The Government is failing to support local authorities and social housing providers who want to make safety improvements in tower blocks as a result of lessons learned from the Grenfell fire. Despite the early rhetoric about residents’ safety being paramount and therefore money not being a problem, it clearly is a problem. One local authority after another is having their request for funding turned down and they are being left with the bill for replacing cladding or installing sprinklers. My concern is that housing providers are paying money they can’t afford to compensate for Government mistakes in not updating the safety regulations.
The government position is that “building owners are responsible for funding measures designed to make a building safe.” The government says they are willing to discuss local authorities being allowed to borrow more, but this falls short of urgently writing cheques for safety measures. According to answers I have obtained to a series of Parliamentary Questions, this even includes circumstances where the housing association followed government regulations which fell short.
For me, a key argument at the public inquiry is going to be whether the housing industry stuck to the regulations, or whether they cut corners to do the work on the cheap. If social housing providers across the country were all bending the rules to keep budgets down, then there is a strong argument that they should bear the responsibility for replacing the shoddy work. However, if the regulations were inadequate (as I believe the Lakenal House fire showed in 2009) and the government sat on their hands because of their dislike of red tape, then the Government should clearly be paying for all the safety repairs.