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26 March 2019
Although the government gave local councils the power to step in and fix dangerous cladding on privately owned tower blocks in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy, no councils are believed to have yet used the system.
James Brokenshire, the housing secretary, announced in November 2019 that councils had government backing, “including financial if necessary”, to take control of affected buildings and carry out works in response to the refusal of many developers and freehold investors to act.
Two of the most affected areas in Manchester and London have said the backing applies only to buildings that meet very strict criteria and one senior council official described the system as “an absolute mess”.
More leaseholders are affected in Tower Hamlets than anywhere else, with 42 private towers still not fixed. The borough confirmed that very few buildings posed the “category one” safety risk required for the powers to take effect due to their cladding.
Suzanne Richards, Manchester city council’s executive member for housing and regeneration, said, “The current powers government has given councils only apply to limited cases – perhaps only 10 or 20% – where building owners refuse to act.
“What we now really need to see is for government to step in to offer leaseholders a genuine lifeline, by creating a fund that will pay for cladding works directly.”
UK Cladding Action Group, which represents affected leaseholders said it showed Brokenshire’s announcement amounted to “completely hollow words”.
Despite ministers making £400m available to fix social housing blocks, with remedial works being completed or started in 79% of cases, only 6% of the private apartment blocks identified as using the now banned aluminium composite material cladding panels have been fixed.
The crisis is affecting tens of thousands of households including 1,370 in Leeds, 484 in Reading and 400 in Bournemouth, according to freedom of information requests.