Government funding released for cladding removal
THE GOVERNMENT has released £248m of the promised £400m to councils and housing association for removing and replacing combustible aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding.
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, as 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.
It stated that the department had ‘received inquiries from 36 councils about financial help’, but that ‘so far none have been approved’. MPs wrote to the government to implore it to ‘urgently release’ funds to ‘accelerate’ removal of combustible cladding. The only fire safety investment in the 2017 budget was £28m to help victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, though Chancellor Philip Hammond 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’.
Later on in 2018, it was also revealed that the funding for the removal would come from funds allocated for affordable housing. Now, the government had released £248m of the £400m promised to 12 councils and 31 housing associations for the removal and replacement of ACM cladding from 135 buildings, with the government stating that the release ‘is the first tranche’ of funding to help bodies ‘make their properties safe without having an impact on their other vital services’.
Having received applications for 159 buildings, 135 from the councils and housing associations numbered above have been approved, with the government having ‘requested more information’ for 12 applications. This will be reviewed alongside any others received in December, with 12 other applications ‘not eligible for funding because they didn’t meet the application criteria’. Despite a nominal deadline of 31 August, applications received after will still be reviewed.
The government noted that this was because ‘there is nothing more important than ensuring people are safe in their homes’, adding that due to work ongoing and costs only being estimates, 80% of the costs will be ‘provided upfront’ so that work ‘can start with no delay’. All work will be ‘closely monitored’ by the government, with the other 20% paid once works are complete and final costs are known.
Construction News stated that the rejections were due to buildings being under 18m, owned by commercial freeholders or not having ACM cladding, while government data released also revealed that over 75% of social housing with ACM cladding is currently seeing the material being removed and replaced ‘with plans in place for the remaining 25%’.
A total of 159 social housing blocks had ACM cladding as of September, and 205 private blocks, with only two of the latter seeing removal and 12 seeing work started. Housing Secretary James Brokenshire commented: ‘There is nothing more important than ensuring people are safe in their homes and that is why I am pleased the £400m funding has started to be released. We are doing the right thing by residents and fully funding the replacement of unsafe ACM cladding in social housing buildings 18 m or above.
‘In the private sector, I want to see landlords protect leaseholders from these costs. I am pleased that a number have stepped forward to do so, including Barratt Developments, Legal & General, Taylor Wimpey, Mace and Peabody. However, there are some who are not engaging in this process. If they don’t, I have ruled nothing out.’