Communities secretary to tackle ‘deeply concerning’ slowdown in work to strip towers of flammable material


Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has joined with city mayors pledging to carry out work to replace dangerous cladding on tower blocks following a “significant slowdown” in activity due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Jenrick has signed a pledge alongside the mayors of London, Sheffield, the West Midlands and Manchester to “continue to do all we can […] to ensure that ensure necessary building safety improvements can continue”.

The government has said since lockdown was announced last month construction sites should remain open where social distancing can be ensured, and specifically that work to remediate blocks with unsafe cladding is considered “critical to public safety” and should continue.

But around three-quarters of new build housebuilding sites are shut while a number of cladding remediation schemes to existing buildings have also stopped.

Jenrick said he was “deeply concerned that vital building safety work has significantly slowed down as a result of the pandemic” – although the department did not offer any statistics to support the suggestion this was a widespread problem.

He added: “I have been clear that work must resume to ensure the safety of residents living in buildings with unsafe cladding or with insufficient fire safety measures, and it is entirely possible for this work to be done safely within health guidelines.

“I brought together mayors and local leaders to find a solution. The agreement that I have reached with them will ensure those working on these vital repair projects can continue to do so safely.”

The pledge says: “We hope those leading the remediation work can continue where it is safe to do so and that residents feel able to co-operate with any reasonable conditions that may be required for them to be safe.”

The government has set aside £600m to help pay for the recladding of those public and private tower blocks with Grenfell-style ACM cladding and a further £1bn in the March Budget to pay for the recladding of non-ACM flammable cladding systems.

In figures released last week, the government revealed that just 144 high rise tower blocks, less than a third of the 457 found to have flammable ACM cladding, have had the cladding removed, nearly three years on from the tragedy at Grenfell.