Housing associations, not councils, are responsible for most of the delays in sending cladding in high-rise tower blocks for testing in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, the Local Government Association has said.
In an update to parliament on Monday evening, communities secretary Sajid Javid told MPs he was “concerned about the speed at which samples are being submitted” for testing.
He added: “I would urge all landlords to submit their samples immediately.”
So far all samples that have been sent for testing have failed. These came from 75 high-rise blocks in 26 council areas.
In a statement the LGA said it had contacted all of the councils from which government officials were still expecting samples. Of the “overwhelming majority” spoken to on Monday, they had either already sent a sample for testing or informed government they do not own any high-rise buildings with the aluminium composite material cladding that has been implicated in the Grenfell fire.
The spokesman continued: “It seems that samples expected by government officials from councils are, in many cases, due to actually arrive from other housing providers. As community leaders, councils are working with social and other landlords in their area to make sure all cladding samples are sent for testing as quickly as possible.”
The LGA also urged the government to ensure councils have the funding they need to support residents and carry out any new safety measures.
However, addressing MPs yesterday Mr Javid said only that the government would work with councils if they could not afford to do the work themselves.
In response to a question about costs from shadow housing minister John Healey, Mr Javid said: “We have been very clear that local authorities and housing associations must not hesitate at all. As soon as they learn about any action and necessary steps that they need to take to ensure public safety in terms of fire risk, they must take that action.
“If they are not able to pay for that themselves, we will of course work with them and put a financial support package in place with the individual organisation.”
However, Clive Betts, the Labour MP who was the most recent chair of the Commons communities and local government committee, questioned how the government would judge whether a council could afford to make the improvements or not.
He said: “Will he explain precisely what that means and what criteria he will use? Is it not fundamentally wrong to expect other social housing tenants to pay for this work through either increased rents or less maintenance of their properties?”
Mr Betts called on the government to “bring forward a comprehensive finance package that provides not merely increased borrowing for organisations, but the actual cash to pay for this work”.
But Mr Javid said it was a “legal requirement for local authorities and housing associations that they ensure that the homes they offer to tenants are fit for habitation”.
“Despite that, if authorities and associations are not able to do that from their current resources, they should get on with the job and meet those requirements, and we will work with them and give them the support they need,” he said.