Chalcots: Camden makes £130m claim against contractors

Camden Council has submitted claims to the High Court to recover costs from the contractor PFIC (Partners for Improvement in Camden) and its principal subcontractors, who previously had responsibility for refurbishment and maintenance of the Chalcots Estate, under a private finance initiative agreement (PFI) with the council.

Specifically, the claim has been submitted against the consortium Partners for Improvement in Camden (PFIC) – currently in liquidation – and Rydon Construction Ltd., Rydon Maintenance Ltd., Faithful + Gould Ltd. and United Living South Limited. The claims seek to recover costs Camden Council has incurred as a result of it stepping in to address multiple fire safety failings at the Chalcots Estate and the related evacuation of its residents in June 2017.

The council is seeking to recover costs in relation to the evacuation of Chalcots residents, the employment of fire marshals and security staff during the evacuation and beyond, its repairs to make good inadequate internal fire stopping, inadequate fire doors and other serious defects inside the Chalcots towers and the removal of combustible aluminium composite material cladding from the blocks’ outer façade.

A Camden Council spokesman said:

“We were let down by PFIC, Rydon and other contractors. The PFI agreement for refurbishment and maintenance of the Chalcots Estate was entered into in good faith and fundamental to this was our expectation that the Chalcots towers would be safe for our residents. We should not have been put in a position where we were left with no option but to evacuate residents from their homes on a Friday night.

“Our absolute priority is the safety of our residents so, upon discovering serious deficiencies in the work and materials used by our contractors, we stepped in with new contractors, to complete works that would allow Chalcots residents to start to return safely to their homes within four weeks and, within six months, had fully removed cladding from the towers.

“The costs of the supporting residents during the evacuation and level of work required at the Chalcots made a major impact on our reserves. Clearly, it would not be right for residents and, by extension, the public purse, to foot the bill for what has been a private contractor failure.

“In October 2018, we secured £80m from the Government to fund the replacement of cladding on the Chalcots Estate. However, this only covers part of the costs and still leaves us with substantial losses that we are determined to recover.

“Today’s claims are submitted following two years’ examination of historical agreements, contractual responsibilities and works completed during the period in which we had a contractual relationship with PFIC. Following this review, we are clear about where responsibility lies for the range of fire safety defects at the Chalcots which led to the evacuation and its associated costs.”

While the claims are processed, work with principal contractor Wates to complete work on the Chalcots Estate will continue. Camden Council now has a more direct, accountable relationship at the Chalcots, with resident engagement at the heart of our work.

The council has transformed its approach to fire safety, appointing a Director of Resident Safety - a first in the UK - and set up a resident-led fire safety panel to ensure that tenants’ voices are at centre of all it does. It has introduced enhanced fire risk assessments, improving internal processes to ensure that issues are effectively recorded, processed and acted on and has published these online so they are available for residents to view.