Ministers must seize tower blocks if Grenfell-style cladding not removed by new year, Labour says
Labour has called on ministers to take over any private blocks which still have Grenfell-style cladding on them by the end of this year.
Ministers last month vowed £200m to have the combustible material removed from some privately-owned high-rises, in a bid to speed up efforts to prevent a repeat of the disaster.
The Grenfell Tower fire, which ripped up the side of the west London high rise, resulted in the deaths of 72 people in June 2017.
The Government confirmed in April that more than 300 high-rise residential and publicly-owned buildings still have aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding systems that would be "unlikely" to meet regulations.
That means nine in ten private blocks - 164 out of 175 - have still not had it removed and replaced.
Labour said the Government should change the 2004 Housing Act to force block owners to replace dangerous cladding, or show substantial progress in doing so by the end of December 2019.
Those which have not, they say, should face fines followed by confiscation of blocks, with the council to then take on Government funding to tackle the problem.
Furthermore the party said the Government-sponsored testing regime should comprehensively test non-ACM cladding, amid fears that they too could be unsafe.
Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey said: “Many private tower block owners have shown zero sign of replacing their Grenfell-style cladding, and Government Ministers are letting them drag their feet.
“Two years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, concerned residents are still living in homes that may not be safe and many are having to pay for interim safety measures such as 24-hour fire wardens.
“Enough is enough. Private block owners should be made to replace this dangerous cladding, or face councils taking over ownership of these buildings to get this vital safety work done.”
A public inquiry has been underway since 2017, with the second phase looking at the causes of the fire, including the use of cladding blamed for helping it to spread, to start next year.
A Ministry of Housing, Commmunities and Local Government spokesperson said: “There is nothing more important than making sure people are safe in their homes.
“That is why we have committed to fully funding the replacement of unsafe ACM cladding on high-rise private residential buildings so residents can feel confident they are secure in their homes.
“We have been clear that there are no more excuses and we expect these buildings to be remediated as quickly as possible.
"We are backing local authorities to take enforcement action where building owners are refusing to act.”