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Government pays out less than 1% of funds to remove cladding from private sector buildings

The National Audit Office (NAO) has found that less than £1.5m of £200m allocated to remove dangerous cladding from high-rise buildings in the private sector has been handed out by the government.

The report produced by the UK's spending watchdog has stated that government plans have "lagged behind [their] own expectations" when it comes to de-cladding tall buildings of the same flammable material that covered Grenfell Tower.

There are still 300 buildings undergoing work to remove aluminium composite material (ACM) from their exterior - three years after Grenfell Tower was tragically engulfed by flames.

Image credit: The Architects' Journal

The fire which rapidly smothered the west London tower block in June 2017 was fuelled by its ACM, which had a polyethylene core. The cladding system effectively had a heat combustion akin to diesel and close to lighter fluid.

Ministers aimed to complete the remediation of all buildings by the end of June 2020, but the target has now been moved to mid-2022. The COVID-19 pandemic has hindered work on 60 percent of at-risk buildings and is likely to cause further delays.

As April 2020 came to an end, the Department for Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) had paid out just £1.42m (0.7%) from the £200m private sector fund it had allocated.

By comparison, £133m (33.3%) from the £400m social sector fund had been paid out.

Due to difficulties in identifying who exactly is responsible for carrying out work on privately-owned buildings, progress on removing the ACM cladding has been incredibly slow.

Officials at the MHCLG identified 455 buildings over 18 metres tall covered in ACM. In total, 155 of these buildings have had all of the ACM cladding removed with the remaining 300 still undergoing work to be cleared of the material. For 160 of these high-rises, removal work has not yet begun.

In total, the British government has committed £1.6bn to carry out work on all affected buildings because of the stalemate between the state, building owners and developers over who should pay for remediation.


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