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Cladding crisis: £5bn pot to make buildings safe has funded just 12 cladding removals

·2-min read
Work has only started at 90 sites with just 12 completed, figures show  (Daniel Hambury/@stellapicsltd)
Work has only started at 90 sites with just 12 completed, figures show (Daniel Hambury/@stellapicsltd)

A £5 billion fund set up to finance the removal of dangerous cladding from thousands of tower blocks has paid for only 12 buildings to be made safe, latest figures have revealed.

The pot of taxpayer cash was originally announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his March 2020 Budget and topped up by former housing secretary Robert Jenrick in February last year.

The Building Safety Fund is reserved for blocks more than 18 metres in height covered in panels different from the aluminium composite material cladding that brought devastation to Grenfell Tower — but that is still considered hazardous.

Flat owners who have made applications to the fund say they face a bureaucratic nightmare with only “glacial” progress. Latest government statistics show that 3,191 buildings with non-composite material cladding (1,840 of them in London) had been registered with the fund by the end of November.

However, applications have only been fully approved for just 197 privately owned buildings with non-composite material cladding with £549.8 million allocated from the fund. There have also been a further 41 full approvals and £70.2 million allocated to buildings with both composite and non-composite panels. In total just £68 million was allocated during November.

The figures show that four-and-a-half years on from Grenfell, work has only started at 90 sites with just 12 completed. Cladding remediation expert James Hollins from advisers Cladding Consulting said applicants faced a “huge range of obstacles” to secure funding and get the work done.

In the meantime they face soaring insurance costs and are unable to sell or remortgage their homes. He said one application on behalf of leaseholders at a block in Islington took 12 months even to secure partial eligibility status from the fund for the £4.5 million remediation work needed. One problem is that the fund has no named contacts only a generic email address making it hard to pursue applications, he said.

Michael Gove, who replaced Mr Jenrick in September’s Cabinet reshuffle and was put in charge of the new Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Department, is said to take a far more sympathetic stance towards leaseholders. Proposals to make it easier for home owners to fix their “death trap” homes and sell up if they want to are expected to be announced in the coming weeks. The speeded-up remediation work is expected to be funded by another slug of Treasury cash and an extra levy on the profits of major developers.

A department spokesman said: “We’re spending over £5 billion to make buildings safe, with 97 per cent of high-rise residential buildings identified as having unsafe aluminium composite cladding in 2020 fully fixed or having works under way. Despite many building owners failing to provide the basic information required, we’ve processed over 700 applications to the Building Safety Fund.”

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