Michael Gove made a major announcement on Monday 10th January declaring, amongst other measures, an additional £4bn to remediate buildings between 11 and 18m in height. This article is our response to that announcement.
We welcome the news that Michael Gove is scrapping Robert Jenrick’s unfair loan scheme and replacing it with £4billion to remove dangerous cladding in buildings between 11m and 18m. The Housing Secretary clearly recognises the desperate unfairness of forcing victims of the building safety scandal to pay for the collective state and industry failure that has blighted hundreds of thousands of lives since the tragic events at Grenfell. Two months ago, Mr Gove rubbished the ‘caveat emptor’ argument used by his predecessor; today he went even further. ‘Leaseholders are shouldering a desperately unfair burden,’ he said. ‘They are blameless and it is morally wrong that they should be the ones paying the price.’
Strong words, but then we have heard strong words from Ministers many times before. This government may be starting to talk tough, but these promises – finally – need to be backed by tough action, too. It is clear from a leaked Treasury letter over the weekend that Chancellor Rishi Sunak still does not appear to understand the gravity of our situation and is seemingly doing all he can to evade ensuring homeowners are protected. There may be more funding for cladding only, but the burden of paying for repairs for other serious safety defects – lack of compartmentation, missing fire breaks, shoddy building work – has still not been lifted from leaseholder shoulders, whatever their building’s height.
Nor too have the daily costs hitting leaseholders hard – payments for soaring insurance premiums or sky-high waking watch bills – disappeared overnight. Many campaigners have endured a torrid time over the past few years, fighting freeholders and housing associations, begging for even basic details of their buildings, watching their savings bled dry and seeing their mental health worsening. None of that time or money can ever be got back.
There are other issues still to be addressed. We need solutions for leaseholders in buildings under 11m and clarity on what today’s announcement means for the thousands in buildings under 18m who have already paid or are being asked to pay for cladding remediation.
Mr Gove says he is willing to go after the developers and manufacturing firms who have caused such widespread human misery. But there must be a recognition too of the part that successive governments have played in this wider scandal. Homeowners may have been failed by the construction sector and by cladding manufacturers – but they have also been failed by the Ministers and officials meant to regulate those industries. The next phase of the Grenfell Inquiry is likely to expose just how far those failings went.
Today Mr Gove promised that amendments to the Building Safety Bill, due to come before the chambers shortly, will include statutory protections for leaseholders. As always, we will be looking to the Housing Secretary to ensure his encouraging words are matched with decisive action on the ground.
The End Our Cladding Scandal campaign calls on the Government to lead an urgent, national effort to fix the building safety crisis.
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