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Failure To Carry Out Post-Grenfell Work Leaves Residents In "Perpetual Anxiety"


4 min read

Labour’s shadow minister responsible for building safety and homelessness Mike Amesbury has said people in homes built with potentially dangerous materials are caught in a “perpetual state of anxiety and frustration”, and accused developers and insurers of playing “ping pong” with remediation work.

Amesbury told PoliticsHome that ministers should adopt a “more interventionist approach” to speed up the process of buildings having dangerous materials removed or fixed.

Building safety has been under the spotlight since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 which killed 72 people.

In total, 55 developers signed a contract first published by the government last year obliging them to take responsibility for fire safety defects that are “life-critical” that have come about as a result of the design and construction of buildings that are over 11 metres tall. The contract applies to buildings in England that have been developed or refurbished in the 30 years up to 4 April 2022.  

Amesbury, who has submitted a number of Written Ministerial Questions (WMQs) to the Government on the developer contract in recent weeks, said the process is being held up by what he called a “‘ping pong’ between developers, freeholders, managing agents and insurers.” 

“A number of developers employ their own fire safety-building control assessors with an eye to doing the bare minimum [of] remediation work,” he went on. 

“While freeholders, sometimes via managing agents, believe buildings are being made half safe, which puts upward pressure on insurance premiums. The result of all this wrangling is many unsafe buildings remain in limbo with residents and leaseholders locked in a perpetual state of anxiety and frustration.”

Amesbury added: “Everyone deserves to feel safe in their own home, and yet hundreds of thousands of people are not only still living in dangerous flats and houses but facing financial ruin.

“We need a more interventionist approach from Government ministers to speed up the remediation process, by banging heads together, if necessary.”

Other conditions of the developer remediation contract include keeping residents in buildings informed about progress on meeting remediation commitments, and reimbursing taxpayers for funding that went towards these buildings. 

Giles Grover, a co-lead at End Our Cladding Scandal, a campaign group calling on the government to act on building safety, told PoliticsHome that developers are engaging in “lengthy negotiations” with building owners regarding the scopes of work that are adding “delays” to the remediation processes. 

He claimed that developers are trying to “minimise” the work needed on properties, and the process is being left with “not enough oversight” on progress. 

He said: “What we’re seeing is because the developers have always focused on their profits over our safety, it's always been a case of that they'll try and minimise the work. 

"They then get into lengthy negotiations with the freeholders, everyone's got their lawyers involved and insurers involved. So this is happening at each individual building and there is no real oversight of it when there is a dispute.

“There's not enough grip, that’s the  simple point. There's not enough oversight.” 

“No one can really tell us who's overseeing this, who's actually making sure this is happening ‘at pace’ as they always say,” Grover added. 

A spokesperson at the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “Developers who fail to comply with the terms of the developer remediation contract face significant commercial consequences, and we estimate that developers will pay £3bn to fix their residential buildings in England.  

“Building owners must also do the right thing and ensure their buildings are fixed without delay, or face the consequences of their inaction.”

A spokesperson for the Home Builders’ Federation told PoliticsHome: “Through voluntary commitments and new taxes, UK house builders are investing billions to remediate buildings and remove burdens from leaseholders.

"The vast majority of these buildings were developed by foreign firms, public bodies or now defunct companies but it is the house building industry today that is funding the work.

"Meanwhile, despite more than two years of promises to the contrary, Government has still failed to obtain any commitments from other sectors, including product manufacturers.

“There is an agreed process in place for remediation projects with professional building safety experts rightly determining the scope of work that is required to meet independently approved safety standards. 

“The industry is committed to remediating all affected buildings as quickly as possible.”

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