McVey hints at ‘wriggle room’ over cladding work

Response to Commons question confirms exceptional circumstances for private sector work not being done will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Housing minister Esther McVey has seemingly hinted at ‘wriggle room’ for private sector building owners over ACM cladding replacement – with no blanket definition of what constitutes exceptional circumstances for work not being done to deadline.

This comes just a month after the Commons MHCLG committee warned that the £200m currently set aside for the remediation of private sector residential buildings with ACM cladding will not be enough.

Responding to a written Commons question, McVey minister said such circumstances would instead be considered on a case by case basis.

McVey also ducked behind references to “responsible entities” in responding to other questions raised over remediation.

Labour’s Matthew Pennycock had asked for an MHCLG definition  of the exceptional circumstances that would provide justification for private sector building owners not completing remediation of buildings with unsafe ACM cladding by June next year.

“Our expectation is that remediation should be completed within six months of agreeing a plan – by June 2020. Exceptional circumstances that may prevent this deadline being met will be considered on a case by case basis once full applications are received,” said McVey.

Pennycock pushed further to ask how leaseholders will be notified whether the owners of the private sector buildings to which they hold a leasehold will be required to complete remediation of those buildings with unsafe ACM cladding by June next year.

“We are requiring responsible entities to inform all leaseholders and residents that they will be applying for funding from the Private Sector Aluminium Composite Material Cladding Remediation Fund.

 “Responsible entities will also be required to inform leaseholders and residents of the nature of the works they intend to carry out as well as providing regular updates to leaseholders and residents on the progress of their funding application and remediation works,” McVey replied.

Those “responsible entities” being the parties with primary legal obligation to carry out remediation works.

And they were referenced again in McVey’s response to Pennycock asking what steps MHCLG was taking to expedite remedial works on buildings with unsafe ACM cladding – in cases where private sector building owners have given a clear commitment to that remediation and a plan has been agreed but the proposed finish date for those works is after June 2020.

“We will work closely with responsible entities at all stages in the process to ensure that remediation is completed at pace and by June 2020, unless there are exceptional circumstances,” said McVey.

As reported by 24housing, a Commons reports released last month said Government has been “far too slow” reforming building and fire safety regulations post Grenfell and is still not doing enough to remove dangerous cladding from existing buildings.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee urges the government to “recognise the need for urgency” warning that the £200m specifically set aside for the remediation of private sector residential buildings with ACM cladding will not be enough.

In the social sector, other than a small handful of exceptional cases, remediation is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

But before leaving office, previous Secretary of State for Housing James Brokenshire acknowledged slower progress in the private sector.

With the government offering that £200m fund, any building in the private sector not assessed as permanently safe is expected to have a “clear commitment” to remediation, with a start and finish date agreed.

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