Yesterday in Parliament, Prime Minister Theresa May finally confirmed £400million of Government financial help to strip and replace cladding in council and social housing blocks, although she said nothing about the private owned blocks where management companies and developers are attempting to put the extortionate costs onto individual residents.
"Councils and housing associations must remove dangerous cladding quickly, but paying for these works must not undermine their ability to do important maintenance and repair work" the Prime Minister said "...I can today confirm that the Government will fully fund the removal and replacement of dangerous cladding by councils and housing associations, estimated at £400 million."
May's announcement was backed up with statements from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government...
"Local authorities and housing associations, which are non-profit making, will be given access to the money to help with reasonable costs of removing and replacing unsafe cladding from buildings which they own to ensure people are safe in their homes" it explained.
"Social landlords have been working hard to replace unsafe cladding" it added "Interim safety measures are in place in all affected buildings and latest figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show that over 65% (104 out of 158) of social housing buildings with unsafe cladding are currently going through the process of remediation..."
In Salford, there's been patchy activity around the removal of cladding. The nine Pendleton blocks owned by Salford City Council and managed by Pendleton Together have seen bits of cladding stripped away and replaced with temporary cement boards but, as tenants are well aware, the dangerous cladding is still mostly in place, despite the Council having already borrowed £25million to facilitate the work.
At the March meeting of Salford Council, Deputy Mayor, John Merry, didn't apologise for the lack of activity, but said work will begin "in spring"...
"The reason it has taken so long is it's not just enough to say 'Oh the cladding is safe and by the way the insulation is safe'...we have to test them together in circumstances that reflect what is going to be found in Pendleton and on those blocks, and we had to do that in Dubai because all the testing facilities in this country were fully occupied" he explained "Fire safety experts now recommended a proposal in terms of the likely replacement insulation which will be mineral fibre combined with a cladding with a mineral core.
"We will be explaining to residents that is the system we will be adopting but we will give them the opportunity to see it in action at Brotherton House and to give some feedback" he added "...We've got to move forward now and got to come up with the right proposals."
Merry also confirmed that "there will be sprinklers in individual flats but it will be done at a minimum inconvenience to tenants...work will commence this spring and residents will be kept informed at every stage of the programme."
The Salford Star understands that meetings have been taking place with residents but the prospect of 'work commencing in spring' is looking more and more distant. John Merry might have updated his announcement at yesterday's Council meeting but the new £87,000 webcast technology didn't work, so nobody knows other than those councillors who were there.
Meanwhile, nothing seems to be happening with the non-compliant blocks owned by Salix Homes. Its latest report merely stated that "Remedial works to the seven Salix Homes partially cladded blocks is still being discussed with the relevant authorities. We are increasingly confident the solutions will meet requirements and will commence works as soon as all involved are happy with the solution.
"We plan to retrofit sprinklers where major refurbishments or new developments are planned (4 blocks)" it added "A feasibility study is underway for the remaining blocks."
This contrasts with the latest report from City West Housing which states that all work on its six non-compliant blocks will be completed by September...
"Charter House and College Croft are complete, Kemball and Crauton House will be completed in June and work to Cremer and Ewood will start by the end of May" City West confirmed in a report to Salford Council yesterday.
"The sprinkler programme across the City West blocks is moving quickly and is on programme" it added "The installations to individual apartments and communal areas are complete in Cawdor, Engels and Wade at Barton Village, with the remaining two blocks (Mees and Enfield) due to be completed by early June. Works have commenced to Kemball and College Croft and all the sprinkler works to all 12 blocks will be complete this calendar year.
"Feedback to date from customers concerning the conduct of contractors, the quality of the installations and the peace of mind following the completed installations has been extremely positive" it concluded.
Residents in the Pendleton blocks and Salix blocks might well be asking why City West can, apparently, move swiftly while their landlords are seemingly dragging their heels...
Meanwhile, this morning, a report on cladding by Dame Judith Hackitt, commissioned by the Government, does not recommend a total ban on combustible cladding and insulation. Instead, she calls for tougher regulations and sanctions...
"The guidance already says that the only type of cladding that you can use on high-rise buildings must either be of limited combustibility or must be subject to a full test" she says "To make this effective you have to go beyond simply specifying what can and can't be used."
In response, cladding campaigner Richard Venables told the Salford Star "Oh my goodness, she sounds brain dead...Her report should be put straight into the bin..."