The Fire Brigades Union has described the fire at a student accommodation block in Bolton as “deeply troubling”.
On Friday night, a fire ripped through several floors of the Cube in Bolton, a six-storey student accommodation block home to more than 220 students from Bolton University.
In a statement, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) Matt Wrack said: “It’s deeply troubling to see fire spread rapidly up a building’s exterior again – a shocking indictment of the government’s shameful inaction after Grenfell.
“This is not how any building should react to a fire in the 21st century, let alone a building in which people live.”
This is not how any building should react to a fire in the 21st century, let alone a building in which people live
– Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union
Bolton University is offering each student affected access to £500 from an emergency fund and is calling on businesses and members of the public to donate items to help those displaced by the fire.
In a tweet following the disaster, education secretary Gavin Williamson said: “This afternoon, I have written to all university vice chancellors asking that they – and their commercial partners – review fire safety procedures and safeguards across residential, teaching & research accommodation. I have asked them to report back to me as swiftly as possible.”
The block was managed by Valeo USL, a property management company in charge of letting the rooms, looking after the building’s day-to-day operations and the welfare of residents.
It shouldn’t take another fire to put the issue of building safety back on the agenda
– Eva Crossan Jory, NUS
Eva Crossan Jory, National Union of Students (NUS) vice-president for welfare, said: “NUS has been calling for a number of improvements in fire-safety measures in student accommodation, and while this building doesn’t appear to have used the same cladding as Grenfell, we also don’t know what role it might have played in this fire.
“It shouldn’t take another fire to put the issue of building safety back on the agenda. Student safety must always be the first priority for accommodation providers and the government.”
The vice-chancellor of the University of Bolton said staff were working hard to ensure students were supported. All students will be rehoused and £10,000 has been raised through a crowdfunding appeal launched by the university
Prof George E Holmes, the president and vice-chancellor of the University of Bolton, said: “I would like to stress that the Cube is not owned by the University of Bolton. It is owned and managed by a private landlord and the students were not on our premises during this incident.”
The Office for Students – the university watchdog which oversees all matters affecting students in higher education – has said it will not be releasing a statement on the fire because of the general election.
During a general election, civil servants are not permitted to engage in matters that may influence the opinions of the public. The period – referred to as purdah – places restrictions on government departments and bodies from communicating anything which “could call into question their political impartiality”.
University Business asked the OfS to explain why it couldn’t discuss the welfare and safeguarding of those students living in the Cube. A spokesperson for the organisation offered excerpts from the civil service guidelines on purdah.
“Special care must be taken during the course of an election since material produced with complete impartiality, which would be accepted as objective in ordinary times, may generate criticism during an election period when feelings are running high.”
“Departmental communication staff may properly continue to discharge, during the election period, their normal function only to the extent of providing factual explanation of current government policy, statements and decisions. They must be particularly careful not to become involved in a partisan way in election issues.”
The OfS said the fire was subject to political debate and it was therefore not a subject in which they would intervene.