Council moves to reclaim cladding costs

Council moves to reclaim cladding costs

OXFORD CITY Council has launched a bid to reclaim £1m that it spent on recladding two residential blocks in the city from the government.

Oxford Mail reported on the bid from the city council to the government, to ‘get back money it spent’ recladding the Evenlode and Windrush towers in Oxford’s Blackbird Leys district. While work began on the towers ‘later than initially hoped’ in January, it was completed in July, with the council and Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service claiming that ‘any fire on the scale of Grenfell Tower would never happen in an Oxford tower block’.

Mike Rowley, the council’s board member for housing, stated: ‘We have said all along that we think the Government should be footing the bill for recladding and welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement of the £400m reimbursement fund. We have now submitted our claim to recoup our costs and await advice from the Government on a timetable for decisions on claims.

‘We are pleased that our decision to act swiftly to bring our two tower blocks into compliance with the latest government fire safety regulations has given our tenants and leaseholders added reassurance that they’re safe in their own homes.’

The two blocks, in addition to three others in the city, were fitted with sprinklers during a £20m refurbishment programme. In May this year, Prime Minister Theresa May committed to spending around £400m to pay for the removal of flammable cladding from local authority and housing association high rises.

In January, it was revealed that only three council owned high rises nationwide had been reclad, out of 160 that failed the government’s fire safety tests. The government’s pace of response was attacked as ‘simply not good enough’, with details having emerged amid issues regarding councils requesting funding assistance, and the government was accused in parliament of breaking its pledge to help councils with funding.

Four were reported to be set to receive funding, after an update from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government at a parliamentary select committee, which stated that the department ‘has received inquiries from 36 councils about financial help’, but that ‘so far none have been approved’. Last week, MPs wrote to the government to implore it to ‘urgently release’ funds to ‘accelerate’ removal of combustible cladding.

Following Chancellor Philip Hammond’s budget last year, the only fire safety investment was £28m to help victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, though he stated that ‘if any local authority cannot access funding to pay for essential fire safety work, they should contact us immediately’, and that ‘we will not let financial constraints get in the way of essential safety work’.