The government has not allocated more than half of the cash it promised to help residents of tower blocks remove dangerous cladding from their buildings.
In the period up to 31 March this year, some £1.6bn was supposed to have been spent on the “remediation” of unsafe cladding on high-rise residential blocks.
But government figures show that only £757m of it had actually been approved by that time, representing just 47 per cent of the commitment.
The issue of cladding was drawn into focus on Friday as more than a hundred firefighters battled a blaze at New Providence Wharf in east London. Some 40 people needed treatment and two men were hospitalised after the incident, which led to protests over the weekend.
The nineteen-story block is believed to be covered in aluminium composite material (“ACM”) cladding, which has been blamed for helping the 2017 fire at Grenfell Tower to spread. Remediation work at New Providence Wharf had been due to start on Monday.
Two-thirds of ‘Building Safety Fund’ not yet allocated
In some cases, cladding that doesn’t use the ACM system has also been found to be dangerous.
The March 2020 Budget set aside £1bn to fund the “remediation” of unsafe “non-ACM cladding systems” on high-rise residential buildings over eighteen metres tall.
The cash was to be spent in the financial year 2020-21, with building owners urged to register for the scheme before the deadline at the end of last July.
But government figures reveal that by 31 March this year, just £319m had actually been allocated, leaving more than two-thirds of the money unused.
A quarter of cash to remove Grenfell-style cladding unspent
As well as the £1bn to tackle non-ACM cladding, the government has also promised £600m for buildings with Grenfell-style ACM cladding.
The commitment includes £400m for social sector buildings, which was announced by Theresa May in 2018, eleven months after the west London disaster. Latest figures show £272m of that (68 per cent) has been approved so far.
In 2019, some £200m was “made available” to fund the removal of ACM cladding from private sector blocks. Of that, £166m (83 per cent) has been approved.
Taken together, 73 per cent of the £600m set aside by the government since 2018 to fund ACM cladding removal has actually been approved – leaving just over a quarter unspent.
In February this year, ministers announced a further £3.5bn to fund the removal of cladding. FactCheck understands this cash is to be spent over the next several years.
The commitment came nine months after a senior official at the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) told MPs that the government already estimated the full cost of remediation could be “as much as £3 billion or £3.5 billion”. Though at the time he was giving evidence, only £1.6bn had been pledged.
An MHCLG spokesperson told FactCheck:
“It is wrong to claim this delay has been caused by the Government. We are progressing applications to the Building Safety Fund as quickly as possible and it is disappointing so many building owners have been unable to provide the basic information we need to progress their applications, and we urge them to do this quickly.
“We are making significant progress in removing unsafe ACM cladding with workers on site in 95% of buildings identified as having ACM cladding at the beginning of 2020.”