AROUND £100M allotted to the Scottish government as part of the £1.6bn UK cladding remediation fund ‘remains untouched’, with criticism from affected residents being shared.

The Times and Insider reported on the near £100m in cladding funding allocated to the Scottish government for addressing remediation of buildings with combustible cladding in the country, which ‘remains untouched’ and ‘has been frozen’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic having caused progress to ‘grind to a halt’.

Approximately £97.1m has been allocated, with a group including Scottish government officials, members of the Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in charge of making decisions relating to spending the funding. However, the group ‘has not met since April’, and so ‘no decisions have been made on when or where the money will be distributed’.

High Rise Scotland Action Group’s coordinator Chris Ashurst described this situation as a ‘Gordian knot’, as ‘it is a huge, huge problem and extremely complex [and] it is much bigger’ than the money allocated, which he said ‘would be a drop in the ocean in terms of remediation’. He added: ‘The problem for the Scottish government is what to do with this money.

‘How best do you use it? Is it best to try and actually get an assessment done and find out how many buildings need to be looked at, or spend it on making the inspections themselves? I am confident people are working hard at it but I am frustrated at the lack of progress.’

Details of the government’s high rise inventory, which surveyed 774 buildings above 18m last year, found that half had no sprinkler systems and that 51 were clad in combustible aluminium composite material. These 774 buildings house 46,530 flats and ‘at least’ 90,000 people, with the government stating that the inventory would not be updated to include more ‘at-risk’ structures ‘due to COVID-19 impacts on resources’.

The last meeting of the group – the ministerial working group on mortgage lending and cladding – discussed the ‘saleability of flats in affected blocks’, with minutes stating that the group would meet again when ‘sufficient progress had been made on the actions required’.

The Scottish government commented: ‘We are determined to ensure that public money achieves best value and we will learn from the experience of the funding provided in support of leaseholders in England. We have enjoyed good relations with developers in Scotland, and there are instances where developers have undertaken remedial work at no cost to owners.’

‘We are concerned about the wider impact on homeowners having to prove to lenders that the cladding on their building is safe, and have established a working group with lenders, insurers, surveyors and others. The group is due to meet again next week - Housing Minister Kevin Stewart has also raised this issue at a UK level urging lenders to take a more proportionate and transparent approach. We continue to work with the UK government to urgently engage with the insurance industry to ensure that homeowners are supported.’

Insider and Today’s Conveyancer meanwhile reported on the views of Scottish letting agency Apropos by DJ Alexander, which suggested allocating the funds now to affected homeowners, and ‘criticised the slow response’. Joint chief executive David Alexander stated: ‘With enormous insurance premiums and the cost of fire patrols many of these individuals, who bought their homes in good faith a relatively short time ago, are now facing open ended bills, with a property they are unable to sell, and complete uncertainty about when their nightmare will end.

‘Given that the Scottish government has already had a substantial allocation it is essential that this funding start to be used to resolve these issues. The Scottish government may well argue that the resolving the cladding issue has been hampered by the pandemic, but there were serious issues with this system prior to March 2019.

‘It needs to support residents facing escalating insurance premiums and fire patrol costs, while at the same time ensuring that inspections can be carried out rapidly to reassure lenders so that these individuals can get their lives back. The situation these homeowners find themselves in is completely unacceptable.

‘With enormous insurance premiums and the cost of fire patrols many of these individuals, who bought their homes in good faith a relatively short time ago, are now facing open ended bills, with a property they are unable to sell, and complete uncertainty about when their nightmare will end.

‘The extension of the remit of the investigation by the MHCLG sounds like a positive move but has ended up asking more questions than it answers without enough suitably trained personnel to adequately resolve this issue. The problems related to Grenfell should have been resolved first and then, where necessary, extend the investigation to look at other claddings and other building heights.

‘By lumping everything together the government have enormously delayed resolving this issue for a much larger number of people who cannot be expected to foot these bills and live with this situation for a prolonged period of time. They need this to be resolved. At the moment everyone in a property with suspect cladding is living in limbo with little hope of resolution. They cannot be ignored fearing for their lives while their finances are being steadily eroded.’

Eric Curran, partner at chartered surveyors DM Hall, added: ‘Those at the coal face in this complex situation find themselves in the uncomfortable position of reporting cladding issues using different criteria. The different approach to cladding serves no-one well and the lack of government-led solutions and funding means that the present situation continues - dare I ask if public liability sits in the background and influences government intervention?

‘Insurers have been running for the hills since Grenfell, adding onerous exclusion clauses to developers and constructors - the valuation of properties with cladding may well grind to a halt unless decisive action is taken.’

If you are a commercial organisation seeking a BS 8414 cladding test, the FPA has modern testing facilities to meet your requirements. We are UKAS approved and have leading experts at your disposal. Find out more here