Aluminium cladding

Source: Shutterstock/Monicami

Skeletons long buried in industry cupboards are now in full view. Unsurprisingly, there appears to be little appetite from those who have profited from the creation of this ‘danse macabre’ to step forward.

Public indemnity lawyers are immersed in the fine print, developers have sucked the money from their SPVs, while builders have gone, leaving behind thousands of casualties.

There is no NHS for the construction industry to provide remedies for the embattled tenants and leaseholders, free at the point of delivery. The problem is bigger than many appreciate – £1bn of public funding won’t touch the sides, nor does it cover the whole scope of works in every project. Indications suggest the Building Safety Fund covers around 20% to 30% of project costs. The balance has been squarely placed in the lap of the occupiers through Section 20 charges, added to service costs.

Unrealistic timescales promulgated by politicians and pressure groups, and uncertain and complex funding routes, further frustrate the process. We recently launched a cladding remediation arm to offer a solution to the abundance of obstacles.

There are clear parallels between the cladding crisis and the pandemic. The industry is chronically short of expertise and resources. The demand is acute. But unlike Covid-19, there is no seemingly bottomless money pit. It is unrealistic to expect the public purse to support asset values for private individuals that have made significant gains. But it is politically unacceptable for people to live in unsafe social housing. Little progress will be made until clear funding lines are established.

Clear legislative direction encompassed in the Building Safety Act, accelerated training and qualification for fire engineers, and time for the industry to build competent supply chains will be the shots in the arm we need.

Steve Underwood, COO, Colmore Tang Construction