POLITICS

Grenfell Tower Fire: Ministers Still Clueless Over Unsafe High-Rises

Fire safety test programme 'too slow, too narrow and too unclear'.

12/07/2017 00:15 BST | Updated 12/07/2017 09:47 BST

Ministers have no idea how many tower blocks are a fire risk, four weeks after the Grenfell inferno claimed at least 80 lives. 

The west London disaster saw the Government urgently order inspections of all 4,000 of the UK’s high-rises, with Theresa May promising as many as 100 tests-a-day. 

But one month after the catastrophe, the Housing Minister Alok Sharma has admitted the Government does not know how many tower blocks are still unsafe. 

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External cladding was removed from Bray residential tower block on the Chalcots Estate in north London

The flammable cladding on North Kensington’s Grenfell Tower is thought to have allowed the rapid spread of the blaze and reports. 

It is estimated 530 high-rises are covered in ACM (aluminium composite material) cladding but reports suggest less than half (around 200) have actually been tested. 

Many are also failing the fire safety tests for different reasons, such as having no sprinklers.

Labour’s shadow housing minister John Healey has labelled the post-Grenfell response “chaotic” and called for more money to be pumped into the programme.

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Shadow Housing Minister John Healey

Ahead of a debate on the issue in Westminster today, Healey said: “It is totally unacceptable that four weeks on from the Grenfell Tower fire ministers still don’t know how many other tower blocks are unsafe.

“The Government have been off the pace at every stage in response to this terrible fire. Too slow to grasp the complexity of the help survivors need and too slow to reassure residents in 4,000 other tower blocks across the country.

“Ministers have failed to take responsibility for getting blocks fully tested, or for funding the remedial work needed when buildings fail these tests.

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Prime Minister Theresa May outside Downing Street

“The result is a government testing programme which is too slow, too narrow and too unclear. The fire testing process is in chaos as councils and housing associations don’t know what’s going on and residents are still fearful their homes are unsafe.

“Four weeks on, Ministers must now act to widen the testing programme and reassure all high-rise residents that their homes are either safe, or that the Government will fund the urgent work to make them so.”

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Grenfell Tower

Housing Minister Alok Sharma revealed the lack of progress after a Parliamentary question by Healey, but the Government has insisted everything is being done to ensure tower block residents’ safety. 

When asked if the Government would list which tower blocks had been tested and were unsafe, Sharma stated: “The Department for Communities and Local Government has indicated that it will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period.

“An answer is being prepared and will be provided as soon as it is available.”