Investigations in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy into the composition of the materials used to clad the building found it failed to meet several safety standards. This aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding has since been identified on a significant number of social and private sector high-rises across the country. Quite rightly, the Government quickly committed to fund the removal and replacement of the potentially flammable cladding on all social sector buildings. The Communities Secretary, James Brokenshire, also made clear his expectation of freeholders in the private sector to similarly make safe their buildings, either by funding it themselves, or via alternative routes, such as insurance claims.
Though some private freeholders have committed to fulfilling their obligations to leaseholders by carrying out and fully-funding remedial work, there remain some who continue to shirk their responsibility by attempting to pass on the considerable costs to residents who can ill-afford to pick up hefty bills in the tens of thousands of pounds.
I have great sympathy for those who have found themselves in this position and over the past 12 months have met with a number of local residents from across the constituency to discuss how they have been left hamstrung in the private sector. In their support, I have repeatedly taken all of our concerns to Ministers at the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government, making clear their well-founded anxieties, and suggesting potential ways in which the Government might intercede, such as the possibility of VAT being removed from the material and construction/works in relation to replacing cladding as an emergency measure or the establishment of grant or loan scheme to cover the costs of replacing the cladding.
As such, today’s announcement from the Government that it will cover the £200 million bill to replace this cladding in privately-owned buildings with safe alternatives is very much welcome. I thank James Brokenshire and Kit Malthouse for all the work they have done in this area and their engagement with me, other MPs, local government, leaseholders, residents’ groups and campaigners from across the country.
The efforts by Government to ensure freeholders and contractors do the right thing and absorb the costs themselves have been commendable, and indeed has been successful in some instances. However with today’s announcement, it is clear that time is up for those unscrupulous freeholders, who have sought only to obfuscate, before leaseholders are forced to pay tens of thousands of pounds to repair and make right issues that they are in no way responsible for.
My understanding at present is that building owners will have three months to access the new fund, which is set to be launched by early July. The Government will require building owners to take steps to recover the costs from those responsible for the presence of the unsafe cladding, ensuring that taxpayers are not left to pick up the bill whilst allowing the remediation work to get underway in good time.
You can find more information about today’s announcement on the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government’s website.