LONDON (AFP) - Britain will spend £400 million (S$723 million) stripping high-rise buildings of the dangerous cladding blamed for last year's Grenfell Tower fire which left 71 people dead, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday (May 16).
"I can today confirm that the government will fully fund the removal and replacement of dangerous cladding, by councils and housing associations, estimated at £400 million," Mrs May told lawmakers at the House of Commons.
A total of 158 social housing high-rises - defined as buildings over 18m - will be renovated in a process expected to take around two years, a Downing Street spokesman said .
"Work has already started on 104 of these," she added.
"Those that have begun re-cladding will also have access to the fund."
But the money will not be available to private landlords undertaking work on cladding, according to Downing Street.
The material is blamed for fuelling the devastating June 14 London tower block blaze.
"We expect private building owners to take responsiblity themselves for removing and replacing cladding, and not pass those costs on to leaseholders," the spokesman said.
The prime minister also noted in parliament that fire and rescue services have visited over 1,250 high-rise buildings for inspections, as the anniversary of the disaster approaches.
She warned that the work to remove and replace the cladding should be done promptly alongside other needed improvements to social housing.
"Councils and housing associations must remove dangerous cladding quickly," Mrs May said.
"But paying for these works must not undermine their ability to do important maintenance and repair work."