Council leader, deputy leader and Mayor's office address Town Hall construction contract uproar
It's a row that has been raging for months, but now it seems all sides are edging closer to a resolution.
There was uproar earlier this week when Manchester City Council awarded a £160m construction contract to Australian property giant Lendlease - a developer which has refused to pay £3m to replace lethal Grenfell-style cladding on two residential blocks it built in the Green Quarter in 2013.
In July 2018, a tribunal ruled that is it was the residents of Vallea Court and Cypress Place who were liable to foot the bill - an estimated £10,000 each.
Council leader Sir Richard Leese says that he expects a conclusion to be reached next month
Lendlease - which last year reported profits of over £440 million - has been chosen by the council, over rival Laing O’Rourke, to deliver the £330m Manchester Town Hall refurbishment project over the next six years.
Responding to the announcement, residents of the two blocks said that they felt 'frustrated' by the decision and 'betrayed' by the council.
Raising the issue at Wednesday's Economy Scrutiny Committee meeting in Town Hall, Cllr Julie Connolly asked the council's deputy leader, Nigel Murphy, whether the dispute had been taken into consideration when awarding the refurbishment contract.
Murphy said that the council had "a responsibility to follow the procurement requirements set out in legislation" and therefore could not legally take the Green Quarter dispute into consideration.
He said that Lendlease "offered the best overall value" and would create "millions of pounds worth of opportunities for local businesses and people".
However, Murphy added that the council was working to "ensure that residents are not liable for the costs linked to the removal of cladding".
Following Murphy's statement, council leader Sir Richard Leese said that all sides had not yet reached a final agreement, but that the council was confident it would "come to a solution that doesn't mean residents will have to pay for the cladding".
Leese added that he expects a conclusion to be reached next month.
Speaking to Confidential, a spokesperson for the office of Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said that "the refurbishment of Manchester Town Hall is a matter for Manchester City Council", but that "the Mayor has consistently made clear that residents should not be faced with the financial burden of replacing unsafe cladding."
The spokesperson said Burnham had held meetings with Green Quarter residents, Lendlease and the freeholder (Pemberstone - which bought the blocks in 2015) and that the mayor "remains committed to working with residents, freeholders and developers to resolve the funding issue and ensure people feel safe in their homes."
“Ultimately, the responsibility for this national crisis lies with the Government," they added. "That’s why the Mayor and Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett have repeatedly called on the Government to provide immediate funding for every block that needs cladding stripping."
For their part, Lendlease say the Green Quarter issue is 'complex' but that they are 'working on a solution that means residents will not have to pay for cladding replacement costs'.
According to a source close to the council, it is understood that Lendlease have set aside a 'pot of money' to settle the dispute.
Green Quarter residents tell Confidential that they remain hopeful ahead of meetings with Lendlease, Pemberstone and the mayor's office later this month.