Councils ‘bombard’ government over cladding safety

Councils ‘bombard’ government over cladding safety

THE MINISTRY for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) inbox for housing checks has seen over 9,000 emails from concerned local authorities since the Grenfell Tower fire.

Building reported on the response in parliament to a written question from Labour MP for Croydon North Steve Reed, asking about the Housing Checks mailbox – set up post Grenfell to ‘allow local authorities and housing associations to report towers within their areas which used aluminium composite material cladding [ACM]’.

In response, the government’s Housing Minister Esther McVey stated that MHCLG had ‘as of November 2019’ received ‘in excess of 9,000 emails dating back to June 2017’, which works out at about 300 emails per month since June 2017. The emails have come from local authorities and housing associations asking ‘queries about cladding safety’, specifically in relation to ACM.

Last month, an MHCLG official was reported to have told a tower block resident that the inbox was ‘no longer in use’, with the claim made in a letter to high rise resident and Tower Blocks UK campaigner Danielle Gregory. She had got in touch via the inbox to ask if it was still being checked, with the letter from the official commenting that the inbox ‘is no longer in use. We would encourage residents of affected buildings to speak to their building’s owner about the steps they are taking to ensure residents’ safety’.

However, an MHCLG spokesperson denied this was the case, apologising for any confusion caused and claiming that emails were forwarded to an ‘individual correspondence team which will formally respond in due course’. This spokesperson also noted that MHCLG was moving to a single ‘contact us’ address for all public enquiries, with the letter to Ms Gregory having claimed that the responsibility ‘lies with the building owner or the local authority’.

The letter went on: ‘The building owner or the responsible person is responsible for ensuring that any necessary checks, repairs or improvements are carried out. If the building owner refuses to deal with an issue or is taking an unreasonably long time to do so, residents can contact the environmental health department at their local authority.’

In response, Ms Gregory said that the letter was ‘further demonstration of the government’s failure to address and take seriously their responsibilities on fire safety’.