Government pressed on cladding replacement

Government pressed on cladding replacement

HOUSING MINISTER Esther McVey reiterated to the House of Commons that ‘building safety is the responsibility of the building owner’, after being pressed over its steps taken to cut replacement times.

24Housing reported on the questioning of Ms McVey by Labour’s Steve Reed, who had asked what steps the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) would take ‘to cut cladding replacement times’ – specifically framing this around reducing the time between removing combustible cladding and installing non combustible cladding.

Ms McVey responded that ‘building safety is the responsibility of the building owner’, and added that MHCLG had ‘regular engagement’ with named contacts from each high rise residential building that had aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding ‘to monitor remediation progress’. Elaborating on her answer, she noted that ‘where building owners are failing to make acceptable progress towards completing remediation, further action will be taken’.

Mr Reed also asked what MHCLG’s assessment was of ‘the adequacy’ of £5m funding allocated to councils to ‘undertake identification of the cladding used on buildings in their areas’, with Ms McVey repeating that councils had been asked to ‘undertake a data collection exercise’ on high rise residential buildings 18m and higher to identify external wall systems. Recognising the ‘extra work required’, an extra £4m was allocated in November 2019, she added.

This ‘reflected the distribution of high rise residential buildings across local authorities’, while MHCLG is in ‘regular contact with both local authorities and housing associations to support them as they carry out the data collection’. Mr Reed then asked about MHCLG’s assessment of the ‘accuracy’ of cladding and insulation materials on buildings provided by building owners to councils, and again Ms McVey said councils and housing associations were responsible for ‘collecting and providing’ data.

Under the Housing Act 2004, councils have powers to ‘require building owners to provide documentation’, and ‘this may be used to require information on the external wall system of a building’, she commented. Asked about MHCLG’s assessment of the ‘adequacy’ of councils’ enforcement powers to ‘compel’ building owners to provide accurate information, she again cited the Housing Act 2004.

On this point, she noted that councils could ‘pursue’ enforcement action against buildings deemed hazardous via the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). Separate to this, it was revealed in the House of Lords that tests results on other types of non ACM cladding ‘will be published shortly’, with further tests ‘being undertaken’ on timber cladding and Class D high pressure laminates ‘of various thicknesses and manufacturers’.