Government pledges cladding removal funding
PRIME MINISTER Theresa May has 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’.
Yesterday, The Guardian reported on Mrs May’s commitment in the House of Commons to spending around £400m to pay for councils and housing associations ‘to replace potentially dangerous cladding’ from their high rises. She was said to have stated that it would ‘be wrong if the cost of such cladding work meant housing providers had less money for maintenance’, with the revelation coming after a question relating to government progress after last year’s Grenfell Tower fire.
Noting that fire services had now checked more than 1,250 high rises, a spokeswoman for Mrs May said that cladding replacement was still required on 158 high rises 18 metres or higher in the social sector, with work begun on 104. Mrs May stated: ‘Councils and housing associations must remove dangerous cladding quickly, but paying for these works must not undermine their ability to do important maintenance and repair work.
‘I’ve worked closely with my right honourable friends, the chancellor and the housing secretary, and I can today confirm that the government will fully fund the removal and replacement of dangerous cladding by councils and housing associations, estimated at £400m. And the housing secretary will set out further details later this week.’
The Local Government Association ‘had been in talks with ministers over the issue for some time’, and stated: ‘It is great that the government has honoured its commitment from last summer to meet the unexpected exceptional costs for councils arising from major remedial fire safety work on high-rise buildings.’
On privately owned blocks, the spokeswoman added that it was the government’s view that the cost should be met by landlords, adding: ‘This is money for social housing. We expect private building owners to take responsibility for removing and replacing and to not pass the cost on to leaseholders.’
Residents of the Citiscape complex in Croydon were told original developers Barratt Homes will pay for removal of flammable cladding, having previously been told they would have to pay £31,300 per flat to fund removal and replacement, and been ordered to pay after a tribunal decided against them.
Earlier this year, the New Capital Quay complex in Greenwich, found to have ‘multiple’ fire safety issues, saw residents concerned they would have to pay an estimated £20m to £40m bill, or around £20,000 to £40,000 per flat to resolve issues and remove cladding. Developers Galliard Homes planned to sue the National House Building Council (NHBC) over payment, while resident Cecile Langevin discovered her flat’s value had fallen from £475,000 to £50,000 as a result.
It later transpired that government body Homes England ‘agreed to virtually wipe out’ her loan, which ‘raises the prospect of multimillion-pound losses for the government scheme on any flat that goes into negative equity’. Residents of New Capital Quay are considering legal action against Galliard Homes over combustible cladding replacement costs. In April, residents of the Sesame apartments in Battersea were told they will have to pay individual bills of up to £40,000 to replace flammable cladding.