Salford City Council is to hold a special meeting next Wednesday to approve the borrowing of £25million in order to sort out the nine Pendleton high rise blocks it owns, which are currently managed by Pendleton Together.
The blocks, including Spruce Court, Thorn Court, Whitebeam Court and Plane Court, were amongst the blocks that failed the latest Government fire tests, which investigated both the aluminium cladding and insulation materials (see previous Salford Star article Ė click here).
With more and more residents of these blocks speaking out in the media about their fears and anxieties (see here) the Council has been forced to act...
"The results of the above tests indicate that significant work may be required to be
carried out to all blocks including the removal and replacement of the existing
cladding to bring the blocks up to the required standards" states the report going to councillors "...the council is keen to ensure that necessary works are carried out as speedily as practically possible to ensure the safety of residents."
Which body is actually legally liable for the costs is in dispute because, although Salford Council owns the blocks, the report states that "management and maintenance of the tenancies is carried out through a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) operated by PTOL [Pendleton Together Operating Ltd] and its sub contractors."
It calls the legal liabilities "complex" and "likely to be the subject of dispute"... before adding that "The council's position is that PTOL are liable under the terms of the project agreement for the remediation works..."
The Council already has a joint fund of £8million with Pendleton Together for 'immediate costs', with the Council putting in £5million and Pendleton Together £3million, but is looking to borrow £25million, at £1.25million interest per year, to forward fund the safety work.
The £25million borrowing and the interest payments would mean cuts, the report explains. It would breach the debt cap set by the Government if charged to the HRA (Housing Revenue Account) and would "exacerbate existing budget pressures within the long term HRA business plan"; and if "charged to the general fund the additional cost would increase the revenue budget funding gap in 2017/18 and future years unless significant reductions were made to existing capital investment plans".
The reports concludes that "Whilst the Council reserves its position in respect of legal proceedings, as with any funding there would be a risk that, if repayments are not made for any reason, the cost would ultimately sit with the Council".*
It adds that "Representation has been made to Department for Communities and Local Government to provide assistance in meeting any costs associated with essential works that fall upon the City Council."
While the Pendleton blocks are subject to most attention and cement boards have started to be fixed over insulation on Plane Court, there's been little information provided by City West Housing and Salix Homes on the blocks that they manage and own, which also failed Government fire safety tests.
There's been no information on the Salix Homes website for over a month, although metal boards have gone up over insulation on some blocks. Yesterday, City West did put a post on its site stating that only the Southway block has passed new Government tests, while the other 11 blocks failed...
"Where the cladding system has not met requirements, this is to one elevation of the Central Eccles blocks and to the top floor only of the Barton Village blocks" the company states "We plan to remove the cladding from the blocks in Central Eccles and are currently working to identify a suitable replacement in line with Government recommendations and expert advice. At Barton Village we are also seeking expert advice about next steps..."
A public meeting has been called for residents of all blocks in Salford, and everyone else in the community, at 6pm next Tuesday, 22nd August at Salford Arts Theatre.
The theme for the meeting is We Demand Safe, Secure Homes, and speakers will include a tower block resident and member of Salford City UNISON; Mark Rowe, Fire Brigades Union North West Regional Secretary; Hilda Palmer from GM Hazards Campaign, a member of the Justice4Grenfell Campaign and possibly Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett.
Salford UNISON, which is organising the meeting, states: "We need a full, immediate safety enquiry into Grenfell and every other block. We need full funding for any improvements including sprinkler systems, recommended by fire services. And we need to listen to tenants views on redevelopment and warnings about the risks to homes and lives."
UNISON also supports the following demands:
* Government must pay for removal of all combustible cladding now. Clarification of what cladding, skirting and rendering is considered as safe. This should include information about any insulating layers that may be placed between the original walls and the facia material.
* A full public fire safety review, including all specifications of works already done.
* Suspend redevelopment works until we re-scrutinise plans and materials.
* Re-instate independent fire safety inspection, with reports publicly available and enforced. Yearly review of building fire safety with findings legally binding for all new builds and all homes for rent.
* Full government funding for all fire safety recommendations on social housing stock
* Reverse the privatisation of health and safety, building control and materials research.
* We demand landlords are made to listen - enforce a residents right to vote on any redevelopment plans.
We Demand Safe, Secure Homes
Tuesday 22nd August 6pm
Salford Arts Theatre
Kemsing Walk (off Liverpool St) M5 4BS.
For further details see the Facebook event page Public Meeting Justice4Grenfell Ė click here
* See also previous Salford Star article - Salford Council Could be In Huge Financial Cladding trouble - click here