POLITICS
16/05/2018 13:38 BST | Updated 16/05/2018 15:17 BST

Government Will Pay £400m Bill To Replace Cladding On Social Housing Tower Blocks

But private landlords will have to fund their own work

Dangerous cladding on 158 tower blocks will replaced in the next two years, Theresa May announced today as she promised the Government would bear the cost of the work.

Speaking in Prime Minister’s Questions, May said an estimated £400million would be spent on high rise buildings owned by councils and housing associations across England to render them safe.

The cladding around the Grenfell tower block was deemed one of the key reasons why a fire in a fourth-floor flat spread so rapidly, killing 71 people in June last year.

May told MPs more than 1,250 tower blocks had been checked by fire investigators since the blaze, and 158 buildings need their cladding replacing.

She said: “Councils and housing associations must remove dangerous cladding quickly but paying for these works must not undermine their ability to do important maintenance and repair work.

May added: “The Government will fully find the removal and replacement of cladding by councils and housing associations – estimated at £400million – and the Housing Secretary will set out further details later this week.”

A Downing Street spokesperson later confirmed work has already begun on 104 buildings, and the renovations of all 158 towers should be completed within two years.

When asked why private landlords would not be receiving any cash, the spokesperson replied: “We expect private building owners to take responsibility themselves for removing and replacing cladding and not pass those costs on.”

The Local Government Association, which represents councils, welcomed the announcement, and in a statement said: “It is great that the government has honoured its commitment from last summer to meet the unexpected exceptional costs for councils arising from major remedial fire safety work on high-rise buildings.”

David Orr, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation which represents housing associations, said it was right for the Government to “take responsibility and fund this work” but he was keen to here more details.

 He added: “Over the last year housing associations have been doing everything in their power to remove dangerous cladding from buildings as quickly as possible, even though this has often come at a huge cost to these not-for-profit organisations. 

“Safety is always the primary concern of housing associations, so this unexpected work has meant money has been directed away from other key projects for their tenants.

“We have been seeking support from Government so it is very welcome news that they will fully fund the removal and replacement of dangerous cladding.”

Labour is holding a debate on the Grenfell tragedy and the response to the blaze in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon. 

Speaking after the Prime Minister’s announcement, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey said: “Today’s announcement is just a partial backing of Labour’s plan to fund the emergency work needed to keep residents of high-rise blocks safe. It’s welcome, but why on earth has it taken the Prime Minister eleven months to make this commitment?

 “Almost a year on from the Grenfell Tower fire, over 300 other tower blocks have dangerous, Grenfell-type cladding, but only seven have had it replaced.

“The Government should now take the next necessary step and back Labour’s plan for a £1 billion Fire Safety Fund to finance vital safety work and retrofit sprinklers in high-rise social housing blocks.”