MPs demand government remove dangerous cladding from 2,000 'high risk' housing blocks
Three years on from the tragedy at Grenfell Tower there are still 2,000 buildings with flammable cladding that the Government considers to be high risk
The Government must commit to removing ACM cladding from all multi-occupancy residential buildings by December 2021 – and end this crisis once and for all
Three years on from the Grenfell Tower fire it is dispiriting to see the glacial pace of change. There are still 2,000 buildings with flammable cladding that the Government considers to be high risk and this is having a devastating impact on people’s lives.
The financial consequences on homeowners who, through no fault of their own, have suddenly found themselves in buildings covered in potentially flammable material are now well known. Looming bills in the tens of thousands to have cladding removed, hundreds of pounds a month to pay for walking watches simply to remain in their own homes.
Flats have become unmortgageable and unsellable, and thousands of lives have effectively been put on hold. In the worst cases, people have been unable to move to start a new job and even start a family.
The emotional toll that this has had on homeowners is truly shocking. A survey carried out the UK Cladding Action Group revealed this week that 90% of leaseholders in buildings with ongoing cladding issues considered their mental health had deteriorated and almost a quarter had suicidal feelings or a desire to self-harm.
The Government has recognised the need for action, but what they have proposed up to now will fall far short of what is needed. The £1 billion Building Safety Fund will only be sufficient to cover the cost of removal from a third of the 1,700 buildings needing work.
Furthermore, stringent rules on who can access the fund risk leaving too many blocks out, particularly social housing providers. A patchwork approach that gives Government support to some but not others would continue to leave too many homeowners in limbo.
In our report published today, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee calls on the Government to commit to removing ACM cladding from all multi-occupancy residential buildings of any, and other fire safety defects resolved, by December 2021.
Buildings with other forms of dangerous cladding should have all fire safety issues rectified by June 2022, the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire. This will necessitate a far greater level of funding than has so far been pledged and the Government should commit to this.
More must be done to support homeowners and mitigate the severe financial and emotional hardship they continue to experience. The Government should commit to providing funding to meet ongoing costs of temporary fire safety measures, such as fire patrols or alarm systems, ahead of comprehensive remedial work being completed. Residents must also be offered support by the NHS to help them cope with what they continue to go through.
While the Government should be there to support the victims of this crisis, they should not be entirely responsible for the financial costs of the work needed. They need to step in to ensure that work begins as soon as possible, but should seek to recover costs for individual buildings from those responsible. If this requires legal action, or even the compulsory purchase of the freehold, to resolve then so be it.
The time has come for the Government to commit to ending this crisis once and for all. Those who have gone through so much need to know that the end is in sight.
Clive Betts is chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee, and Labour MP for Sheffield South East