Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs welcomes Theresa May’s £400m Grenfell-style cladding clean-up

The charred remains of Grenfell Tower in Kensington. Picture: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire

The charred remains of Grenfell Tower in Kensington. Picture: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs has welcomed Theresa May’s £400m pledge to replace dangerous cladding on tower blocks owned by councils and housing associations, with lips sealed on his own council’s spending.

The prime minister announced the measure at parliament on Wednesday, nearly a year since the Grenfell Tower blaze and on the 50th anniversary of the 21-storey Ronan Point collapse in Canning Town, Newham.

“I am pleased the government has at long last committed to funding the necessary fire safety works to social housing blocks,” he told the Advertiser, dodging the question of how much the council had already spent replacing aluminium composite (ACM) cladding on Randall House in Poplar. The material, similar to that of Grenfell’s, failed fire safety tests carried out following the inferno which killed 71 people last June.

He added: “I have long been calling on the prime minster to commit to this, and await the full details from the minister.

“We have a duty of care to our residents, and rather than wait for the government to take action we removed and replaced cladding on the only council block that had the ACM cladding.”

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The Labour mayor’s statement also side-stepped whether the council would reclaim the costs.

Instead, Mr Biggs said he had earmarked £26.8m to “accelerate the fire prevention works” within four years in 900 blocks run by the council’s housing arm, Tower Hamlets Homes.

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Similar questions to Rokhsana Fiaz, mayor of neighbouring borough Newham, went unanswered.

The cheque for ongoing works to the borough’s three blocks with the unsafe material, said Ms Fiaz, ran to an unspecified “thousands of pounds”.

She implied the council would ask the government to foot this bill, adding: “Councils on already stretched budgets should not be left with shouldering the burden of the unexpectedly high costs of removing the ACM cladding from tower blocks.

“However, we have not let a lack of funds delay any essential fire safety works.”

Ms Fiaz went on: “It is essential the funding is retrospective, taking into account the vast sums already spent by many councils in ensuring that residents are safe.”

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