The number of council and housing association high rise buildings identified as having cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower is less than half original estimates, according to the communities secretary.
Sajid Javid has, however, criticised some housing associations for being slow to provide cladding samples for testing.
This comes as Local Government Association chair Lord Porter has raised concerns about private companies withholding information about fire safety tests on cladding.
It had been thought about 530 council and housing association towers had similar cladding to that used on Grenfell Tower but in a written ministerial statement Mr Javid said subsequent inspections “suggests that the actual number of towers that have ACM [aluminium composite material] is much lower”.
“Based on the most recent information we have received, we now think that no more than 240 local authority and housing association towers have ACM cladding and so need to be tested,” said Mr Javid.
Of the 240, Mr Javid said it is thought 46 council-owned towers across 16 local authorities have ACM cladding. Samples from all of those have been tested already and all have “failed the limited combustibility test”, said Mr Javid.
Up to 194 towers across 50 housing associations have ACM cladding, 142 of which have been tested. Samples from a further 12 are being tested this week but Mr Javid added there are 40 towers owned by housing associations which have not yet confirmed whether ACM cladding is present, nor had a sample been sent for testing.
Mr Javid said: “Some of these housing associations say that they are still investigating the cladding on their towers. Five weeks is too long to still be investigating. We expect these investigations to be complete and relevant samples sent for testing immediately. There is no excuse for any housing association not to have completed its investigation of cladding materials.”
The number of samples tested so far is 259 – all of which have failed testing – but that figure includes samples from buildings in the private sector.
Lord Porter has called on private companies to waive confidentiality rights and release information relating to their cladding tests.
Appearing on Newsnight on Tuesday, Lord Porter said the Buildings Research Establishment, which is carrying out the cladding tests, “say that they can’t share those results because they’re subject to intellectual property [rights]”.
He said the LGA, through councils and housing associations, was now “putting pressure” on companies to share their test results.
“My worry is the public will not have faith in what has been done until it is done in a transparent way,” said Lord Porter.