It has been revealed that £1.25 million was spent on supporting students affected by the fire at the Bolton Cube student accommodation in November, in which 211 students lost their homes.
The University of Bolton provided the students affected with emergency alternative accommodation, hot food, and cash after the fire had destroyed or damaged the students’ belongings.
Vice-Chancellor of the University George Holmes has now revealed the financial compensation the fire caused. He commented: “It was an enormous job. On the night, myself and the president of the union met – about an hour after the fire began – and the issue was that we had 200 or so displaced individuals who needed somewhere to sleep, food, clothing and so on.
“I made the decision that the university would effectively underwrite the costs of that. By lunchtime of the first day, I’d spent £250,000 on it.
“We had to book hotel rooms, we used some of the vacant rooms at the Orlando site, but to accommodate 200 people you’ve got to underwrite that cost.
“Some of the students didn’t even have their own bank cards, clothes or basic cosmetics because they were still in the building.
“It was a mammoth task that we took on because they’re our students but it did cost the University a fortune. We probably spent between £1m and £1.25m in total.”
President of the University of Bolton’s Students’ Union told the Manchester Evening News: “I was actually on my way to the Cube already because I was going to meet my friend’s new hamster. I got a call that there was a fire and I panicked. I just got the feeling that something was terribly wrong so I started running.
“It was distressing to see the students like that so the way they’ve come out of it is commendable. For the first few days, I did not really think about how I was feeling, but it did have a toll on my health and I was recently admitted to the hospital because I was unable to manage my workload.
“It has given me a new perspective on life.”
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham visited the university on Friday 14th of February to meet with students and announce new investment in the fire service.
He said that he plans to keep 50 fire engines in use across Greater Manchester and recruit 108 additional firefighters.
“I’m asking the council taxpayers of Greater Manchester to pay more at a difficult time and I’m not sure how much longer I can ask them to do that.
“You cannot fund essential emergency services constantly through the council tax. That simply is not a sustainable way to do it. Central government, in my view, has got to stop the cuts to emergency services.
“If they stop the cuts – we’re not cutting it – therefore we can have a solid budget that can maintain the fire service in its current position.”
Mr Burnham also said that a report into the cause of the Cube fire is imminent and confirmed he would be sending it to the Prime Minister.
He added: “There’s a huge number of policy issues that are coming out of this report. Just because there weren’t casualties, it doesn’t mean the government can say, ‘that’s fine forget about that’. This was a near miss that can easily happen again.”