MPs fear cladding remediation skills shortage
There may not be enough construction workers with the right skills to complete cladding remediation work on high-rise buildings, the chair of an influential MPs group has warned.
Meg Hillier, the Labour MP who chairs the Public Accounts Committee, was speaking as the National Audit Office released a report into progress on cladding repairs.
The NAO’s report noted slow progress in the private residential sector, with 66.7% of high-rise student accommodation blocks and 46.8% of social housing buildings with ACM cladding unlikely to meet Building Regulations fully remediated as of the end of April 2020, as compared to 13.5% of private sector residential buildings.
The government set aside £400m in May 2018 for remediation of ACM buildings in the social housing sector in England followed by a further £200m for equivalent buildings in the private sector in May 2019. That was followed by the announcement of a £1bn fund in March 2020 for the remediation of unsafe non-ACM high-rise buildings in the social and private residential sectors. The number of unsafe non-ACM buildings over 18m is not yet known but is estimated to be around 1,700.
But Hillier was skeptical of the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) that all buildings within scope of the funding could be remediated by mid-2022. She said: “Three years on from the Grenfell Tower disaster, two thirds of high rise buildings with the same sort of cladding haven’t replaced it. This work should have finished already.
“The deadlines for removing other dangerous cladding are unrealistic, and there may not be enough people with the right skills to do everything that needs to be done.
“Developers should be footing the bill for this work, not taxpayers.”
Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, said: “MHCLG has made progress in overseeing the removal of dangerous cladding from many buildings, particularly in the social housing sector. However, the pace of progress has lagged behind its own expectations, particularly in the private residential sector. It has a long way to go to make all high-rise buildings safe for residents.
“Going forward, it is important that the department successfully manages the administrative challenges of funding building owners to carry out remediation work, particularly given its intention to commit a further £1bn in full by the end of March 2021.”
The NAO’s full report can be viewed here.