Cladding removal delays putting lives at risk, claims Labour

Delays to removing risky cladding from buildings in Scotland are a “dangerous waste of time and money”, Labour has said.

The party claims the budget for removal work is worse off by £10 million as a result of what it called “dithering and inaction”.

The Scottish Government announced on Thursday that it will be expanding the country’s assessment programme for cladding on high-rise buildings, with housing developers working alongside ministers to ensure properties are safe.

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Housing Secretary Shona Robison said “every penny” of the £97.1 million received in consequentials for 2021/22, as well as any additional funding, will be invested into assessing buildings and ensuring they are of a safe standard.

Deadly cladding was identified in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy

But Scottish Labour says in the two years since that money was announced, soaring inflation in construction costs has “effectively cut the budget by 9.85%”.

The party also dismissed the announcement of the expansion of the programme – which Ms Robison said would be in place from 2023 – as “ministers had previously announced the scheme would roll out fully in 2022”.

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The budget, Scottish Labour says, is shrinking “by the day” due to rising costs – while residents are “living in fear in potentially unsafe buildings”.

Labour housing spokesman Mark Griffin said: “The SNP’s endless dither and delay has cost us millions of pounds and put lives at risk.

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“People in Scotland have already spent years in limbo, waiting for the SNP to bring Scotland’s building safety into line with the rest of the UK – and now they are being told to wait longer still.

“There is no justifying this dangerous waste of time and money when the stakes are so high.

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“The SNP need to move with the urgency needed and act on the lessons of the Grenfell tragedy.”

But Ms Robison insisted that “no money has been wasted”.

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“The Single Building Assessment programme is now well under way – far from delaying it, we announced this week that we are expanding it fourfold, taking the total number of buildings involved to over 100,” she said.

“We are also making the commissioning process for assessments much quicker and more efficient, removing the burden from homeowners.

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“We expect the vast majority of buildings to be found to be safe. If problems are found, work can begin to plan and carry out actions to make the building safe.”

The MSP for Dundee City East said developers were expected to “remediate their own buildings where needed, so public funds can be prioritised for buildings without a linked developer, ensuring homeowners are assisted in every way possible.”

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In March, health officials began urgently reviewing the safety of cladding on Edinburgh's Sick Kids hospital due to concerns raised during the Grenfell Inquiry.

The new hospital, which was hit by delays due to concerns around the safety and installation of its ventilation system and saw its opening delayed by more than a year and a half, has components in its cladding which were also used on Grenfell Tower.

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Construction of the hospital is already subject to an ongoing public inquiry, but is fully operational after opening in 2021.