Government Must Provide Greater and Faster Funding for Dangerous Cladding

THE HOUSE of Commons Housing Committee report on replacing dangerous combustible cladding was debated yesterday in Parliament.

To date, only a third (155 out of 455) of high-rise buildings clad with unsafe aluminium composite material (ACM) panels have had their cladding replaced with a safe alternative.

Following the Grenfell tower fire in 2017, the government announced a £600 million fund to replace ACM cladding on 455 high rise buildings identified to have the fire risk material. In March the fund was extended to £1.6 billion to cover other, high pressure laminate (HPL) dangerous cladding. The funds were to protect high rise building leaseholders from facing “unacceptable costs, in the tens of thousands of pounds”.

Despite the available funding, in March 2020 it was reported that only 14 private high rise buildings had had their ACM cladding replacement work completed. The following month, one cladding boss responded to criticism of the delays. In June the National Audit Office reported that the pace of work is too slow.

Inadequate cladding funds

Now, the Housing Committee has said it is alarmed that the £1.6 billion Government fund is not enough to cover the estimated £3.5 billion cost of repairs needed.

The Committee points out that Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said the fund would focus on buildings where affordability to leaseholders was the greatest barrier to cladding replacement. Social landlords and private building owners which could afford to pay for cladding replacement themselves were expected to do so.

Government funds would be allocated on a ‘first come, first served’ basis, but MHCLG couldn’t explain how applications were dated to ensure they were paid in order or that the highest risk buildings are being prioritised for funding.

Mike Robinson, the British Safety Council’s Chief Executive, commented, “The Government must provide sufficient protection against leaseholders paying the bill for the removal of unsafe cladding from tower blocks. Making sure those buildings are safe – and that people feel safer in them – should be the Government’s responsibility at no cost to leaseholders.

The Government has failed to deliver its pledge, made after the Grenfell tragedy, to provide safe alternatives to dangerous cladding on all buildings in England taller than 18 metres by June this year. According to the Government’s own figures, only a third (155 out of 455) of high-rise buildings with similar cladding to Grenfell had this replaced by September 2020.

It has now been over three years since Grenfell, in which 72 people lost their lives, and action to deliver this commitment should be accelerated.”