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Committee challenges Government to end cladding nightmare

12 June 2020

Ahead of the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire there are still 2,000 high risk residential buildings with some form of dangerous cladding.

The consequences for home owners have been devastating, with properties becoming unmortgageable and unsellable. Many residents continue to pay hundreds of pounds a month for waking fire watches and face bills of tens of thousands of pounds for remedial work fix fire safety issues.

Government support will fall far short of what is needed to carry out remedial work on all buildings that currently have dangerous cladding and other fire safety issues, including inadequate fire doors or missing fire breaks.

The £1 billion Building Safety Fund to remove combustible non-ACM cladding from buildings above 18 metres is likely to only be sufficient to cover the cost of removal from a third of the 1,700 buildings needing remediation. Stringent rules on applying to the Fund, including a short application window and restrictions against social housing providers, risks leaving many unable to access vital funding.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee calls on the Government to make an absolute commitment to ensure that all buildings of any height with ACM cladding should be fully remediated of all fire safety defects by December 2021.

Buildings with other forms of dangerous cladding should have all fire safety defects removed by June 2022. They must accept that the £1 billion pledged so far will be insufficient and be prepared to meet the cost of what will be necessary to make sure buildings are safe.

Residents cannot be expected to go on meeting the exorbitant costs of temporary fire safety measures while they wait for work to be completed. The Government should provide funding support for ongoing ‘waking watch' fire patrols and fire alarms.

The impact on residents physical and mental health is a significant concern and more must be done to help those who go on living in buildings that are potentially dangerous. The Government should ensure that all residents are offered support by the NHS to help them cope with what they continue to go through.

The taxpayer should not be expected to cover all costs of this crisis. While it is right that the Government should provide funding upfront so that work can begin quickly, they should also seek to recover costs on individual buildings from those responsible and be prepared to take legal action.

The Government must also take a hard line with freeholders who fail to deal with dangerous cladding on properties they oversee. Any residential building where work has not begun by December 2020 should be taken over using Compulsory Purchase Order powers, and consider establishing a new national body whose sole purpose is to purchase the freehold and manage the remediation of buildings with fire safety defects.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, Clive Betts MP

“We have challenged the Government to finally commit to removing all forms of dangerous cladding once and for all. Three years on from the Grenfell Tower disaster there are still thousands of home owners living in buildings with some form of dangerous cladding. The financial and emotional toll has been significant, with temporary safety measures costing huge sums and the ongoing stress of living in a property that may not be safe. This is not good enough.

“It is clear that the £1 billion Building Safety Fund will not be enough Too many risk being excluded by the criteria for accessing this support and the amount of money pledged is only enough to cover a fraction of the work needed. The Fund should be increased so that it is enough to cover the amount of work that is actually needed, both to remove cladding a resolve wider fire safety concerns. Further support must also be provided for the costs of stop-gap safety measures, such as ‘waking watches', to reduce the burden on homeowners.

“This should not just be a question of the Government, and therefore the taxpayer, stepping in with a blank cheque. Those who have caused, and in some cases refuse to rectify, safety issues must be made to pay. We call on the Government to consider taking legal action to recover the cost of works on individual buildings. Compulsory Purchase Order powers should be used to take direct ownership of buildings where owners have failed to begin remedial work by December 2020.

“It is time for the Government to commit to end the scourge of dangerous cladding once and for all. A piecemeal approach that will see homeowners facing many more years of stress and financial hardship. This is not an option.”

Further information

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