The government has refused to release the number of buildings that have registered for its cladding remediation fund, saying this would disrupt its “private thinking space” relating to the fund.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Inside Housing, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) declined to release the information, relying on an exemption relating to the development of new policies.
The government has put up £1bn to fund the remediation of buildings with non-aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding, a figure that is likely to cover the costs on around 600 buildings. It opened registrations in July, ahead of formal applications.
It is believed that many more than 600 buildings have registered an interest, meaning the fund could be substantially oversubscribed and many blocks face missing out. One property manager alone has registered 450 blocks.
Declining the request, MHCLG said: “There is always a degree of benefit in making information held by public authorities available, as it increases public participation in decision-making and aids the transparency and accountability of government.
“Release of the information you seek, however, would potentially impact on the private thinking space in which officials are able to assess information and provide advice to ministers which will inform their eventual policy decisions.
“In turn ministers must feel able to consider the information and advice before them and be able to reach objective, fully informed decisions without the risk of premature disclosure of the advice which informed those decisions.
“To release information within scope of your request would be counterproductive as it would disrupt the evaluation process and potentially influence decisions.”
Inside Housing has appealed, on the basis that the policy decision – to provide £1bn of funding – has already been made and the Freedom of Information Act specifies that the exemption should not apply once the decision has been made.
Read our special report into why the government has failed to fix the cladding crisis
Pete Apps speaks to a series of insiders to unpick the behind-the-scenes story of a three year failure to remediate buildings with dangerous cladding in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire.