Government pressured to increase funds for unsafe cladding

unsafe cladding
Many buildings have had recladding work following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017. Source: Robin Drayton (via. geograph)
The Labour Party is leading calls for the government to increase funds to replace unsafe cladding and prevent the costs falling on residents.

By Katherine Seymour

Following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, there has been a push to make high-rise buildings safe, after it was found that the cladding used on the tower was to blame for the spread of the fire.

This has become a contentious issue, and a solution has still not been completely implemented in the last three and a half years. 

The Labour Party believes that the government’s lack of funding and austerity policies are to blame, whilst the government has placed the emphasis on the role of the local Labour council.

Labour is calling for more financial support for leaseholders. Sir Keir Starmer argued that the Building Safety Bill is not enough, as it provides just over 10% of the estimated costs to make buildings safe at £1.6bn, when the cost is estimated to be closer to £15bn.

On Febuary 1, Labour used opposition day to touch on the issue, their motion passing by 263 votes to none. Conservative MPs were told to abstain. 

However, the result is not binding on the government. 

Labour and some Conservative backbenchers have said that leaseholders did not know that their flats were unsafe when they bought them, but now have to face the costs, with many facing bills of tens of thousands of pounds.

Only 58% of social housing blocks have completed the cladding removal work, and only 30% of private sector buildings.

Labour says that millions of people still live in potentially unsafe buildings, and this should not be the case – particularly with the high costs which residents are already facing.  

On February 2, the government announced that they would provide extra funding to the issue, with Housing Minister Chris Pincher saying that the government will announce a financial solution “very shortly”.

At least 35 Conservative MPs have signed an amendment to prevent the cost falling on homeowners. 

However, Pincher has encouraged them to withdraw the amendment in order to allow the bill to get through smoothly so that they can put in the extra funding.

This is a significant shift in position from Monday, as a spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said:

“The Building Safety Bill is the appropriate legislative mechanism for addressing these issues and will be brought forward in due course”. 

A government advisor suggested that building owners could take-out long-term loans and recoup costs from residents, which would put further pressure on those living in unsafe buildings.

The government has not yet confirmed what the further funding will be and it can only be speculated how far it will cover the estimated costs. 

Though the Labour motion passed, the government does not have to act on it.

Signs, however, are pointing towards some level of extra funding for the Building Safety Bill, which many tower block owners have already taken support from.

It is clear to both sides that the £1.6bn provided, though massive in terms of cost, is not enough when around £15bn is required to make buildings safe. Without further action, the rest of the cost could fall on residents.

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