Government to pay for removal of 'dangerous' cladding from tower blocks

The Government will fully fund the removal and replacement of dangerous cladding materials from tower blocks by councils and housing associations, Theresa May has said.

Mrs May told MPs at Prime Minister's Questions that the work would cost an estimated £400 million to carry out.

"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," she said.

Mrs May said that since the Grenfell Tower fire last year, the fire and rescue services had visited over 1,250 high-rise buildings and immediate action had been taken to ensure the safety of every resident.

She said there were 210 households in total in need of a new home in the wake of the fire of which 201 had accepted an offer of either temporary or permanent accommodation.

"As we approach the anniversary of the appalling tragedy that was the Grenfell Tower fire, our thoughts are with the victims and survivors and all those affected by that tragedy," she said.

The announcement came as Labour prepared to use an opposition day debate in the Commons to press ministers on their detailed demands on building safety, including the fitting of non-combustible cladding and insulation on high-rise blocks.

The fire at Grenfell Tower in west London
The fire at Grenfell Tower in west London (Natalie Oxford/PA)

Shadow housing secretary John Healey said: "More than 11 months on, the time for warm words is long past, and people are rightly asking why so little has changed since the Grenfell Tower fire.

"A series of commitments made by ministers up to and including the Prime Minister have not been honoured.

"When Grenfell survivors and worried residents in other tower blocks should have seen action, they have had to suffer painfully slow progress and broken promises. What was a national disaster is now becoming a national disgrace."

A Downing Street spokeswoman later said the funding would cover removal and replacement of cladding at 158 high-rise blocks in the social sector in England.

Work has already started on 104 buildings, and the number of eligible schemes will be kept under review, the spokeswoman said.

The announcement that the Government would fund the cladding replacement work was welcomed by Local Government Association chairman Lord Porter.

"While the priority for councils has been getting on with what they need to do to ensure people are safe in their homes following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the LGA has been involved in public and private conversations with the Government about the financial implications," he said.

"It is great that the Government has honoured its commitment from last summer to meet the unexpected exceptional costs for councils arising from major remedial fire safety work on high-rise buildings."

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