A row has erupted after a Conservative election candidate claimed Salford City Council has ignored concerns over Grenfell-style cladding in tower blocks.
Attika Choudhary, the Conservative Party candidate for Salford and Eccles, posted the video to Twitter featuring a resident of Malus Court where they made claims about Salford City Council’s failure to remove controversial cladding from nine Pendleton tower blocks.
During the video Ms Choudhary claims the council is to blame for the cladding still being in place two and a half years after the fire at Grenfell Tower in London in which 72 people died.
But Councillor John Merry, Deputy Salford City Mayor, called Ms Choudhary’s claims “completely foundless, irresponsible and frankly, despicable”.
At Malus Court with Graeme a resident here who tells Attika about the cladding issues facing #Salford & Eccles. Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey said this was a government issue when in fact the local authorities have ignored this for years. #AttikaChoudhary4SE @MariaMillerUK pic.twitter.com/xFG0SsmnTb
— Salford and Eccles Conservatives (@Attika4Salford) December 3, 2019
Ms Choudhary, a BBC journalist, said when sharing the video: “Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey said this was a government issue when in fact the local authorities have ignored this for years.”
Graeme Langton, the resident of Malus Court featured in the video, acknowledged the government had denied the council permission to loan money to Pendelton Together, the Private Finance Intiative (PFI) behind the buildings in Pendleton.
He also said the government had not provided Salford City Council with any of the £400 million they have allocated for the removal of aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding from public buildings.
However, Mr Langton cited instances of tower blocks in Eccles having their ACM cladding removed as an example of Salford City Council ignoring their concerns over cladding and fire safety.
He added: “Our ward councillors refuse to come meet us. We’ve not seen them, they won’t speak to us.”
Also bringing up the issue of the fire doors in this block at least being “unfit for use”.
He said: “So not only if there is a fire will the cladding kill us but the smoke will kill us because the fire doors are unfit for use.”
Mr. Langton is telling absolute lies about the Langworthy Ward Councillors not meeting residents. We’ve met residents individually and had drop ins with our MP. Disgusting that the Tory Candidate parachuted in from Aldershot, is using this issue for political gain. #NastyParty
— John Warmisham (@Cllrjwarmisham) December 4, 2019
It was announced in October that the ACM cladding on the nine Pendleton buildings is set to be removed by early 2020.
This is because earlier this year Pendleton Together sourced a loan to pay for the removal of the ACM cladding following a second failed attempt by the council to get funding to remove the cladding.
Councillor Merry, who is also the Labour representaive for Broughton, explained that while Salford City Council is the authority responsible for physically removing the ACM cladding it had been repeatedly blocked by the government in their bid to finance the work on the Pendleton buildings.
Councillor Merry hit out at Ms Choundhary’s claims.
He said: “When we were one of the first councils to offer to borrow £25m to immediately remove and replace the cladding, government told us we weren’t allowed to lend to a PFI (Private Financial Initiative).
“When they released £400m nationally to remove and replace cladding, they told us we weren’t eligible.
“They kept us dangling with civil servants for nearly a year waiting for a solution before telling us that the only way forward was to bankrupt Pendleton Together leading to years of litigation and delays.
“I have some advice for the Salford Conservatives. When you parachute a candidate into a constituency, make sure they check their facts before making astonishing allegations.
“If she had the slightest interest in Salford, she would have joined with us in condemning the actions of the government in denying funding to Salford. As it is, I suspect that once she has lost the election on December 12th her interest in our city will disappear completely.”
Salford City Council received none of the £400 million allocated by the government’s Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) specifically for removing ACM cladding from the Pendleton buildings because they were not managed by a housing association.
I am appalled at Tory candidate @Attika4Salford exploiting the issue of cladding to win votes in Salford. I’m no fan of our council, but it is her government that has denied us funding 3 years after Grenfell putting lives at risk and I made that clear during our debate last week. pic.twitter.com/3lVgUWeyPx
— Bryan Blears (@bryanblears) December 4, 2019
Councillor Merry said in response to Mr Langton’s other claims:“Labour Councillors and council officers have been working tirelessly with residents, day in day out, and the council has already spent millions on waking watches, fire safety checks and £3.6m on new sprinkler systems.
Langworthy Labour Councillor John Warmisham added: “We’ve met residents individually and had drop ins with our MP. Disgusting that the Tory Candidate parachuted in from Aldershot, is using this issue for political gain.”
The nine buildings with the ACM cladding still installed in Pendleton are; Whitebeam Court, Malus Court, Beech Court, Salix Court, Spruce Court, Holm Court, Hornbeam Court, Thorn Court and Plane Court