Today, my Department has published the Building Safety Programme: monthly data release for June. This updates data on the identification, testing and remediation programme for Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding systems on high-rise buildings. I wanted to update the House on the further steps my Department is taking to ensure this work is completed as effectively and swiftly as possible.
Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Government has been working closely with local authorities and fire and rescue services to identify and make safe high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding as a matter of urgency. Through the Government-funded testing programme at Building Research Establishment (BRE), which has been made available at no cost to all local authorities, housing associations, public and private sector building owners, 314 buildings have been identified as having unsafe cladding. Of these, 159 are social housing, 14 are public buildings, and 141 are private residential buildings.
For high-rise buildings in the private sector, my predecessor wrote to local authorities last summer asking them to identify all privately-owned buildings with potentially unsafe cladding. We have provided local authorities with £1.3 million to assist in this process. As part of this work, local authorities have been collecting information on ACM buildings in their areas which have not been tested at BRE. This effort from local authorities has resulted in them assessing over 6,000 high-rise private sector buildings. They have now identified an additional 156 private sector high-rise residential buildings with unsafe cladding. Adding these to the 141 already identified by BRE testing brings the total to 297 private sector high-rise residential buildings identified as having ACM cladding that is unlikely to meet current Building Regulations guidance.
We are confident that, through this testing and the hard work of local authorities, we have identified all social housing with unsafe ACM cladding systems in England. However, beyond the 297 confirmed private sector buildings, the cladding status of approximately 170 private sector residential buildings remains outstanding. For all but a handful of these buildings, local authorities have commenced enforcement action to obtain the necessary information from owners who are responsible for ensuring safety. Based on current evidence, and the identification rate to date, we expect three to five per cent of the remaining buildings to have similar ACM cladding systems to those which have failed large-scale system tests. Address details for these buildings have been passed to local fire and rescue services, who are prioritising visits to those buildings to confirm appropriate fire safety measures are in place.
In the private sector, local authorities are checking actions being taken to remediate buildings and have told us about plans for 72 of the private sector buildings identified to date. Of these, 21 have started remediation, and 4 of these have been completed. Remediation work has also started on 70 per cent of the social sector buildings and the government will fully fund the removal and replacement of unsafe ACM cladding systems on residential social housing buildings 18 metres and above owned by social landlords, with costs estimated at £400 million.
In light of this updated information, I am taking the following steps:
1) A new ministerially-chaired taskforce is being established to actively oversee the remediation of private sector buildings with ACM cladding systems. The taskforce will be charged with ensuring that remediation plans are put in place swiftly across all private sector buildings with ACM cladding systems, addressing any barriers or identifying any additional support required to achieve this. Membership of this taskforce will include Local Government Association (LGA), National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), London Councils, local authorities who have experienced the largest degree of impact and industry representatives.
2) The LGA and NFCC are convening a joint expert inspection team to help local authorities on the ground. This team will support local authorities in ensuring and where necessary, enforcing remediation of private sector high-rise residential buildings with unsafe ACM cladding systems. To support the work of the inspection team, I am making up to £1 million available to support local authorities on further enforcement steps and the Department is also developing further statutory guidance for local authorities to enhance their use of existing Housing Act powers in relation to fire safety hazards associated with cladding on high-rise residential buildings.
3) Following my recent roundtable with industry representatives, I have responded to their suggestions by inviting them to develop industry-led solutions to deliver remediation, exploring all options to protect leaseholders from additional costs. At a further meeting in July, I will expect industry to present their proposals with a view to agreeing next steps. I rule out no options if industry and individual building owners or developers do not come forward with their own solutions. In the meantime, I will continue to explore other routes for protecting leaseholders. These may include: supporting local authorities to take more targeted action to identify and remediate affected buildings and recovering costs from those responsible for ensuring the safety of buildings; and supporting leaseholder enfranchisement.
4) My Department is writing to all relevant private sector building owners to remind of their responsibility to make their buildings safe. This includes; confirming to the relevant local authority whether they have ACM cladding systems if they have not yet done so; implementing any necessary interim safety measures and permanently remediating their buildings, reminding them that local authorities have powers to enforce these improvements if building owners do not take action; and setting out my expectation that they should explore all options to protect leaseholders from incurring the costs associated with replacing unsafe cladding.
Building owners are responsible for ensuring the safety of their buildings and their residents. Government and local authorities will monitor and hold them to account for this where they have unsafe ACM cladding systems, The Government continues to drive forward these steps as a priority, with the aim that residents are safe in their homes and that they feel safe.
A link to the data is here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/building-safety-programme-monthly-data-release-june-2018 and I will place the documents in the Library of the House.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: