A report by MPs has slammed the government for not removing Grenfell-type flammable cladding from two-thirds of high-rise buildings since the fire on 14 June 2017.
The report published this week by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), says three years after the Grenfell Tower disaster in which 72 people lost their lives, only a third (155 out of 455) of high-rise buildings with flammable cladding due to be fixed by now have had their cladding replaced with a safe alternative.
The report says it is “imperative” that the new deadline for works on the remaining high-rise blocks, to be completed by the end of 2021, should be met.
However, it says the government has no convincing plan for how it will meet that new deadline, and states that even if it does “there are a host of other serious shortcomings exposed by the Grenfell disaster that also need to be addressed”.
It says the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government accepts that the British system of building safety regulation has been “not fit for purpose” for many years – and these failings have left a legacy of problems for the department to address which extend far beyond the immediate need to remove dangerous cladding.
A lack of skills, capacity, and access to insurance is hampering efforts to improve or simply assure the structural safety of apartment blocks. This knocks on to any ability to restore the confidence of buyers and mortgage lenders in sales of flats across the country. It added that leaseholders are in limbo and facing huge bills because of “a system-wide failure”.
Meg Hillier MP, chair of the PAC, said: “The department set its own target to remove the cladding and yet has failed to achieve even a third of the work it set out to deliver. Thousands of people have been condemned to lives of stress and fear in unsaleable homes with life-changing bills: for the works and for the fire-watch that is necessary to allow them to sleep at night until it is done.
“The government has repeatedly made what turn out to be pie-in-the-sky promises – and then failed to plan, resource, or deliver. The deadly legacy of a shoddy buildings regulation system has been devastating for the victims and survivors of Grenfell but is leaving a long tail of misery and uncertainty for those whose lives are in limbo.
“The government must step up and show that it will put a stop to the bickering over who is responsible, who’s going to pay for the remediation – and just put this right.”
Lord Porter, building safety spokesperson at the Local Government Association, said: “The committee is right to say that the failure to remediate all ACM cladding three years after the Grenfell Tower disaster is unacceptable. Social landlords have been quick to address the issue, but progress in the private sector continues to be unacceptably slow.
“We urge the government to act on all the committee’s recommendations without delay. Issues raised in the report around insurance, mortgages and the skills shortage rightly highlight the serious challenges that need to be overcome if all buildings are to be made safe.
“Leaseholders and residents have suffered enough. The government has accepted that the building safety system has failed for decades and it must now deal with the consequences, which includes funding remediation in full and pursuing those responsible through the courts.
“The LGA would like to see the establishment of a fund to cover remediation costs and recommends that stakeholders examine how the industry might contribute to such a fund. This should allow building owners to spend the money in the most cost-effective way to ensure residents safety, for example, by installing sprinklers.”
A MHCLG spokeswoman said: “We’re determined to ensure residents are safe and feel safe in their homes and are providing £1.6 billion to speed up the removal of unsafe cladding. We are seeing significant progress – over 70 per cent of buildings with ACM cladding have completed or are in the process of remediation.
“We’re introducing the biggest improvements to building regulations in almost 40 years and a new regulator will ensure that people who design, build and manage high-rise buildings are held responsible for building safety.
“Building owners have a legal responsibility to ensure their buildings are safe and must ensure that any remaining buildings have started remediation works before the end of this year – if we do not see progress we will not hesitate to take further action."