Published July 21, 2019
Thousands of people could be living in tower blocks with highly flammable cladding until 2030.
That is the claim made today by The Independent newspaper after analysis revealed the ‘glacial’ pace of aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding removal.
They claim the slow pace means Government targets set in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy will be missed by more than a decade.
Current rates show just 4.75 residential blocks-a-month on average – a total of 69 – are having the flammable material removed – out of a total of 334 that were found to contain it.
The pace was last night condemned as ‘simply shameful’ by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) who went onto to accuse the government of a “half-hearted approach to public safety”.
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, said: “The glacial speed of progress removing the very same flammable cladding as was on Grenfell Tower is simply shameful.
“To see so little progress removing dangerous cladding over the last month sums up the government’s half-hearted approach to public safety.
“Despite the government’s own tests proving that high-pressure laminate cladding is not safe, they have made no commitment to remediation work.
“It’s as though they are waiting to see another tragic loss of life before they will protect the thousands at risk from other forms of flammable cladding.”
More than 50,000 people are estimated to still be living in buildings that have been deemed as unsafe.
At the current rate, it would take until May 2030 for the work to be completed – almost a decade after the government’s deadline of June 2020.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We expect all building owners, unless there are exceptional circumstances, to complete remediation within six months of agreeing a plan – by June 2020 – or they will face enforcement action.
“Owners are responsible for the safety of their buildings and it’s unacceptable if they are not moving quickly to remedy this problem – which is why the government has made £600m available to pay for remediation and remove cost as a barrier to progress.
“Ensuring the safety of residents still living in buildings with unsafe ACM cladding is a priority.”
On Thursday ministers announced that a second type of cladding – called high-pressure laminate or HPL – had also been found to be highly flammable and hundreds more buildings are likely to be affected.
The government issued advice insisting “action to remediate unsafe HPL systems should be carried out as soon as possible” whilst testing will continue on other types of cladding.
Ministers have claimed they want ACM cladding removed from all social sector buildings by December 2019 and all private sector buildings by June 2020.
Currently just 1.25 private sector residential blocks on average are having ACM cladding removed each month, compared to an average of 3.5 for social sector blocks.
This suggests that, at the current rate, the social sector work will only be completed in December 2021, and the private sector work not until May 2030.
The Government has announced a £200m fund to support private owners in the removal of dangerous materials.
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