Government waits for evidence on extending cladding funding

Government waits for evidence on extending cladding funding

HOUSING SECRETARY Robert Jenrick stated that any extension of the current £600m social and private housing cladding fund would be ‘guided by the evidence’ of further testing.

24Housing reported on Mr Jenrick’s response to Labour’s Hilary Benn in the House of Commons, who had asked if it would be ‘sensible’ to extend the funding that currently covers aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding to include high pressure laminate (HPL) cladding as well as other forms of external cladding material. Mr Jenrick stated that there would be ‘no shift’ from ACM, as it had been identified by the government’s ‘expert advisers’ as the ‘most urgent’ challenge’.

Commenting that ‘we must be guided by the evidence’, Mr Jenrick referenced the upcoming results of testing that the government had commissioned on HPL and other materials by the Building Research Establishment, adding that ‘I will publish the information shortly, and will say more at that time’. Mr Benn had urged the government to ‘note with concern’ the numbers of residents in ACM or HPL clad blocks ‘either identified as unsafe or still to be inspected’.

He also asked Housing Minister Esther McVey about financial support from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) for owners of HPL clad blocks to fund removal. She responded that when government intervention ‘does not remove responsibility for overall building safety’ from the building owner, there is advice for owners on ‘the consideration of all routes to meet costs’, with intervention currently based on the ‘unparalleled risk’ of ACM.

In response, Mr Benn asked about financial assistance for leaseholders unable to sell properties due to ‘uncertainty over the content of the cladding’, with Ms McVey responding that a recently produced form from the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors would help ‘manage valuations and lending on high-rise residential buildings’, though ‘obtaining the necessary paperwork to support a decision can take time’.

The news outlet pointed out that recent high profile fires ‘have raised concerns that the extent of the UK’s fire-safety problem has not been properly grasped by government’, with the problem said to ‘extend well beyond’ the 436 blocks 18m or higher with ACM cladding. It also pointed out that government statistics note ‘effectively nothing has been done’ to remove ACM from ‘at least’ 189 of these buildings, while the government ‘will not know’ how many buildings have HPL until March.