Communities secretary Sajid Javid told parliament no councils had asked for financial support for fire safety works, despite his department having received several written requests.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) today claimed Mr Javid was “not aware” of letters calling for financial support when he addressed MPs last Thursday.
He made the claim last week in a statement to parliament on the response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
He said: “To date, as far as I am aware, not a single local authority or housing association has approached me or my department to ask for any assistance. If they did, of course we would take that very seriously.”
However, as reported by Inside Housing, at least five councils had by that stage written to the DCLG to request funding. These were Birmingham, Croydon, Southwark, Southampton and Brent.
Inside Housing can also reveal that Portsmouth Council – which is Conservative led – has written to the Home Office requesting funding and has not received a response. The other five councils are Labour led.
A DCLG spokesperson said: “At the time of the communities secretary’s statement to parliament on 20 July 2017, he had not been made aware of letters from councils in relation to financial support.
“A number of councils have contacted the department about support to carry out this work. We aim to respond to each letter we have received within the next 24 hours, and will consider on a case-by-case basis what assistance may be required.”
It is understood DCLG officials were aware of the letters and were looking into the issues when Mr Javid made the statement.
The admission followed John Healey, shadow secretary of state for housing, writing to the minister yesterday. “I am aware that at least five councils had made a request for funding help before [the statement],” he wrote.
“Why were you unaware of such essential facts? What steps have you taken to make sure you do not make such misleading statements to the house or public in future?”
He asked Mr Javid to confirm how many councils had contacted DCLG for help, what steps were being taken to assess their needs and whether the funding would come from DCLG or the Treasury.
He wrote: “Local authorities and housing associations across the country are anxious to make their tower blocks fully safe for residents.”
One of the letters, sent by Brent on 13 July, was sent directly Mr Javid and asked for the government to provide £10m for fire safety works. It said: “This letter acts as our official request.”
Additional reporting by Nathaniel Barker
UPDATE: On 25.7.2017 at 17.45
The story was updated following a response from DCLG