Government support to remediate buildings with dangerous cladding or fire safety issues will fall ‘far short’ without extra funding being put in, a select committee of MPs has warned.
In a new report published today, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee found the £1 billion Building Safety Fund, launched last month to help remediate buildings fitted with dangerous non-ACM cladding, will only be enough to cover a third of the buildings that remain unsafe.
On the eve of the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower disaster this weekend, 1,700 buildings across the UK are still in urgent need of remediation, but many of those who need access to the Building Safety Fund will be locked out due to its ‘stringent’ application rules, the committee added.
The HCLG Committee has called on the government to bring an end to dangerous cladding and avoid what it calls a ‘piecemeal’ approach that risks causing further stress to residents who face footing the bill for temporary safety measures.
The HCLG Committee chair, Clive Betts MP, said: “It is clear that the £1 billion Building Safety Fund will not be enough. Too many risk being excluded by the criteria for accessing this support and the amount of money pledged is only enough to cover a fraction of the work needed.
“The Fund should be increased so that it is enough to cover the amount of work that is actually needed, both to remove cladding and resolve wider fire safety concerns. Further support must also be provided for the costs of stop-gap safety measures, such as ‘waking watches’, to reduce the burden on homeowners.”
The Building Safety Fund has had a mixed reception since its launch, as the committee repeated concerns that the £1 billion announced will be ‘insufficient’ to make sure that buildings are made safe.
Northern critics, such as the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s High Rise Task Force, have raised concerns that the Fund is limited to buildings above 18 metres in height, and that it will not be open for buildings that started cladding removal work before 11 March.
One such building is the Skyline Central apartment complex in Manchester, whose residents began work on addressing cladding issues last November and now face paying thousands of pounds in costs with no government support.
“It looks like we’re not alone in being short changed by the Building Safety Fund,” a representative of Skyline Central residents said on Twitter. “Hundreds of blocks stand to miss out on funding unless @robertjenrick and @mhclg act on the @commonshclg report findings and expand the Fund.”
The HCLG Committee has urged the government to take over any buildings where remediation work has not begun by December 2020 using Compulsory Purchase Orders so all unsafe buildings can be remediated within the next two years.
A government spokesperson said: “The safety of residents is our top priority and since the Grenfell Tower fire we have worked tirelessly with councils to identify buildings at risk and ensure they are made safe.
“We are providing £1.6 billion for the removal and replacement of unsafe cladding from high-rise buildings and are bringing forward the biggest legislative changes in a generation to provide further enforcement powers against those who do not comply with the law and ensuring that residents’ safety is at the heart of the construction process.
“Building owners have a legal responsibility to keep their residents safe and whilst we have seen positive action from some, we are clear that more needs to be done to protect their tenants.”