Housing secretary addresses MPs on eve of first Grenfell report
The government is preparing to “name and shame” those owners of buildings who have yet to take any action to remove dangerous cladding from high-risk residential buildings.
On the eve of publication of the Grenfell inquiry report, housing secretary Robert Jenrick told MPs on the local government select committee it was “not acceptable” that the owners of some buildings featuring ACM cladding had no plans in place to remove the material.
A public inquiry into the tragedy that killed 72 people in June 2017 is due to publish its first report tomorrow. It is set to be critical of the London Fire Brigade’s response.
The report will also say the main reason the fire spread so quickly was the presence of aluminium composite panels and melting and burning polyethylene.
Former high court judge Martin Moore-Bick, who is heading up the Grenfell inquiry, said there was “compelling evidence that the external walls of the building failed to comply with requirements” and that instead of resisting the fire they “actively promoted it”.
The refurbishment of the tower, which involved architect Studio E, is set to be examined by the second phase of the inquiry which begins next year.
Jenrick admitted to MPs that 22 privately owned high-risk residential buildings still had no plans in place to have their ACM cladding removed.
A £200m fund launched in September to help building owners replace ACM cladding with safer alternatives closes in December.
Asked why owners had been given just three months to access the fund, he said he wanted those responsible for removing suspect cladding to move quickly. He said: “There’s no reason for building owners not to apply for funding.”
He added: “The present situation is not acceptable. I have said it is frankly shameful if building owners do not take advantage of this [fund], bearing in mind the taxpayer is paying for it.”
The minister, who this morning announced that Judith Hackitt would advise the MHCLG on the new Building Safety Regulator by the autumn, said the government was “working through any issues” building owners might have so that they can apply for funding and get work going “as soon as possible”.
But he warned: “We are close to the point of naming and shaming those building owners who haven’t applied, who haven’t taken action and where there are no acceptable extenuating circumstances.
“And we are considering what other more meaningful steps, besides naming and shaming, we could take. But I’m hopeful building owners will come forward.”
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But Jenrick confirmed the government would still pay for remediation in cases where building owners had not applied. “There is no question of us walking away from that commitment,” he said.
The latest government data for the 168 privately owned residential buildings featuring ACM cladding showed owners of 24 had started remediation, 76 had a remediation plan in place but had yet to start work, 46 had announced an intent to remediate and were developing plans, and 22 had what the government called “unclear remediation plans”.