The government abstained on a cladding vote that could affect millions of lives
The government declined to vote on a motion that aimed to help people living in buildings with unsafe cladding that have been hit by huge bills.
On 1 February, MPs passed a motion in the House of Commons to take steps to support those affected by unsafe cladding. The motion passed with 263 votes to 0, as all Conservative MPs abstained.
The tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire led to a cladding scandal has left millions of people living in unsafe buildings. Many have received large repair bills from landlords and building owners.
We’re glad to see today’s motion has passed and thank many of those involved in today’s debate for holding the government to account.
However, we now need firm action; that action must not be a #CladdingTax, but must protect leaseholders from all costs. #EndOurCladdingScandal
— End Our Cladding Scandal (@EOCS_Official) February 1, 2021
It is estimated that 11 million people are going through lockdown in homes with dangerous materials. 3 and a half years after the fire at Grenfell Tower, a motion in parliament passed to make buildings safe by 2022.
That would be five years after Grenfell.
363 MPs abstained.
— Lowkey (@Lowkey0nline) February 2, 2021
Labour put forward the motion, urging Conservative MPs to vote with them. The motion called upon the government to make buildings safe quickly and ‘protect leaseholders and taxpayers from the cost by pursuing those responsible for the cladding crisis’.
Thangam Debbonaire, shadow housing secretary, said:
The Grenfell tragedy shed light on a crisis of building safety in this country, and hundreds of buildings have the same cladding that caused the Grenfell fire to be so deadly. Thousands have other equally dangerous cladding, and even more have other serious fire safety problems, such as combustible insulation, missing fire breaks and faulty fire doors.
Millions of homeowners are caught up in the wider building safety crisis caused by the defects and are unable to sell, re-mortgage or buy a flat, freezing up 16% of the housing market and affecting possibly as many as 11 million people.
Debbonaire asked the government to establish the extent of unsafe cladding and its dangers, make homes safe quickly, and to make sure leaseholders and taxpayers did not pay for the work needed.
Some Conservative backbenchers told the government it needed to take action against the cladding crisis, and ensure leaseholders did not have to pay for cladding removal. More than 30 have signed an amendment to the fire safety bill that would stop costs being put on leaseholders.
Despite this, none of them voted on the opposition motion.
The government is not obligated to act on opposition day motions.
Inquiries into flammable cladding after the Grenfell Tower fire have uncovered many unsafe buildings throughout the UK. Labour analysis says up to 11 million people could be affected.
As a result, lots of leaseholders have been sent bills to pay for fire safety measures and repair work. In several cases, this has left these leaseholders financially struggling, and in some cases bankrupt.
Speaking as part of the debate, SNP MP for Glasgow East David Linden said:
I recently heard the story of Sophie Grayling, a mother who was so proud to buy her first home in 2017. However, the flat that she bought was part of a building clad in ACM cladding—the exact same type, as we know, used on Grenfell Tower. Ms Grayling’s building is under the 18-metre threshold for the fund offered by the UK Government to remove the cladding, and with cladding remaining in place she has seen the sale of her home fall through, is facing a bill of thousands to fix the block’s issues and, most importantly, every night puts her child to bed with the knowledge that her building is covered in the same material that saw 72 lives lost in the inferno at Grenfell.
It is clear that that is unjust. Homeowners like Ms Grayling now face a Catch-22 situation: they either pay out of their own pocket to fix a problem that is not their fault or stay stuck in an unsellable flat that risks their safety.
Our apartment building was built without fire breaks, despite them being in the plans. Although our developer/constructor are entirely responsible for this (and hid it) my service charge is £45k for this year in order to pay my share to put it right, cheers @RobertJenrick
— Jamie (@Jamie_Rock) January 29, 2021
Well it’s official…my monthly service charge now exceeds the cost of my monthly mortgage due to the cladding and fire safety scandal. In what world is this normal @RishiSunak @Jacob_Rees_Mogg @hmtreasury ???
— William Martin (@willmartin88) January 28, 2021
Several cladding action groups are campaigning for the rights of victims of the cladding scandal:
Huge respect for Clive Betts & the work of @CommonsHCLG. They've been on the side of justice & fairness for years.
Loans will put us into more debt & many of us into negative equity. The legal arguments will go on & on. Yes, pursue them.
In the meantime, Govt needs to stand up.
— End Our Cladding Scandal (@EOCS_Official) February 1, 2021
Welcome to Twitter @NobelH_Cladding.
We are being contacted by distressed victims of the #CladdingScandal from new buildings every single day.
Not only has the govt caused this mess, they've left volunteer victims groups to provide support while they issue meaningless soundbites. https://t.co/JtutKSCT7o
— UK Cladding Action Group (@ukcag) February 2, 2021
The government said it was exploring the possibility of providing loans to leaseholders to pay for cladding removal. However, many campaign groups said loans were not an acceptable solution, instead calling for complete cost avoidance.
Fire Brigades Union (FBU) general secretary Matt Wrack said:
Almost four years have passed since the Grenfell Tower fire and those of us who have campaigned to tackle the building safety crisis are at the end of our tether with government inaction, delay, and incompetence.
The voices of residents and firefighters have been treated as little more than an annoyance throughout, while hundreds of thousands are left trapped in dangerous homes.
This debate should be a wakeup call to complacent ministers and their friends and donors in the housing and construction industry. As we have said from the beginning, the costs of this crisis cannot and should not be laid on the shoulders of residents.
Putting the cost of safety and repair work on residents is entirely unacceptable. The government must act urgently to avoid another tragedy by making buildings safe, while ensuring leaseholders are protected from paying for their safety.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/ChiralJon
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