The UK government has committed to creating a £200m fund that will pay for the removal of unsafe cladding on 170 privately owned tower blocks.
Housing secretary James Brokenshire said yesterday (9 May 2019) that the government will fully fund the replacement of unsafe aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding on high-rise private residential properties, where building owners “have failed to do so”.
Mr Brokenshire criticised the “reckless” building owners who have refused to take action.
The announcement follows campaigning by Grenfell United and the UK Cladding Action Group, who teamed up with Inside Housing a fortnight ago to call on urgent government intervention.
According to latest figures, 425 social and private high-rise residential buildings were listed as having ACM cladding – the material that covered Grenfell Tower, where a fire in June 2017 left 72 people dead.
At 31 March 2019, just 87 of those high-rise towers had seen remediation works finished, and work had started on 105. This leaves 233 blocks where works had yet to begin.
Yesterday, the government said it has already fully funded this work in social housing development, and had identified 176 private high-rise residential buildings with unsafe ACM cladding.
It said 156 private buildings are still waiting for work to begin to remove and replace ACM cladding, compared with 23 in the social housing sector.
Private building owners will have three months to access the new fund.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said it “will look carefully at those who fail to remediate and consider what further action can be taken”.
Prime minister Theresa May said: “It is of paramount importance that everybody is able to feel and be safe in their homes.
“That’s why we asked building owners in the private sector to take action and make sure appropriate safety measures were in place.
“And we’ve seen a number of private building owners doing the right thing and taking responsibility, but unfortunately too many are continuing to pass on the costs of removal and replacement to leaseholders.”
Mr Brokenshire said: “Although temporary measures are in place to ensure people living in these buildings are safe, too many owners are treating this as a permanent fix. Others are trying to pass on the costs to residents by threatening them with bills running to thousands of pounds.
“While some building owners have been swift to act, and I thank them for doing the right thing, I am now calling time on the delay tactics of others. If these reckless building owners won’t act, the government will.”
As a condition of funding, the government will require the building owner to take “reasonable steps to recover the costs from those responsible for the presence of the unsafe cladding”.
High-rise buildings are defined as those above 18 metres in height.
The UK Cladding Action Group described the announcement as “a very significant step towards our shared goal of making all our homes safe”.