Government to pay for new cladding in wake of Grenfell fire for some tower blocks

The removal and replacement of unsafe cladding by housing associations and councils in the aftermath of the deadly Grenfell Tower fire will be paid for by the Government, it has been announced.

Some £400 million has been set aside to pay for the work with non-profit making housing associations and local authorities with buildings where the classing needs to be replace able to apply for funds to meet the reasonable costs involved.

However, building owners in the private sector have been told that they must ensure their homes are made safe and they will not be able to apply for the funding. Details of how councils and housing associations can apply for funding, including conditions attached to the grant, are expected to be announced soon.

Polly Neate, the chief executive of the housing charity Shelter, said the money would be a welcome relief. ‘Councils have been making tough decisions on cutting back in other areas to carry out these essential works, and will go a long way to ensuring the people living in these tower blocks are finally safe,’ she pointed out.

The Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA), also welcomed the announcement, but called for funds for privately owned tower blocks too. ‘We believe the same ruling should apply to private sector blocks where leaseholders are faced with bills of tens of thousands of pounds. This is a position we have been pushing ever since the tragic events at Grenfell, and we are keen to explore this further with the Minister of State for Housing,’ said ARMA chief executive officer Nigel Glen.

For safety reasons in the wake of the fire in which 71 died, it was established that aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding on buildings over 18 meters tall was not compliant with building regulations.

The fund follows the Government’s offer last year of financial flexibility to assist local authorities with essential fire safety work. From conversations with social sector landlords, it become apparent that they were having to take decisions about how to prioritise important services, repairs and maintenance work and investment in new homes.

Housing Secretary James Brokenshire said that the Government has listened to their concerns, discussed the issue in Cabinet, and decided that, although social landlords have made good progress on replacing unsafe cladding, it is right to provide further support.

The Government will also continue to provide financial flexibilities to councils for other essential fire safety measures and is directing local authorities to take cladding related issues into account when carrying out reviews of housing conditions in their areas.

The latest figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show that over 65%, some 104 out of 158, of social housing buildings with unsafe cladding are currently going through the process of remediation.

Brokenshire said that the additional money will enable social housing providers to focus on providing safe properties for people to live in. ‘People must always feel safe in their own home. Since the tragic events at Grenfell Tower, we have taken steps to ensure the immediate safety of all high rise buildings,’ he explained.

‘This money will ensure local authorities and housing associations are being given the support they need to get this work done now as well as removing the uncertainty around funding,’ he added.