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Concern at homes' asbestos removal

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Construction union UCATT has claimed increasing numbers of local authorities are pressuring untrained members to remove asbestos in council house renovations.

The warning comes a month after Doncaster MBC’s arm’s-length management organisation (ALMO) suspended its chief executive after it emerged staff had removed asbestos without being trained and lacking protective equipment.

Mayor Martin Winter (Ind) stepped in to remove the chair of St Leger Homes’ board.

St Leger chief executive Martin Musgrave remains suspended, although the ALMO has named Colin Mayhead as interim chief executive. The asbestos has been removed and decent homes work restarted.

The council said in a statement: “As soon as the asbestos was discovered we went into emergency mode and this led to the suspension of the work.”

The union, which says specialist contractors should do such work, said the workers were replacing window frames in a number of locations.

It said recent legal changes, which mean non-specialist contractors can remove certain types of asbestos materials, complicated the issue.

UCATT Yorkshire regional secretary Derek Johnson said the union was still seeking answers on how many workers had been exposed to asbestos.

“Local authorities must not let current financial constraints act as an excuse when it comes to removing asbestos. Highly trained specialist contractors are the only people who should be removing asbestos,” he said.

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