Our report from Taylor Wimpey’s 2024 AGM

Thanks to the support of ShareAction, we were recently able to attend Taylor Wimpey’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 23rd April 2024, near the company’s headquarters in Buckinghamshire. 

Nearly seven years after Grenfell, Taylor Wimpey has only started work on 30% of buildings with life-critical fire safety defects – so it is important to ensure the issue remains high on the company’s agenda and the collective concerns of leaseholders and residents continue to be heard by senior executives and shareholders. 

148 buildings not yet started remediation works

Taylor Wimpey’s latest annual report for the year ending December 2023, published a month prior to the AGM, shows that £192m is currently set aside on the balance sheet for future fire safety remediation works, in addition to £53m that the company has already spent over the previous six years. 

Their total forecast expenditure of £245m represents an average of £1.15m per building undergoing works. This seems relatively low compared to the average of £2m per building for all developers, according to DLUHC’s latest data (see information table “Developer_2”). Average costs can, of course, vary significantly depending on the mix of building heights and types of defects within the portfolio – and it was noted in Taylor Wimpey’s 2022 annual report that, at least at that stage, “around a quarter of [buildings] require only the replacement of wooden balcony beams, which are relatively inexpensive to replace”.

The company only spent £17m on remediation works in 2023, similar to the prior year. A rapid acceleration in the pace of work will clearly be needed during 2024 if the company is to meet the expectation set in its annual report, that “around a third of the remaining provision [around £64m] will be utilised over the next 12 months”. 

Taylor Wimpey’s Chair, Robert Noel, commented on the remediation programme during his AGM presentation to shareholders – which, it must be said, has not always been the norm at the AGMs of other leading developers, despite the scale of work needed to fix “legacy buildings” and the many thousands of leaseholders and residents whose lives remain on hold. Mr Noel emphasised the company’s “long-held view that customers shouldn’t have to pay for buildings to be made safe and mortgageable”, and stated that the company was one of the first to act “proactively and voluntarily”, ahead of signing the industry-wide pledge in April 2022 and the self-remediation contract in March 2023, alongside a similar agreement with the government in Wales. 

The Chair advised shareholders that a dedicated team were “diligently progressing work”. Out of 214 buildings expected to need remediation works, he confirmed 47 had completed works and 19 were underway; however, that means a rather substantial 148 buildings, or 70%, had not yet started work. 

Around 50 buildings will start works during 2024

We asked the first shareholder question at the AGM, and started by noting that it was good to hear building safety mentioned in the Chair’s opening remarks and good to see some progress in the last year. However, we highlighted a lack of pace in the building assessment programme. At the end of January 2024, according to the latest government data available, as many as 117 buildings were still awaiting an assessment, yet only 9 had been assessed in the prior quarter. We asked: 

• Could the Board please explain how the pace of remediation will increase going forward and, in particular, when you expect the building assessment programme to be complete? Leaseholders and residents would understandably like to have the certainty of completed assessments, as well as urgency in homes being made safe, sellable and insurable. 

• Secondly, some leaseholders have raised concerns that developer-commissioned risk assessments are reducing the scope of work. Could the Board please describe its approach to quality assurance and dispute resolution? 

• Finally: Would the director responsible for Building Safety be willing to meet with the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign team, to discuss these important issues further? 

The Chair responded that “around half” of the buildings would have started or completed works by the end of this year, which implies that around 50 further buildings will start works in 2024. This sounded slightly more conservative than the estimate given in DLUHC’s latest report, which claims that a further 63 buildings (England only) will start works in the 12 months to January 2025. He did not refer to the pace at which assessments would be carried out. 

He acknowledged there was still a lot of work to do. Although leaseholders and residents have been waiting for seven years, in his view there had been a lot of “rewinding and restarting” until the Government’s approach was clear in early 2023. He said the remediation programme “remains very complex, [with] lots of players involved” and agreements had to be reached with many different freeholders and managing agents. But he assured shareholders that the Board are “alive to the issues” and that progress is regularly discussed. 

With regard to concerns about the scope of works, he deferred to the Director of Cladding Remediation, Ben Emmonds, who would be available to speak with us afterwards. 

