Aluminium Composite Material Cladding

Oral Answers to Questions — Finance – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 18th October 2021.

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Photo of Chris Lyttle Chris Lyttle Alliance 3:00 pm, 18th October 2021

6. Mr Lyttle asked the Minister of Finance for an update on his Department’s call for evidence on aluminium composite material cladding. (AQO 2598/17-22)

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin 3:15 pm, 18th October 2021

The public call for evidence of unsafe aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding on properties over 18 metres high was launched on 21 September. To date, my Department has received one application for the remediation of ACM cladding. This is being assessed against the eligibility criteria for the £1 million ACM remediation fund. The public call is also open to high-rise residential buildings with unsafe non-ACM cladding to ascertain the extent of the issue here. When this is known, I will bring the information to the Executive for their consideration of a non-ACM fund. The call for evidence will remain open until 31 October.

Photo of Chris Lyttle Chris Lyttle Alliance

The Finance Minister will be aware that a number of residents, such as those in Titanic Arc apartments in my East Belfast constituency, have been seriously concerned to learn that they may be living in buildings with unsafe cladding. What total funding will those residents receive, and when will they receive it, to complete the necessary remedial works to make their properties safe?

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

I have met some of the residents, or certainly some of the building operators from those apartments. Given the experience in Britain, the priority has been buildings 18 metres-plus with ACM cladding. They are deemed to be at the highest risk, and that is why the priority has been there. The Department of Finance does not have an overall role for this, but we have stepped up in this instance to operate the fund for that ACM cladding.

I did engage with Minister Gove, who has taken over the Department in London with responsibility for this, when I was over last week. We are expecting a further funding to roll out as a consequence of looking at other cladding issues, and the Executive will receive their Barnett consequential of that. When our call for evidence is complete, we will have a sense of what the actual issues are here and what might be required to fix them, but I will certainly be asking the Executive to ring-fence that Barnett funding so that it can be put to that use.

Photo of Robin Newton Robin Newton DUP

Minister, regarding those apartments that may be in receipt of funding, there is a myriad of potential applications coming forward from owners, tenants, those who have owned a number of apartments or, indeed, the developers themselves. What mechanism will there be for paying compensation to the individual tenant?

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

It is a question of whether the mechanism will apply only to the individual tenant, to multiple owners or to facility owners. These issues are currently being worked through in London by the new Department there that is dealing with it, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which has the unfortunate acronym of DLUHC. It has all of the necessary facilities in the one Department, while here the responsibilities are spread across a number of Departments. We in the Department of Finance have been engaging very closely with that Department, and we will continue to engage to get information and a sense of how it is intended to roll out the fund in England and where the lines, if you like, will be drawn between not only various materials but various occupying circumstances. We intend to take advice from that. As I said, we are expecting a fund to be put in place in England, and we expect a Barnett consequential from that. I will be arguing that we ring-fence that to meet whatever requirements there are here.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

That is the end of our period of time for listed questions. We now move on to topical questions. I advise Members that question 1 has been withdrawn.