Dismore questioned mayor about Government secrecy over Grenfell type cladding risks and the poor rate of remediation

At Mayor’s Question Time today, Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden Andrew Dismore AM raised with the Mayor Government secrecy over Grenfell type cladding risks and the poor rate of remediation of flats at risk.

Mr Dismore asked the Mayor:
‘How many Londoners are living in buildings with Grenfell-style aluminium composite material cladding that still needs remediating?

‘If the rate of remediation of the last six months continues, it will take five years for just the social housing buildings to be completed and nearly nine years for the private sector tall buildings to be made safe. What can be done to speed this up? And what will be the consequences when testing confirms other types of cladding or installation apart from ACM are dangerous; and that other less tall blocks of flats are shown to be at risk, bearing in mind the recent fires in lower rise buildings, both in London and elsewhere?

‘The Government refuses to provide detailed figures about buildings with cladding on the grounds they claim of what they perceive of ‘safety risk’. But isn’t the real safety risk, that people may be unknowingly living in unsafe homes. Shouldn’t residents in potentially dangerous homes know about the risks, rather than be kept in the dark by a Conservative Government that has dragged its feet, failed to meet its own remediation targets and promises, and thus has allowed  the cladding scandal drag on for   two and a half years so far, leaving an unknown number of flat dwellers living in danger. Do you think the Government’s concern for safety rings rather hollow in light of this lack of transparency?

‘The GLA now states that it cannot provide me with updates on the cladding remediation fund, which is administered by City Hall on behalf of the Government, because of a memorandum of understanding with MHCLG. This means we cannot know which building owners are in receipt of public money and how much is being paid out. Do you agree that this Government secrecy is obstructive, unnecessary and unfair to both the taxpayer and to residents at risk?’

The Mayor said:

‘It took nearly a year for them [the Government] to commit to providing funding for councils and housing associations, and private leaseholders had to wait yet another year. These delays have placed Londoners at risk.

‘Of the 66 social sector blocks eligible for funding, 5 have claimed their completion payment. These five buildings include roughly 500 homes. A further 31 blocks – just over 2000 homes – are projected to complete by the end of June this year. Even the social sector where landlords have been proactive, remediation takes time. Shamefully though, private building owners have failed to act with the same urgency.

“The vast majority of the 58 London buildings eligible under the private sector fund are still yet to start remediation and only 1 has completed. Contained within these 57 buildings are approximately 4000 individual homes.

“The pace of remediation is dictated by the building owner. But my GLA building safety team is working hard to speed up the process including putting pressure on applicants and suggesting to the Government ways to streamline the funding process.

“While it is unacceptable that Londoners are still living in buildings with unsafe ACM cladding, every building under the fund has interim safety measures in place. The bad news is that leaseholders are footing the bill for these interim safety measures because the fund doesn’t cover them.

“What’s more, there are an unknown number of London tower blocks with other types of unsafe cladding. These blocks have no route to remediation and the recent fire in Bolton should be a stark warning to the government. That’s why just before Christmas, the Homes for Londoners Board, which I chair, wrote to the Secretary of State to urge him to widen the scope of the funds to include interim measures and other types of unsafe cladding. “


Notes for editors:

What do we know about the number of buildings with flammable cladding?

The Government will only release high level data; it is not possible to get exact figures for the number of buildings affected in London, nor the detailed functioning of the remediation funds.

The December building safety data release recorded 135 high-rise residential and publicly owned buildings in England that have completed remediation works to remove and replace ACM cladding– an increase of eight since the end of November.

This leaves 315 high-rise residential and publicly owned buildings with ACM cladding yet to be remediated in England.[1]

London has “around half” of the buildings with ACM cladding, according to the Mayor. Taking the minimum figures from the bandings of local authorities published by MHCLG, there look to be at least 132 – almost certainly more – buildings with ACM cladding yet to be fixed in London. In the latest data release, Newham moved from the category of local authorities with 11-20 affected buildings, to the category with 20+. This illustrates how, more than two years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, new buildings with dangers cladding are still being found.

How many flats are affected?

The December building safety release stated that the 68 social sector buildings in England which have completed remediation contain 4500 dwellings, leaving 7000 in the 91 remaining towers.

The 23 private sector buildings that have so far been remediated contain 2,000-2,600 flats. 174 towers containing 12,400-16,800 dwellings have yet to be fixed.

The situation in London is difficult to ascertain with certainty: Answers to Parliamentary Questions in May 2019 showed there to be 4600 dwellings in social sector buildings in London with ACM still to be remediated,[2] and 10600 dwellings in private sector buildings.[3]

  • An MQ answer in July 2019 stated that funding for 72 social sector buildings containing 5,500 dwellings had been disbursed by the GLA.[4] This totalled £206m. [5]
  • Parliamentary Questions in June provided a borough breakdown of funding from MHCLG. This totalled around £196.5m, of which £80.6m went to Camden, probably connected to the Chalcroft Estate.[6]

Pace of remediation works

On 18 July 2019, then MHCLG Secretary of State James Brokenshire MP presented a written statement to the House of Commons which detailed a December 2019 deadline to fix social sector buildings and a June 2020 deadline for the private sector.[7]

Mr Brokenshire promised “enforcement action” against private sector building owners who did not comply with the end of December deadline. Applications to the private sector cladding remediation fund also face a December 2019 deadline.

The Mayor has described the deadlines as “irresponsible and unrealistic” and “entirely unachievable”. The Mayor attributed this to “supply chain pressures, delays in the Government creating this fund, Brexit, the complexity of the fund process as designed by MHCLG, and the fundamental fact that buildings owners control the pace of remediation.”[8]

Andrew Dismore wrote to MHCLG Secretary of State Robert Jenrick raising these points but Mr Jenrick evaded providing any new information.

For buildings where the GLA is administering the social sector ACM fund, the average estimated time between remediation works beginning (start on site for cladding replacement) and remediation works completing is eight months. This is based on estimated dates of completion because remediation work is ongoing in most cases.

[1] Building safety programme: monthly data release December 2019, MHCLG, 13 December 2019 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/858382/Building_Safety_Data_Release_December_2019.pdf

[2] High rise flats: insulation 252869, Parliament, 15 May 2019 https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2019-05-10/252869/

[3] High rise flats: insulation 250034, Parliament, 8 May 2019 https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2019-05-01/250034/

[4] Public sector remediation of ACM cladding (3), GLA, 19 July 2019 https://www.london.gov.uk/questions/2019/14535

[5] Public sector remediation of ACM cladding (1), GLA, 19 July 2019 https://www.london.gov.uk/questions/2019/14533

[6] High rise flats: insulation 259401, Parliament, 6 June 2019 https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2019-06-03/259401/

[7] Building safety: ACM cladding, Parliament, 18 July 2019 https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2019-07-18/debates/19071847000039/BuildingSafetyACMCladding

[8] Government target for remediating buildings with ACM cladding (3), GLA, 13 September 2019 https://www.london.gov.uk/questions/2019/17632