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Why the government’s £200m cladding fund does not go far enough

The government’s £200m cladding fund is seen by some as just a welcome first step. There is still plenty more that needs to be done to reassure worried tower block residents across the country, argues John Biggs


Mayor John   Biggs

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Mayor John   Biggs
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Why the government’s £200m cladding fund does not go far enough #ukhousing

The government’s decision to make £200m available to fund the removal of aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding in private residential towers should be welcomed, but it does not go far enough.

Across the country, there are tens of thousands of people going to sleep in high-rise blocks every night not knowing whether they are safe and secure in their own homes.

In my own borough of Tower Hamlets, we have more affected blocks than any other local authority, including many private sector residential towers.

I have met with residents who have faced stress, anxiety and sleepless nights. Some have found that their physical and mental health has deteriorated as a result.

In too many cases these are people who stretched and saved to get on the housing ladder, and who are now trapped, through no fault of their own, in worthless and potentially dangerous flats.


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Fearing another disaster on the previously unimaginable scale of the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, they looked to their councils and to their elected representatives for reassurance, for information and ultimately for action.

They are struggling to understand why, despite the widespread acceptance that fire safety remediation is needed, they have just been left to deal with lengthy periods where very little has happened. They feel as if they have been left in limbo by this inaction.

Councils have tried to use every resource available to bring building owners to the table and to emphasise the need for co-operation and action, but there is a limit to the powers we have at our disposal.

“In other buildings where non-ACM systems have been installed, residents still do not know whether their homes are safe in the event of a fire”

Those residents who know their buildings are clad in ACM panels will be reassured by the offer of financial support contained in the government’s announcement.

However, given the scale of the challenge and the likely cost of replacing the panels on some of the largest buildings, it remains to be seen if £200m will be sufficient.

We also need to know more about how funding bids will be considered and how the funds will be distributed.

The buildings at risk are not evenly distributed around the country and we will need reassurance that if a concentration of funds is needed in one area, it will be forthcoming.

The issue also extends beyond ACM cladding alone.

In other buildings where non-ACM systems have been installed, residents still do not know whether their homes are safe in the event of a fire.

Non-ACM tests commissioned by the government have been delayed for too long and this latest funding announcement doesn’t make any money available for the repairs that will no doubt be required once they are eventually carried out.

Other costs that have so far been borne by councils and residents’ groups – for example the waking watches necessary to keep people safe while they sleep – are not included either.

Last year, the government committed to funding the cost of cladding removal on social housing blocks.

Now it has made a new commitment on ACM cladding on private residential towers.

Both represent positive progress but they don’t reflect the breadth of the fire safety challenge we all face.

“I would urge the government to look again at the fund it has proposed and to consider whether it goes far enough”

For those of us in local government, the terrible events of 14 June 2017 are a constant reminder of the responsibility we have to all our residents. That responsibility extends to the government in Westminster, too.

We all have a moral duty to ensure that no more lives are lost because the money couldn’t be found to keep people safe in their own homes.

I would urge the government to look again at the fund it has proposed and to consider whether it goes far enough.

Inside Housing’s End Our Cladding Scandal campaign that calls for an end to the cladding crisis will continue. I pay tribute to the residents’ groups, particularly the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire, who campaign alongside us.

It’s time for the government to go further still and end this cladding crisis in its entirety.

John Biggs, mayor of Tower Hamlets

End Our Cladding Scandal: campaign aims

End Our Cladding Scandal: campaign aims
  • Government provides a fund to cover the cost of cladding removal and remedial works on private blocks
  • A firm timescale is set out of no more than two years for the work to be carried out
  • Residents are reimbursed for the interim fire safety costs incurred, and funding is to be provided for necessary internal fire safety measures identified by a competent fire risk assessor

Please email peter.apps@insidehousing.co.uk if you want to support the campaign

End Our Cladding Scandal: campaign backers

  • Martin Hilditch, editor, Inside Housing
  • Manchester Cladiators
  • UK Cladding Action Group
  • Natasha Elcock, chair, Grenfell United
  • Kate Henderson, chief executive, National Housing Federation
  • Terrie Alafat, chief executive, Chartered Institute of Housing
  • Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester
  • Lord Gary Porter, chair of the Local Government Association
  • Polly Neate, chief executive, Shelter
  • Jane Duncan, chair of the expert advisory group on fire safety, RIBA
  • Andy Dark, assistant general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union
  • Christina McAnea, assistant general secretary, UNISON
  • Sir Peter Bottomley, Conservative MP and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Leasehold and Commonhold Reform
  • Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour MP, and member of All-Party Parliamentary Group on Leasehold and Commonhold Reform
  • Mark Amesbury, shadow employment minister and Labour MP for Weaver Vale
  • Emma Dent Coad, Labour MP for North Kensington
  • Lucy Powell, Labour MP for Manchester Central
  • Rushanara Ali, Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow
  • George Howarth, Labour MP for Knowsley
  • Graham Stringer, Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton
  • John Biggs, mayor of Tower Hamlets
  • Paul Dennett, mayor of Salford
  • Suzanne Richards, councillor and executive member for housing and regeneration on behalf of all Manchester's Labour Councillors
  • Sir Richard Leese, Labour councillor and leader Manchester City Council
  • John Leech, Manchester Liberal Democrat leader on behalf of all Manchester’s Liberal Democrat councillors
  • Darren Rodwell, executive member for housing at London Councils and leader of Barking and Dagenham Council
  • George Clarke, TV Architect
  • David Walker, bishop of Manchester
  • Graham Tomlin, bishop of Kensington
  • John Roberts, founder of AO.com
  • Josh Beaumont, professional rugby player, Sale Sharks and resident of affected building
  • Bill Beaumont, former England rugby captain
  • Jeremy Dyson, co-founder of the League of Gentlemen
  • Andy Moss, actor who has appeared on Channel 4’s Hollyoaks and resident
  • Ross Mullan, actor who has appeared in Game of Thrones
  • Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, musician
  • Nour-eddine Aboudihaj, spokesperson for Justice4Grenfell
  • Mike Leonard, chief executive, Building Alliance
  • Kate Kendrick, founder, National Leasehold Campaign
  • Martin Boyd, chair, Leasehold Knowledge Partnership
  • Paula Higgins, chief executive, HomeOwners Alliance
  • Mark Henderson, chief executive, Home Group
  • Ben Clay, founding member of the Tenants Union
  • Hilda Palmer, acting chair of the Hazards Campaign
  • Susan Bright, professor of law, University of Oxford
  • Gill Kernick, consultant and former Grenfell Resident
  • Phil Murphy, fire safety expert and tower block resident

This list will be updated. Please email peter.apps@insidehousing.co.uk if you want to support the campaign

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