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20 September 2017, 12:08
Some high-rise flats in Scotland's largest city have cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower, but council chiefs have not notified either the fire services or the building owners, MSPs have been told.
Raymond Barlow, assistant head of planning and building standards of Glasgow City Council, told MSPs a search had revealed combustible cladding had been used on some private properties.
He said the local authority - which is the largest in Scotland - had only recently notified Scottish ministers about the matter and had not told either the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service or the owners of the buildings concerned.
"We're simply saying we're supplying the information to Scottish ministers and then we wish to see what they wish to do with the information before we take it further," he told members of the Scottish Parliament's Local Government and Communities Committee.
Mr Barlow refused to say how many buildings could have combustible cladding, saying only that he was "wary" about speaking about the extent to which high rises in the city are affected.
The exact number of people killed when fire swept through the Grenfell Tower building in London on June 14 is still not confirmed - although the Metropolitan Police say the death toll "may come down a little bit'' from the current estimate of about 80.
Mr Barlow said an initial check on housing association flats in the city had not found any combustible cladding, telling the committee: "Our trawl and our research from then on was very much on private flatted developments, and that information we only managed to complete in the last couple of weeks, and I have passed it over to the ministers."
Convener Bob Doris then asked him: "So, combustible cladding has been found in some private properties?"
The council official responded: "Yes, it's just not public information yet."
Mr Doris replied: "It's now public information because you are telling us."
In the wake of the Grenfell Tower blaze, the Scottish Government established a ministerial working group to look at building and fire safety, with this having already had several meetings.
MSPs pressed Mr Barlow to find out if anyone other than this group had been informed of the council's findings.
Tory housing spokesman Graham Simpson demanded to know if the owners of the buildings concerned had been told, with Mr Barlow replying he had "provided information back to the ministerial working group".
Ms Simpson demanded: "Don't you think Glasgow City Council has a responsibility to the citizens of Glasgow, rather than a ministerial working group, if you have discovered this information?"
The council official said: "Nationally we do and that is why I'm feeding it back through the ministerial working group, through the government, because it is a national issue."
Mr Doris asked if the council had been in contact with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, with Mr Barlow replying: "No."
He stated: "We're simply waiting to see what the Scottish ministers wish to do with that because I know the ministerial working group and the meetings they will have will include the Scottish fire service within that."
He said the properties concerned had all been granted building consent prior to May 1 2005 but added that some of them would have been completed after that year.
The details were discovered after council staff searched through records, with Mr Barlow stressing: "We wish to make sure this information is controlled as well as possible so that persons understand the context of the information that they are given."
Mr Doris agreed that while it was a "national issue", there was also "a direct local responsibility" on the council.
He told Mr Barlow: "People listening to this, or reading about this in the newspaper, will want to know 'is it my flat that's affected, is my flat dangerous, what is the risk to my family?' and they will want those questions addressed speedily and effectively with a view to reassuring them as quickly as is humanly possible."
The MSP said he hoped those reassurances "might be able to be given speedily" as he said the committee might want to question council officers on it again.
He stated: "I don't think we're content with ending this line of questioning here. We would like to pursue this further, so I think we will be seeking information from the Scottish Government as soon as possible.
"I think we would ask Glasgow City Council for as much of a detailed briefing as soon as humanly possible in relation to this minister and we will maybe request Glasgow Council come back to this committee in short order to answer further questions in relation to this matter."
The committee convener said afterwards: "It was deeply concerning to hear a Glasgow City Council official say that combustible cladding has been found in private high rise homes.
"People who are currently living in private high rises and who listened to this today will of course be worried about their safety in their homes.
"We don't want this to cause undue alarm, as these buildings may well be safe, but people who live in these homes deserve answers.
"That's why we've asked Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government to urgently provide us with more information on the extent of this issue and we will put these concerns to the Minister when he appears next week."