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Written Statement - Grenfell Tower

Carl Sargeant, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children

I am committed to providing timely, appropriate information in the aftermath of the terrible events at Grenfell Tower.

We must ensure that the interests of tenants are upmost in our planning and response. Last week the City and County of Swansea submitted samples of Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding used on four tower blocks in the city for testing. These test results have now been received and the local authority issued a statement yesterday confirming that the samples had failed these initial tests.

It is vital that throughout this situation we have the interests of tenants upmost in our planning and response. Over the weekend, we have been working closely with the local authority and Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service to ensure that tenants are safe and that they have been kept fully informed and updated. The City and County of Swansea has taken interim precautionary safety measures in line with advice from the Fire and Rescue Service and the UK Government’s Department for Communities and Local Government.  The FRS has recently inspected the buildings and is satisfied that they meet the current fire safety regulatory requirements.  We are liaising closely with the UK Government on the work their Expert Panel is undertaking to develop further advice on next steps, following the initial testing.

In all of this, our first priority is, of course, tenants. In full cooperation with landlords, the Welsh Government will share BRE results promptly, on the proviso that tenants are briefed first.

The Welsh Government is taking a proactive and responsible position, taking forward a prioritised approach to all affected buildings in Wales. We have sought information from each local authority area to ensure we have a complete picture of all residential buildings in Wales of seven storeys or more. I have personally spoken to the two landlords who have sent samples for testing.

We have already quickly identified social housing that is high rise (seven storeys or more). We have also begun coordinating the responses of other public sector sectors including education and health. We are working closely with local authorities to identify private housing over 7 storeys that may have the same ACM cladding that is now the subject of testing. It is vital that we identify any private sector high rise building as soon as possible. This will ensure owners of those buildings are able to access the same advice and guidance, and testing where appropriate, as our social housing landlords.

I announced last week that I would bring together a group to provide advice on the lessons learned from Grenfell and how we implement that advice. This group will be chaired by my Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser and will include the following members:

  • Steve Thomas – Chief Executive, WLGA
  • Ruth Marks – Chief Executive, WCVA
  • Huw Jakeway – Chief Fire Officer, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service
  • David Wilton – Chief Executive, Tenant Participation Advisory Service Cymru
  • Stuart Ropke – Chief Executive, Community Housing Cymru.

The group will meet for the first time this week

The Welsh Government is also working closely with its UK counterparts to ensure we are taking an informed, proportionate and consistent approach to ensure lessons are learnt and at all times, to ensure tenants’ safety. To that end, I have today written to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to ask for my Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser to be included on the UK government’s expert panel. I have also stressed the importance of being clear on the next steps.

Clearly, this is an issue that goes beyond party boundaries and I am inviting  opposition spokespeople to meet me to ensure they are fully briefed on emerging issues and action in this fast-moving environment.

I will be making a further oral statement in plenary tomorrow.