announced.

12:00 The funeral of former Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor takes place at Westminster Cathedral.

On this day

2001 Iain Duncan Smith becomes Conservative leader, beating Ken Clarke in a ballot of party members.

Posted in BBC