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Government has ‘no data’ on how many buildings under 18m have dangerous cladding

Grenfell tower
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The government has admitted it does not know how many of the UK’s 85,000 buildings between 11m and 18m tall are clad with dangerous ACM material like that used on Grenfell Tower

An investigation by the National Audit Office (NAO) into the remediation of flammable cladding reveals that government believes there will still be towers wrapped in dangerous material until at least the middle of 2022.

In its report, published today (19 June), the NAO notes that as of April there were still 307 towers which still have unsafe ACM cladding systems, with work not even having begun on 167 of them. The number of towers which have been successfully remediated is 149.

The NAO has also revealed that experts advising the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said the ‘most dangerous forms of ACM cladding and insulation are unsafe on buildings of any height’.

However, the department admitted it did not have any data on the number of buildings under 18m which have cladding systems, or what proportion of the buildings which do are likely to be clad in ACM.

This summer it will begin collecting data on cladding used in the approximately 85,000 buildings which are between 11m and 18m in height, or roughly three to five storeys tall.

The expert advisory panel on cladding remediation also said the risks of any kind of unsafe cladding are exacerbated where they are on buildings which house elderly or vulnerable residents.

According to the NAO, the government also lacks any data on the number of care homes or other buildings containing a high concentration of vulnerable people which are under 18m but have unsafe cladding. 

The public spending watchdog also revealed that remediation of unsafe cladding was much slower in the private residential sector than in the social housing or student accommodation sectors.

Just over two-thirds of student blocks with unsafe cladding have now been fully remediated, while 47 per cent of social housing buildings have been.

However, just 14 per cent of private housing buildings have been remediated, with the government having only paid out £1.42 million, or 0.7 per cent, of its £200 million private sector fund for remediation works.

This compares with the £133 million, or 33 per cent, paid out from its £400 million social housing cladding remediation fund.

The NAO said the difference is because ‘legal entities responsible for the private sector buildings have been difficult to identify and have required more support throughout the process than initially expected’.

The government is currently expecting to pay for remediation work on 94 out of 208 private-sector buildings with unsafe cladding. This compares with 84 cases where owners have committed to fund work, 23 which are covered by warranty claims and seven where the source of funding remains unclear. 

Responding to the report Meg Hillier, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: ‘Three years on from the Grenfell Tower disaster, two-thirds of high-rise buildings with the same sort of cladding haven’t replaced it. This work should have finished already.’

‘The deadlines for removing other dangerous cladding are unrealistic, and there may not be enough people with the right skills to do everything that needs to be done.’

She added: ‘Developers should be footing the bill for this work, not taxpayers.’

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