Labour have called on the government to launch an immediate audit into all public sector building after more than 100 school buildings in England were forced to close due a collapse risk from the use of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).
Around 104 school buildings in England were shut or taped off after the Department for Education ordered their closure weeks before the beginning of the English school term. RAAC is a material which was used in the construction of public buildings from the 1950s until the mid 1990s, with those now deemed in poor condition at high risk of collapse.
The material has been used to build structures used as office buildings and emergency service hubs, such as fire stations and ambulance stations. Hospitals and health care facilities were also constructed using the material, with the NHS already replacing some buildings deemed at risk and making plans to "eradicate" others.
Now Labour has called for an immediate investigation into the risk the use of RAAC has had on buildings within the public sector.
Angela Rayner MP, Labour's deputy leader, said: "The safety of the public is not being taken seriously by this reckless Tory Government. If public safety is at risk, we need to know urgently. The Government sat on their hands for years and then shut schools the week before term starts. We cannot let them lurch from crisis to crisis. The public needs to know how much damage the Tories have done to our schools, prisons, hospitals and job centres over the past 13 years of incompetent government.
"An urgent, full audit is required to find out the extent that Conservative ministers failed to replace this dangerous concrete across the public sector estate. The next Labour government will ensure public buildings are fit for purpose and the public is kept safe."
It comes after it was revealed that the government had already raised the alarm on the risk of roof and building collapses within the education sector as far back of 2021. A Department of Education report from the time stated that the risk level of buildings collapsing had increased from "crisis - likely" to "critical - very likely", however action has only been taken two years later.
Schools minister Nick Gibb said that the closure decision came after liaising for some time with schools and a "change in information".
Public sector buildings in Scotland are also in the process of being assessed after The Scottish Government announced the audit in light of the situation in England. A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “This is an issue the Scottish Government takes very seriously and so we have been working with partner bodies to understand the scope and nature of what we are dealing with. Reviews of RAAC in property are being conducted by local authorities, NHS Scotland and other public sector organisations."