Council spark controversy for awarding Town Hall refurb contract to company that used Grenfell-style cladding

The awarding of the Manchester Town Hall refurbishment contract has generated controversy due to the chosen company’s past use of cladding similar to that of Grenfell Tower.

It was announced recently that Australian company Lendlease had won the contract for the project – with a £330m budget – over Laing O’Rourke.

The decision comes in spite of controversy over Lendlease’s use of flammable cladding for buildings in Green Quarter.

Two residential towers in Green Quarter, which Lendlease sold in 2015, later failed fire safety checks after it was revealed they had this cladding.

John Leech, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Manchester City Council, said: “The fact we even considered awarding a contract worth more than a quarter of a billion pounds to a firm that has treated Manchester residents so appallingly shows just what little regard this council has for local people.

“We should, and must, be demanding much higher standards than this for Manchester residents.”

Mr Leech said he believes that the council should not give Lendlease any contracts unless they pay the £3 million to have the cladding replaced.

A spokesperson from Lendlease said: “We are working with multiple parties with the intention of finding a solution which means residents will not have to pay for cladding replacement costs. 

“Progress is being made and an update will be provided to residents as soon as possible. 

Residents in Green Quarter have expressed their anger at the situation.

Green Quarter resident Nick White highlighted the concerns of residents upon discovering their homes had flammable cladding.

“It brings a lot of stress, a lot of fear, and a lot of uncertainty.

“Residents right now are holding their breath.”

“We understand that it is a complex issue.

“However, priority should be given to removing the flammable cladding as soon as possible.

“It’s been 19 months since we found out that our building was wrapped in flammable cladding, and every night we go to bed thinking this could be our last night.

“This is too slow and demonstrates no actual understanding of our worries, anxiety and more importantly our safety.

“We ask that Lendlease no longer drag their heels saying this is ‘complex’, and do the right thing to remove the flammable cladding now, and work out liability later.”

Manchester City Council, however, says they believe there is a lot of misinformation around the issue, and clarified that the cladding issue was not related to the Town Hall Project – and could not be legally.

In a statement on the matter, Councillor Nigel Murphy, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “This appointment is an important milestone in the Our Town Hall project to improve access to this icon of Manchester and safeguard it for current and future generations.

“There aren’t many construction firms with the expertise and resources required to deliver a heritage project of this scale and complexity on behalf of the city and after a rigorous selection process we are confident that Lendlease offered the best overall value.

“There will also be millions of pounds worth of opportunities for local businesses and people to get involved in the project through this contract, including apprenticeships and other training opportunities.

“We would stress that under procurement law we had to take this decision based on the bidder which best delivered on the stated criteria for jobs, quality and opportunities for local people rather than external factors and that’s what we did.” 

The council also says that Lendlease has pledged to deliver 150 apprenticeships, 45 new jobs and careers activities with schools and universities.

Manchester Town Hall is currently closed for the refurbishment project and is due to reopen in 2024.

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