Salford City Council has spoken of its frustration with Government delays affecting the replacement of cladding at nine Pendleton tower blocks, works that were due to start in full this summer.
The council made a commitment in August 2017 to lend up to £25m to Pendleton Together Operating, the PFI company responsible for the tower blocks, to replace the cladding system, this commitment coming in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
In March this year, Salford approved a lending facility as the best way to get the ACM cladding system replaced; pledging to provide funds after a new system was independently tested. Work started at the Plane Court block in April on a two-year recladding project.
The council said that the funding stream would have allowed a detailed work programme to be designed and contracted, but the Government has refused permission for the local authority to lend the money.
Cllr John Merry, deputy city mayor, said: “The government has repeatedly turned down our pleas for financial support in the wake of the Grenfell fire, telling the council that we were responsible for funding the works to make the building safe. We have now been told in the last week that the council can’t lend the funds to start the work. This is beyond belief.
“It’s hugely disappointing and doesn’t benefit the public purse in any way, as the money would have been repaid to the council. The government is seemingly more concerned about setting precedent for other PFI schemes than it is about the safety of residents.”
Merry said that the Government has also confirmed that the PFI company itself cannot qualify for the national £400m funding pot, meaning that the only remaining option is to raise money privately.
He added: “The council can’t step in and end the contract without significant delays and further financial penalties. We’re trapped in a bureaucratic fog of how regulations are now being interpreted.
“This is inevitably threatening to slow down the works further, which is something from the start we wanted to avoid. The safety of local people has always been our priority since the tragedy of Grenfell exposed fire safety issues.”
The council is now working closely with the Pendleton Together Operating, which is part of the Together Housing Group, to confirm a new timetable for when the remaining works will start.
Works to Plane Court will continue, while safety measures will remain in place on all blocks, including 24/7 fire marshals.