Slough tower costs could fall to taxpayer

Slough tower costs could fall to taxpayer

SLOUGH BOROUGH Council’s takeover of Nova House is likely to be for a ‘nominal price’, but the cost of fireproofing it ‘would come from the council’s capital budget’.

In October last year, it was reported that the building failed the government’s safety tests on cladding, before further fire service investigations ‘revealed other hazards inside’, Slough Borough Council spending over £40,000 to hire a fire appliance ‘to be on standby outside’. In turn, it was paying around £2,000 per day for fireighters ‘to watch over’ the privately owned block.

Last November, it was reported that the £4m estimated cost to replace the cladding and undertake other work ‘may be footed by insurers instead of leaseholders’, but this week it was reported that leaseholders were sent bills for £14,843 ‘to cover potential cladding costs’ by Ringley, the managers of the building.

Slough Borough Council has been in negotiations to buy the block’s freeholding company Ground Rent Estates 5 Ltd, so that it can ‘run the building’. The insurance claim previously reported however is still being processed, so the leaseholders ‘may not have to pay a cent’ should the claim be successful. Now, The Guardian has reported that despite the council taking over the property’s freehold for a ‘nominal price’, the £4m costs of the fire safety work required at Nova House would come from its capital budget, funded ‘by the taxpayer’.

The council has seen a £19m cut in its budget in the past three years, so the fire safety work would mean ‘cuts to other spending’ according to officials. Ground Rent Estates 5 Ltd had estimated the cladding work to cost £1m, while another £500,000 would fix ‘sub-standard’ fire compartmentalisation inside, and council sources suggested the £4m total.

Mohammed Nazir, cabinet member for corporate finance and housing, stated: ‘We simply do not believe the current freeholder has the capacity to do the work that is needed to safeguard the safety of residents. We will not put a price on our residents’ lives and their safety remains our priority.’

Residents in the Citiscape complex in Croydon were told they will have to pay £31,300 per flat to fund cladding removal and replacement, with owner Proxima GR Properties, stating it was ‘not its responsibility’ to pay for removal and replacement of cladding. In turn, the chief executive of the Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) warned that the bills reported in Croydon are likely to reoccur ‘up and down the country’.