Councils ‘cannot afford’ to carry out work on high-rises: LGA

Response follows release of latest fire safety test results on cladding.

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Government has to step in where councils can’t afford to carry out work on high-rises, the LGA warns.

Responding to the latest fire safety test results on cladding and insulation announced today (August 11), cllr Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said the body remained “firmly of the view” that the government needed to cover the exceptional cost to councils of removing and replacing cladding and insulation on high-rise blocks.

“With test fails affecting buildings owned by a range of different landlords across the country, it is clear that the current building regulation system has failed.

“It is also clear that councils cannot afford to carry out this work.

“There are concerns that other landlords in some areas are not acting as quickly to inform residents about test fails and lack the urgency shown by councils to identify their buildings with the cladding and insulation systems which have failed the three tests so far and take steps to make them safe,” said cllr Blackburn.

“We also continue to seek clarity from the government about the powers available to councils to help encourage landlords to take such action,” he said.

The fourth test was of a wall cladding system consisting of Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding with a fire resistant polyethylene filler (category 2 in screening tests) and stone wool insulation (a form of mineral wool).

This combination of materials has passed the test.

The government’s expert panel advise that the results show that this combination of materials can be compliant with current Building Regulations when installed and maintained properly – providing a possible solution for blocks where other cladding systems which have been identified as a hazard.

However, the panel noted that cladding and insulation materials can vary between manufacturers and can have different calorific values.

The way materials have been fitted and maintained can also affect the safety of the cladding system.

Advice from the panel is that building owners need to continue to take professional advice as to whether any remedial work is necessary to ensure the safety of their building.

While the test results help inform this work, owners must also take into account the specific circumstances of their building.

Thirteen buildings over 18 metres tall in England are known to have this combination of ACM with a fire resistant polyethylene filler (category 2) and stone wool insulation.

Following initial screening tests, government issued advice to building owners detailing immediate interim safety measures that needed to be undertaken.

These measures have been completed for all 13 of these buildings.

The government announced the independent review of building regulations and fire safety last month to  examine the regulatory system around the design, construction and on-going management of buildings in relation to fire safety as well as related compliance and enforcement issues.

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