Select committee calls for the government to increase funding and consider using CPOs where work to repair blocks hasn’t happened
The government should take control of tower blocks with dangerous cladding if work to repair them hasn’t begun by the end of the year, according to an influential committee of MPs.
A report by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee on the progress of remediation work to repair towers found to be unsafe in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, also found that the £1.6bn pledge so far by government will “fall far short of what is needed” to solve the problem.
The select committee said the government should take “a hard line” with building freeholders which fail to arrange for dangerous cladding to be repaired or replaced. It recommended the government use compulsory purchase powers to take over the building if work hasn’t begun by December this year, and consider establishing a new national body whose sole purpose is to purchase the freehold and manage the remediation of buildings with fire safety defects.
The committee’s report found that the £1bn pledged to repair buildings with dangerous non-ACM cladding would likely be sufficient to cover only a third of the problem, and that stringent rules on applying to the fund, including a short application window and restrictions against social housing providers, risked leaving many unable to access vital funding.
The committee recommended that government find more money to pay the upfront cost of remediation, before clawing back the cost from the private sector parties responsible afterward, if necessary by using legal action.
Publication of the report follows the publication of figures showing that 40% of cladding remediation projects remain on hold after pausing due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Committee chair Clive Betts said: “Three years on from the Grenfell Tower disaster there are still thousands of home owners living in buildings with some form of dangerous cladding,” taking a significant financial and emotional toll. “This is not good enough.”
He said: “It is clear that the £1 billion building safety fund will not be enough Too many risk being excluded by the criteria for accessing this support and the amount of money pledged is only enough to cover a fraction of the work needed.”
Dr Nigel Glen, chief executive of the Association of Residential Managing Agents, said: “It is vital that adequate funds are provided so that all buildings deemed a high fire risk, regardless of height or material, are remediated as quickly as possible, with arguments about who is at fault and who should pay being addressed separately.
“The report outlined a number of interesting ways in which this could be achieved but getting people safe must be the first priority.”