I appreciate and sympathise with the cost, anxiety, and stress many leaseholders have endured due to issues for which they bear no fault. I know that leaseholders in blocks with combustible cladding and other dangerous materials have experienced problems in selling their homes and re-mortgaging.
Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in June 2017, the Government established a Building Safety Programme with the aim of ensuring that residents of high-rise residential buildings in England are safe. However, nearly four years later, around 700,000 people are still living in high-rise blocks with flammable cladding.
A House of Commons Public Accounts Committee report said progress on remediation has been “unacceptably slow”, with residents facing exorbitant costs of funding interim safety measures and many residents reporting worsening mental health as a result.
Despite promises that remediation costs would not be passed onto leaseholders, I am concerned that Ministers have done little to help. I am also disappointed that Government MPs did not back an Opposition motion in Parliament, which called on Ministers to protect leaseholders and taxpayers from remediation costs by pursuing those responsible for unsafe cladding.
Along with my colleagues, I will support an Opposition amendment to the Fire Safety Bill to prevent building owners passing unreasonable costs onto leaseholders. MPs will be given the opportunity to vote on the amendment when the Fire Safety Bill returns to the House of Commons on a date which has yet to be announced.
A similar Opposition amendment was proposed and defeated at the Third Reading of the Fire Safety Bill, but this time, I hope that the UK Government will keep its promise to ensure that leaseholders are protected from unfair fire safety costs and support the amendment.
The Government has since announced a £3.5bn fund to support victims of the cladding scandal. However, this fund is only applicable to those who live in buildings of an arbitrary height of 18 metres. The Cube in Bolton is below this yet still needs cladding removed, and therefore the residents will have to bear the cost. This is unacceptable.
What’s more, this fund only supports residents impacted by the dangers posed by cladding, yet we know there are other fire hazards. This, again, is an unacceptable response from Robert Jenrick.
Additionally, I believe that the UK Government must establish a National Cladding Taskforce to address unsafe cladding and protect leaseholders from the costs of remediation. The Taskforce should be underpinned with strong powers to establish the full extent of dangerous materials on buildings, prioritise them according to risk, and ensure there is enforcement against those who refuse to undertake works. It must be backed with up-front funding and include a legally enforceable deadline of 2022 to make all homes safe.