After the Grenfell tower block fire tragedy that killed 71 people the Government established the Building Safety Programme, to “ensure that residents of high-rise residential buildings are safe, and feel safe from the risk of fire”. The Grenfell Inquiry said it was essential that similar cladding was removed from the exterior of high-rise buildings “as quickly as possible”.
In May 2018 MHCLG made £400 million available for the remediation of dangerous cladding from high-rise flats in the social housing sector, and in May 2019 announced a further £200 million for the remediation of equivalent buildings in the private housing sector.
Nearly three years later, the NAO report into remediating dangerous cladding on high-rise buildings finds that only about one third of the buildings which fit the specification for the work - 18 metres and above with unsafe “aluminium composite material” (ACM) cladding systems - had been fully remediated, leaving 307 of the total 456 where remediation was not yet finished, and work has not yet begun on 167 of those. The original deadline for completing all these buildings was this month, June 2020.
Not all buildings with dangerous ACM cladding fall within scope of the government’s existing funding schemes for the social and private housing sectors, but the Department’s own Independent Expert Advisory Panel has advised that the most dangerous forms of ACM cladding are unsafe on buildings of any height, and that risks are increased in buildings with elderly and vulnerable residents.
The Department now estimates that all buildings within the scope of its funding will now be remediated by mid-2022, but this new deadline does not take account of the impacts of COVID-19: there are early signs that the epidemic has slowed the pace of remediation, with up to 60% of projects that were under way paused by April 2020.
The pace of remediation has been slowest in the private residential sector, with only 13.5% of private sector residential buildings fixed: by the end of April 2020, the Department had paid out £1.42 million (0.7%) from the £200 million private sector fund compared to £133 million (33.3%) from the £400 million social sector fund. It has been difficult to identify those legally responsible for private buildings, and they have “required more support than was expected”.
The owners of 84 private sector residential buildings have committed to fund remediation, with a further 23 self-funded through warranty claims. The Government expects to pay for 94 projects out of 208 in the private sector, where the developer or building owner has not agreed to fund remediation themselves. Seven buildings have not agreed a funding route. In the social sector, the Department has committed to fund 139 out of 154 residential buildings.
In March 2020 the Department announced a further £1 billion funding for the remediation of other unsafe cladding, not ACM, on high-rise buildings in the social and private residential sectors. The NAO reports that administration of this new scheme may present significant challenges, given the issues with the existing fund of around half the size.
On Monday 6 July the Committee will question officials from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government on the Government’s progress on remediating dangerous cladding. If you have evidence on the questions and issues raised in this report, please submit it here by 5.30pm on Thursday 2 July.