Salford’s Deputy Mayor, John Merry, has revealed that Salford City Council will be seeking compensation following the dangerous cladding on nine tower blocks in Salford.

Deputy Mayor of Salford, John Merry

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Salford Now, Mr Merry revealed that they would seek compensation from their PFI contractor, Pendleton Together. However, he firmly denied that there is an official report regarding the dangerous cladding.

Following the Grenfell fire in June 2017, it was discovered the same type of cladding that was used on Grenfell Tower was fitted on many blocks in Salford.

Nine of these blocks are owned by the council, but managed by private company Pendleton Together, who oversaw their refurbishment in 2014.

Nearly 18 months later, seven of the blocks are still wrapped in the dangerous material and major issues with the refurbishment have been revealed.

Revealed: Legal action over Grenfell-style cladding on Salford tower blocks

Salford Now’s reporter, Ewan Quayle, tries to get some answers in an exclusive interview with the Deputy Mayor.

You and the Mayor pledged to take the cladding down just weeks after Grenfell. Pendleton Together (PTOL) did start taking it down, the first three floors, but then they stopped. What happened?

“They were advised by the fire authority that it wasn’t the right approach. They wanted the first three stories off because they were worried about potential fires or people crashing into the building.

“They didn’t want cladding taken off the other floors because it could expose the insulation boards behind the cladding. It could potentially cause problems for the residents.

But the panels were exposed to rain for a number of weeks. Are they going to be replaced?

“They will be replaced if they’ve been damaged.”

The other blocks in the area, managed by different organisations [City West Housing Trust and Salix Homes], have sorted these problems for the most part. Why can’t PTOL and the council do the same?

“I challenge whether they’ve sorted them, my understanding is that Salix still have a significant number of blocks that aren’t sorted. We had a situation where we assumed that the government would be supporting us to sort out the issue and we went backwards and forwards over the summer.

“Eventually they decided they weren’t going to loan us the money, but we’ve been working with Pendleton Together to find a solution and I’m pleased they’ve managed to raise the money themselves.”

City West Housing Trust have replaced cladding on five out of six of their high-rise blocks that failed fire safety tests. Their latest report says the block will be completed by the end of November.

New cladding material for Salix Homes was approved in May and June this year, but the work is yet to be completed.

‘The Square’ has five blocks with dangerous cladding. (Photo: Emma Davidson)

So they’ve now found the money, but along with the council are refusing to say when the works will actually begin. Do you know why that is?

“There are various different types of cladding. We’ve got to find the version that is safest for the residents and also preserves the heating insulation on the blocks. PTOL are working with construction engineers to help design a solution, and as soon as that is agreed we’ll be starting.”

Do you know when that is?

“I couldn’t tell you at the moment, but what I can tell you is that the work inside the blocks will be starting very soon. I’m sure you’ll know about the issues inside the blocks.”

Issues have been raised about the condition of the tower blocks, following a refurbishment in 2014. It was part of Pendleton Together’s £650m contract with the council to regenerate the Pendleton area of Salford.

It was revealed earlier this month that Pendleton Together will be taking legal action against Keepmoat, the refurbishment developer.

There are two blocks, Holm and Plane court, where the cladding has been taken off and residents are now complaining that they’re freezing. Is the council doing anything about this?

“Yes, I want to look at a way of compensating those residents for the inconvenience that has caused. What I can also tell you is that we will not be withdrawing the fire marshals or any of the safety precautions until the cladding is replaced.”

And how much are these fire marshals costing the council?

“A small fortune.”

Do you have a number?

“Not off the top of my head, but there are 24 hour fire marshals there and we’ve altered the fire alarm system.”

Are you going to seek compensation for all of that?

“We are, the original contractor [Keepmoat] was contracted to PTOL, so PTOL will have to go through them.

We will then expect compensation from PTOL as well. It’s like a chain, really, PTOL take action against Keepmoat and we take action against PTOL.”

Is that definitely what’s going to happen? So you’re going to take legal action against PTOL in the future?

“I would think that’s certainly what’s going to happen.”

Residents at Holm and Plane Court have had their cladding removed. (Credit: Salford Star)

Following failed safety tests last year, a series of surveys were carried out by a company, Trident, to examine how fire-safe the buildings were and assess the quality of the refurbishment in 2014.

The Mayor and Deputy Mayor have repeatedly said the findings, known unofficially as the ‘Trident report’, will be released. However, the council and Pendleton Together now deny any such report exists, which has led to speculation among residents.

Whilst all of this has been going on, there’s been a lot of speculation about this report into the fire safety [of these tower blocks] an-

“What report?”

And the refurbishme-

“There isn’t a Trident report.”

Well, this is the issue. The council is now denying that there’s any Trident report.

“There isn’t a Trident report.”

In previous meetings several people, including yourself, have called it that and have said it will be released.

“I don’t think I’ve actually said that a “Trident report” will be released. I’ve said as much information as possible should be released. There is a series of surveys which Trident did on the blocks.

It’s not possible to release all of the information because it is going to form part of the litigation against Keepmoat. What I’ve offered to do is to share the conclusions, but not the actual word-for-word summary.”

But again, multiple people have tried to access this information and they ha-

“If they want to write to me, I will find out why they have not been alerted to the conclusions of the report. I don’t think the conclusions of the report will come as any great surprise to them.”

You keep saying report…so there is a report?

“Sorry, the conclusions of the surveys. Anyway, we have a situation where the cladding is not satisfactory, it needs to go.”

You’ve confirmed in meetings that you’ve seen the conclusions.

“I’m aware of the conclusions. There’s nothing in there that’s not, you know…the work done in the blocks was unsatisfactory, from our point of view. The surveys identify that work.”

Can you highlight any specific problems?

“Things like cladding not being put on in the correct way, interior fire doors not being hung in the right manner, the windows not being done in the right way. I don’t think there’s any hidden fault that the surveys have identified. What do they [the residents] think’s in these surveys?”

They don’t know, but that’s the point. Some residents are frustrated because they’ve tried to access this information, but feel as if the council and PTOL are more concerned with covering their own backs. Is that a fair thing to say?

“I don’t think that is the case. There’s been a number of accusations made that I’ve tried to deal with as honestly as possible. We have to investigate the complaints and we have to respond to them. I don’t like the situation that we’re in, but we are where we are.”

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