Scope of works cannot be varied “to meet the whims of insurers”

In our conversation after the AGM, Ben Emmonds recognised our point about a high number of outstanding building assessments. In many cases, he thought this could be due to building owners not having engaged after Taylor Wimpey had approached them. This implies that many assessments are not just waiting to be done but perhaps not even planned and scheduled yet – which is a concern. This is not as visible as it could be in DLUHC’s reporting on developer remediation progress, which now shows target dates for remediation but not target dates for when assessments will be undertaken. Ben acknowledged the developer’s responsibility to chase non-responses and said they are recruiting more people for the team; he also suggested they could do more “milestone setting”, to set clearer expectations for leaseholders and residents about the pathway and timescales ahead, to avoid leaving people in limbo. 

Ben also highlighted the shortage of competent fire engineers to conduct building assessments. This was interesting as several other developers have told us they feel the supply issue has lessened – but he reiterated that there is still a quality issue. Although Homes England has a panel of approved fire risk assessors for the Cladding Safety Scheme (which is only disclosed to applicants), which you would think should be an indicator of quality, Ben suggested they would not have confidence in all of the firms on the panel and that the company has a policy of only using Chartered Fire Engineers for assessments. 

Taylor Wimpey is very aware of the extremely high buildings insurance premiums affecting leaseholders and, for example, had joined a meeting with Aviva which had been arranged by Margaret Hodge MP and the Right to Manage (RTM) directors of a development in Barking. We heard that during this meeting, the insurer had indicated costs could be expected to fall by around 25% after remediation – but these costs would still be elevated compared to pre-Grenfell times. Taylor Wimpey described their firm position that the scope of remediation works has been decided by the terms of the government contract – where the minimum requirement is to ensure that risks are “tolerable” under the PAS 9980 standard – and the scope of works cannot be varied “to meet the whims of an individual insurer”. But the problem, of course, is not only related to individual insurers, it is clearly bigger than that. 

We were unaware on the spot which development this was, but subsequently confirmed it with the RTM Directors of four buildings on this site, who represent more than 500 affected leaseholders (there are additional blocks here managed by a large housing association). Two of the buildings are insured by Aviva and two by AXA and in one case, insurance costs had rocketed by +752% between 2019 and 2023. A year ago, they raised concerns with both EOCS and DLUHC about the delays to works starting and that the proposed scope of works would not reduce insurance costs; we were advised that more than 90% of the leaseholders were already facing severe financial stress at that stage. 

It is worth pointing out that as long ago as February 2022, and only a couple of weeks after the PAS 9980 standard was launched, Taylor Wimpey had flagged in its written evidence to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee that the lack of “clearly agreed wall standards that the Government, regulators, RICS, mortgage lenders and insurers [will all] accept” was creating “a huge amount of uncertainty around the changes required” and that this was “not something that the housebuilding sector can resolve on our own. We believe that this requires urgent attention and action by Government before meaningful progress can be made.” 

What has been done about it? More than two years later, this lack of consensus amongst stakeholders is continuing to have huge ramifications for leaseholders, many of whom could remain financially trapped, even once remediation works are completed under the developer contract. 

Ben commented that the company hears little about leaseholder difficulties with remortgaging and selling since they started issuing “comfort letters”, which confirm that buildings are covered by the developer remediation contract. This would be surprising, given that a large number of Taylor Wimpey buildings do not have assessments yet, and therefore many will lack remediation start and end dates or a firm scope of works. We continue to hear that lenders often ask for additional information of this kind, and data published by DLUHC shows that EWS1 forms are still required on the same proportion of flats as three years ago. We will follow up with specific examples of Taylor Wimpey leaseholders who are affected by this. 

Our thanks to Taylor Wimpey for making the time to engage with us at short notice at the AGM. We agreed to have a follow-up meeting towards the end of May, when we will take the opportunity to discuss the issues in more detail and follow up cases of particular concern. 

CALL TO ACTION! 
Are you a leaseholder or resident in a Taylor Wimpey building, having issues in relation to assessment or remediation – and unable to get a satisfactory response via your managing agent?  

If you need to escalate your concerns to DLUHC, please email building.safety@levellingup.gov.uk, providing the name and address of your building together with a short summary of your concerns, and detailing the attempts you have made to contact the developer.  

Please copy our team at endourcladdingscandal@gmail.com so that we can follow up where necessary. We are particularly keen to hear an update about your situation prior to our meeting with Taylor Wimpey in May 2024, so that we can ensure that your concerns are heard.

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