Cladding concerns post-Grenfell

Meeting: 
MQT on 2018-05-17
Session date: 
May 17, 2018
Reference: 
2018/1149
Question By: 
Tom Copley
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

Almost one year from the tragedy of Grenfell Tower that claimed the lives of 71 Londoners, many people across the country have discovered that they are living in unsafe homes. What action are you taking as Mayor to support those Londoners who have found themselves living in buildings clad in 'highly combustible' materials?

Answer

Answer for Cladding concerns post-Grenfell

Answer for Cladding concerns post-Grenfell

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you.  The fire at Grenfell Tower last summer devastated the North Kensington community.  As Mayor, I will do everything within my power to ensure that justice is achieved for the bereaved, the survivors and those who lost their lives.

 

The fire also raised urgent questions about the safety of other blocks that may have similar cladding.  I do not have formal powers to intervene where there are building safety issues and I do not have any role in the system of building control.  However, I am determined to do everything I can to make sure residents living in affected buildings are safe.  The fact that dangerous cladding has now been found on 158 social blocks across the country and on an increasing number of private blocks highlights just how broken the building safety system is.

 

For that reason, I endorsed Dame Judith Hackitt’s [Chair of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety] interim findings as an important step forward when they were published in December [2017] and hope the final review released today will deliver the fundamental reform that is needed.  I will be reading the report in detail later today and will respond in due course.

 

Our top priority must be to make sure that Londoners living in affected blocks are not in danger.  The London Fire Brigade has carried out more than 700 inspections of high-rise blocks since June [2017], designed to support building owners to put in place appropriate interim fire safety measures while we await the removal and replacement of unsafe cladding.  These interim measures may include the installation of a common alarm system or a 24-hour waking watch and a change to the evacuation procedure.  My team has also been working with London boroughs and housing associations to understand the scale of safety issues in buildings they own.

 

I welcome the announcement, finally, from the Government yesterday that it will fund the remedial works on tower blocks owned by councils and housing associations.  I remain, however, very concerned about the situation with privately-owned blocks.  It has taken the Government almost a year to intervene in the social sector and I dread to think how long it will take for them to get a grip on the issues with affected buildings in the private sector.

 

First, the total number of private buildings with dangerous cladding is still not confirmed.  The Government’s strategy appears to rely on the owners of buildings with unsafe cladding to come forward voluntarily.  This is not happening comprehensively and London boroughs require much greater support to take necessary enforcement action and to get a grip on this issue.  The £1 million committed by the Government to date is utterly inadequate given the potential scale of the issue.

 

Second, it is unacceptable that works have been delayed because of legal disputes over who is responsible for the costs on private-sector blocks.

 

Tom Copley AM:  Thank you for that answer, Mr Mayor.  I want to turn to the Hackitt report first because I was extremely concerned that the final report, as was trailed a week ago, will not be recommending a ban on combustible cladding being attached to buildings.  I wondered what your position was on that.  Are you concerned that on Radio 4 this morning Dame Judith Hackitt incorrectly claimed that no cladding systems using combustible materials had passed large-scale tests?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I have not read the report and so all I have to go on is the summary that has been in the media.  Therefore, my answers are with that caveat.

 

I am surprised.  I am really surprised.  There is also a different issue about desktop safety measures in real fire situations.  All I can say is I will read the report today and then speak to the experts from the London Fire Brigade and others who are experts on this.  I am surprised by what I have heard this morning.

 

Tom Copley AM:  OK.  Thank you for that answer on that.  I want to turn now to the announcement from the Government yesterday, finally, as you say, to compensate councils and housing associations.  With the London Borough of Camden already reporting having spent £50 million on recladding five tower blocks, do you think £400 million from the Government will be enough to fully fund this recladding?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  One of the things that we have to recognise is that over the last year the anxiety caused not just to councils and housing associations but to those tenants has been phenomenal.  I do not understand why it has taken a year to do this.  We should welcome the fact that the Government has done a U-turn.

 

Tom Copley AM:  Absolutely.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  What I would hope is that the £400 million is not a ceiling.  I am hoping that they will realise that actually, if the principle is accepted that they will support councils and housing associations, then there must be no upper limit.  Councils like Camden and many others are taking action and they should be assisted, but they cannot afford, frankly speaking, to do it themselves.

 

Tom Copley AM:  You mentioned 158 social blocks across the country having this sort of cladding.  Have you made any assessment or do you know of any assessment of the number of those that are actually in London itself or is there just a figure for the whole country at the moment?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  For the social blocks of housing associations and councils, there is a figure for London.  The councils have been working very closely - all councils of all parties across London - with the London Fire Brigade to make sure inspections take place.  The London Fire Brigade has been working around the clock for these inspections to take place.  We have a figure which I can give to you.  I do not have a figure for the private blocks for obvious reasons and that is one of the big concerns people have.

 

Tom Copley AM:  OK.  If you could let us know the figure afterwards, that would be very helpful.  Thank you very much, Mr Mayor.