Industry body queries firms’ ‘connectivity’ to at-risk buildings in wake of housing secretary’s anger at sector’s response to cladding pledge

The Construction Products Association (CPA) has hit back at Michael Gove who yesterday accused materials manufacturers of using the scale of the cladding crisis as an “excuse to do nothing”.

The industry body said it had worked with a “sincere desire” to answer the housing secretary’s request for contributions towards a £4bn cladding fund but has been unable to do so because there are still too many “unknowns” about the level of funding required.

In a statement published yesterday afternoon, the CPA said there was “uncertainty and concern” over a lack of data on how many homes are affected by building safety issues and that a “robust and trustworthy” assessment of each dwelling was needed to an agreed standard.

It added: “Despite our considerable effort and numerous lengthy detailed discussions to get actions moving, it has not been possible to gain widespread support to enable the industry to sign up for a voluntary funding scheme.”

Earlier, Gove said: “Leaseholders do not have the luxury of waiting years for every building to be assessed before funding is committed.”

building products

Source: Shutterstock

The CPA says making a direct connection between a residential block and a housebuilder is easier than trying to link a manufacturer ‘who is at the end of a long supply chain’

The dispute follows a dramatic breakdown in talks between the government and the construction products sector over how much manufacturers should pay for cladding remediation costs.

The housing secretary said he considered negotiations with the sector to have “concluded” and would now do “whatever it takes” to hold products firms to account, including pursuing them through the courts.

Gove said the sector had failed to “show leadership” by not agreeing to a funding settlement and warned there would be “significant commercial and reputational consequences for those firms that have not stepped up”.

But the CPA said this afternoon that housebuilders’ “direct connectivity with their buildings is far more manageable than that for product manufacturers [who] will be at the end of a long supply chain”.

In a letter sent to Gove last month, the CPA said: “At this point in time, the construction supply chain has made it clear to the CPA that, given the aforementioned uncertainties and lack of clear information, a consensus is lacking for any model of remediation funding beyond a ‘polluter pays’ model that is limited to the cladding and insulation sector. 

”Once key information and clarification can be provided as set out above, we can assist the Government further in this endeavour.”

The government said 35 housebuilders have now signed up to its cladding pledge to fix building safety issues on residential blocks.

However, the executive chair of the Home Builders Federation Stewart Baseley said other parts of the building industry needed to put their hands in their pockets as well.

Stewart Baseley added: “I think the government should bear some of it [the costs] because I think government has been involved in this. But I think other actors who are equally involved in this - construction product manufacturers, contractors, freeholders, overseas developers [also should]. The candid truth is the government sees us as a relatively soft target because we’re larger UK taxpaying companies and we would like to see Mr Gove use the same energy to go after some of the other actors.”

The CPA said several companies have come forward to assist in the remediation process and some had promised to pay for the removal of faulty materials they have produced.

Kingspan, which manufactured a combustible insulation known as K15 that became the market leader for tall residential buildings before the Grenfell Tower fire, committed last year to pay its share of remediation costs where “safe retention cannot be supported by testing”.

A spokesperson for the firm said today that Kingspan is “already engaging on buildings where it has responsibility, and back in February 2021 made a clear commitment it would pay remediation costs.

“It has also been advocating for an industry-wide levy to fund remediation in which it would play its role.”

K15 was among the cladding products installed on Grenfell Tower as part of its disastrous refurbishment which led to the deaths of 72 people after the building caught fire in 2017.

Most of the insulation used in Grenfell Tower’s cladding system was manufactured by Celotex, whose parent is French giant Saint-Gobain. Celotex has been contacted for comment.