Dismore questions slow progress on cladding removal

At today’s Mayor’s Question Time, Andrew Dismore AM, Labour London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden questioned Mayor Sadiq Khan over the slow progress in the  removal of dangerous cladding from tall buildings.

Mr Dismore put to the Mayor:

‘The Government has yet again missed its deadline for cladding remediation, which was supposed to be this month. On current timelines, when do you predict remediation of ACM clad buildings to be complete in London?

‘Last Sunday marked the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, in which 72 Londoners were killed.

‘Yet despite one failed Government deadline after another, as of last month  there were  still 300 high rise buildings with ACM yet to be remediated,  including 197 blocks  in London, let alone the 1,700 other high-risk buildings with different dangerous types of cladding for example HPL, as the  MHCLG estimate.

In London, 52 buildings are outstanding in the social sector and  125 in the private sector  with ACM cladding still need fixing, leaving thousands of people living in potentially dangerous homes. YET Berkley Homes Chief Executive is reported in today’s Times as having said the Government should relax the ban on ACM and its required removal. Berkley has 20 tall buildings with ACM cladding still to be fixed- and is forecasting profits of £1/2 billion for each of the next 5 years.

‘Do you agree that the best way to respect the memory of the victims of the Grenfell  tragedy is to ensure such homes are made safe to ensure such a disaster can never happen again?

‘Despite the Government having banned  ACM cladding on all buildings and now consulting on lowering the threshold for combustible cladding to 11m high buildings,  The Government remediation fund  is still only available for  buildings of 18 metres or higher.

‘Yet as we have seen from the  massive destruction in the recent  Worcester Park and Barking Riverside fires, lower buildings can be at serious risk too. Do you agree remediation should not be limited  only to a crude height threshold?

‘The building safety minister, Lord Greenhalgh, last month told MHCLG Select Committee that councils should consider the compulsory purchase of private sector buildings where remediation is stalled.  Do you agree this is a good idea- but can only work if the Government provide the necessary funds  for any CPO- which should reflect the low value of the unremediated freehold – and the money to complete prompt remediation works?

The Mayor said that he commended the Grenfell community for their campaigning. they were frustrated with the pace of change and the Government record of broken promises. Seven families were still in temporary homes. The Government promised a reform of social housing but it hadn’t happened. Their remediation deadline was not met, and Covid19 was causing further delays. It is unacceptable that buildings were still unsafe. The Government should have intervened earlier. June 2020 was never going to be met.

He was concerned not just about social housing but private as well. He supported Mr Dismore’s campaigning and lobbying. He absolutely agreed that height should not just be the test. The speed of fire spread in the low rise buildings was scary.  The Government were trying to deflect things with suggesting CPOs. He favoured CPOs but the concern was how long it takes and it should not be an excuse for Government  inaction and should not be passing the buck to local councils.


Notes for editors:

The deadline for cladding remediation

In July 2019, then MHCLG Secretary James Brokenshire MP said social sector cladding remediation should be done by year end, and private buildings fixed by June 2020.[1]

As it became clear the target would be missed, the Government has rowed back. Lord Greenhalgh, the new minister for building safety, said: ““I accept previous targets haven’t been met and this [the June date] wasn’t really presented as a target”.

Lord Greenhalgh said remediation works should be “on site” by the end of 2020 and complete in 2021, but that this was “an ambition as opposed to a commitment”.[2]

When the deadline was set, the GLA warned it was “irresponsible and unrealistic” and predicted the Government would miss its target.

Explaining this, the Mayor wrote: “Supply chain pressures, delays in the Government creating this fund [the £200m private sector remediation pot], Brexit, the complexity of the fund process as designed by MHCLG, and the fundamental fact that buildings owners control the pace of remediation, means this deadline is entirely unachievable”.[3]

Four days after lockdown was implemented, the Government issued guidance that building safety work should continue and designated those involved as key workers.[4]

How many buildings are left?

As of May 2020, there were 300 high rise buildings with ACM cladding yet to be fixed, including 197 in London.[5]

  • In the social housing sector in London, 52 buildings are outstanding
  • 125 private sector housing buildings need fixing in London, of which 31 have begun works
  • there are still 6 student halls, 13 hotels, and 1 public building not fixed
  • Nationally, there are 12 more private sector buildings requiring remediation now than there were when the Secretary of State set the June deadline.
  • MHCLG estimate 1,700 high-risk buildings with non-ACM dangerous cladding.

Funding for remediation works

Applications for the £1 billion cladding remediation fund announced in the March 2020 budget opened in June. Building owners have until 31 July to apply on a first come first served basis. £700m of the fund has been allocated to London.[6]

Unlike the £400m social sector and £200m private sector funds previously available, this £1bn will cover non-ACM as well. MHCLG put the total cost of remediation at £3-3.5bn.[7]

[1] Building safety: ACM cladding, Hansard, 18 July 2019

[2] Minister questioned on dangerous cladding, Parliament, 15 May 2020 https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/17/housing-communities-and-local-government-committee/news/146444/minister-questioned-on-dangerous-cladding/

[3] Government target for remediating buildings with ACM cladding, GLA, 12 September 2019 https://www.london.gov.uk/questions/2019/17632

[4] Remediation and covid-19: building safety update, MHCLG, 27 March 2020 https://www.gov.uk/guidance/remediation-and-covid-19-building-safety-update-27-march-2020

[5] Building safety programme: May data release, MHCLG, 11 June 2020 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/891421/Building_Safety_Data_Release_May_2020.pdf

[6] MD2630 Building Safety Fund, GLA, 27 May 2020 https://www.london.gov.uk/decisions/md2630-building-safety-fund

[7] Building safety fund will cover less than a third of cladding costs, Inside Housing, 19 May 2020 https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/news/news/building-safety-fund-will-cover-less-than-a-third-of-cladding-costs-minister-says-66483