MPs call on government to fund cladding removal
MPS FROM across the political parties called on the government to ‘urgently increase’ funding for cladding removal nationwide, and to ‘make more money available to rescue’ leaseholders.
The Guardian reported on the cross party calls in parliament for the government to ‘finally foot a multi-billion-pound bill’ that would ‘bail out hundreds of thousands of apartment owners caught in the post-Grenfell fire safety crisis’. Led by Labour MP Hilary Benn, the MPs petitioned previous chancellor Sajid Javid to ‘urgently increase’ the previously allocated £800m funding for cladding removal, as well as ‘make more money available’ to ‘rescue’ affected leaseholders.
Recently sacked Housing Minister Esther McVey was asked by the other MPs to ‘face up’ to what they called a ‘potentially colossal drain on the public purse’, and help flat owners in buildings that have ‘different’ fire safety issues to combustible aluminium composite material (ACM) panels. Mr Benn called for the government to fund fixing ‘all buildings with unsafe cladding of whatever type’, and to ‘end’ its policy of only offering to fund ACM removal.
The Labour Party said that it had estimated 600,000 leaseholders ‘could be trapped in flats that are dangerous and worthless’, due to them being clad in combustible materials that are not ACM or having other fire safety issues, ‘which neither the government, developers or freeholders are offering to fix in most cases’. Mr Benn called this policy ‘manifestly unjust’, while leaseholders have ‘long accused’ ministers of ignoring issues and leaving them facing ‘financial ruin, anxiety and depression’.
He also said that ‘if our constituents had bought cars or washing machines that were a fire risk, no one would have dreamed of saying to them, “Sorry, you’re going to have to pay for the cost of replacement”’, with The Guardian noting that despite Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick saying he was ‘considering options’ to support leaseholders, no announcement ‘has yet been made’. Additionally, ‘very little money has been released’ from the £200m private block funding.
At this point, only one building has been approved for cladding replacement funding, with 174 privately owned buildings with ACM ‘yet to be remediated’, and Ms McVey was ‘repeatedly told’ that the government’s policy was failing ‘mortgage prisoners’ – so called because their homes are ‘unsellable because of fire safety problems’.
MP Shabana Mahmood shared one constituent’s letter, in which they said they faced a £100,000 bill for work and that ‘I can’t sleep, function or work. I try to be normal with my son but I can’t. I have a constant gut-wrenching dread coursing through my bloodstream. Each and every second I want to cry’. Greenwich and Woolwich MP Matthew Pennycook meanwhile said leaseholders in ‘scores of developments’ there could not sell homes, with ‘at least’ 24 buildings not covered by the funding.
Hackney South and Shoreditch MP Meg Hillier meanwhile said that one constituent could not remortgage their home due to cladding, and was paying £800 per month ‘more than necessary, while Tottenham MP David Lammy reported that over 400 constituents were affected and ‘could not get a mortgage or remortgage’.
The news outlet also pointed out that lawyers and accountants in affected high rises ‘could face losing their professional careers’, as barristers and solicitors are not allowed to practice if declared bankrupt, while accountants ‘automatically lose’ membership of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.
Commercial disputes solicitor Rebecca Fairclough owns a central Manchester flat in a block built with combustible insulation, and stated: ‘If I default on the mortgage and they repossess the property, they could make me bankrupt. My career, that I worked really hard on, spent a fortune on, would be over. A lot of the apartments with cladding problems have whole communities of lawyers.’
Leaseholders campaign body UK Cladding Action Group reported in turn that it was ‘hearing about one new building affected by fire safety problems every day’.