Some 600 tower blocks in England are encased in cladding but not necessarily the same type of material as was installed on Grenfell Tower, Downing Street has said in an attempt to clarify an earlier misleading statement.
Westminster-based journalists who attended the daily morning briefing with the Prime Minister’s Official Spokeswoman were told 600 high rises were covered in the same combustible cladding that is being blamed by experts for the rapid spread of the Grenfell blaze.
It led to a rash of headlines, including on HuffPost UK, suggesting thousands of residents of public housing were in the same position as people living in the West London tower block.
But the 600 figure relates to the number of inspections that will take place in the aftermath of the fire, it was later revealed.
In the a later briefing with journalists later in the afternoon, Downing Street moved to make clear that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) - the Whitehall department overseeing the inspections - had provided an update suggesting the 600 figure referred to the total number of buildings covered in cladding, and would not necessarily all be flammable.
As it stands, seven tower blocks have tested positive for a combustible cladding, DCLG has said.
Politics Home reports the No 10 spokeswoman said this afternoon:
“What I explained this morning was that the latest figures that we had, which were based on estimates from local authorities, were that there were 600 buildings with a certain type of cladding, but actually the update DCLG have provided throughout the afternoon is that the figure is now 600 buildings, we understand, that have cladding – that could be any type of cladding, that’s the clarification they have made.”
The spokeswoman stressed that if they were deemed unsafe tenants would be rehoused “as soon as possible”.
“It’s not automatic that the building will be declared unsafe – otherwise we would just do it straightaway,” the spokeswoman said.
She told the House of Commons: “People were left without belongings, without roofs over their heads, without even basic information about what had happened, what they should do and where they could seek help.
“That was a failure of the state, local and national, to help people when they needed it most.
“As Prime Minister, I apologise for that failure and as Prime Minister I have taken responsibility for doing what we can to put things right.”