MILLIONS of pounds spent by Portsmouth City Council to upgrade dangerous cladding on residential towers will be paid back.
The council today confirmed the government will be footing the bill for improvements after the prime minister Theresa May pledged to pay out £400m nationally to local authorities.
Following the Grenfell disaster in June last year the council has removed fire-risk cladding from Horatia House and Leamington House that were two of 158 social housing buildings across the country that failed cladding safety tests.
Once new cladding is installed it is estimated the total cost will be £10m.
Initially local authorities were led to believe they would be compensated for the changes however, in December ministers attempted to U-turn on their promise leading to negotiations between councils and the Department for Local Communities and Government.
Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘We are very pleased the government has said that they will be doing this. Originally we were told they would cover the costs of the cladding removal but they attempted to backtrack on this. Local authorities have worked really hard to try to make sure that they kept their word.
‘The work is going to cost about £10m in total. So that’s £10m that doesn’t have to be funded by council tax payers.’
The council’s member for housing, Cllr Darren Sanders, was more sceptical about the funds. ‘I will believe it when I see it. And I really do want to see it,’ he said.
‘Clearly one of the issues we have had is where is the money going to be coming from. We want to be 100 per cent certain so that we can get the next stage of the project going as soon as we can.’
Tory leader Cllr Donna Jones, who had been involved in the project, said: ‘Since the tragedy of Grenfell, I have worked closely with the government, in particular the housing minister, to make the point very clearly that Portsmouth City Council did not have the financial provision to cover the cost of re-cladding the buildings without significantly impacting Portsmouth’s council house building programme.
‘This is the right decision for the city council and the right decision for residents across the city who live in council homes and will now not shoulder the burden of the costs. Safety is a key property and ensuring Horatia and Leamington are safe has been a top priority.’
Fears were also raised by the Grenfell report published today that did not ban the use of flammable cladding in the future.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘The government needs to update their building control regulations. We will make sure what is used meets the standards to ensure residents are safe.’
Cllr Sanders added: ‘If they’re going to ban that cladding then they should just ban it now.’