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Thursday, February 25, 2021

UK Government abandons potential victims of cladding scandal

The consequences of the Grenfell fire tragedy continue to reverbaerate through public life with an estimated that 274,000 flats fitted with dangerous cladding, according to the Association of Residential Managing Agents, affecting more than 650,000 people. That figure is likely to reach into the millions when those living in lower-rise structures where problems have also emerged are taken into account. Despite that the UK Government's response is lukewarm at best, leaving many leaseholders out on a limb with no way of meeting the extra costs associated with making their home safe.

The Guardian reports that a plan to protect leaseholders from the spiralling costs of fixing fire safety problems in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster has been rejected in parliament after the government headed off a cross-party challenge:

Hundreds of thousands of homeowners are facing bills of up to £100,000 to repair dangerous cladding, fire doors and insulation systems discovered after the 14 June 2017 fire, but ministers opposed proposals from the House of Lords, Labour and some Conservative backbenchers to protect them from costs.

Amendments to the fire safety bill were defeated in a Commons vote on Wednesday evening after Labour accused the government of moving “at a snail’s pace” to tackle the problem. It warned that 11 million people may be affected by both immediate fire risks and problems with insurance and certification making many homes unsaleable. The bill is the first piece of primary legislation introduced as a result of the Grenfell disaster, which happened four years ago this June.

Also defeated was an amendment to force the government to implement key recommendations from the Grenfell Tower inquiry including making owners tell fire brigades what materials are in wall systems, inspect fire doors annually and lifts monthly – all things that failed during the Grenfell fire, which cost 72 lives.

Earlier this month the government announced a £3.5bn extension of the fund to pay to remove defective cladding on buildings over the height of 18 metres. But it only offered loans for fixing those below 18 metres and nothing for other widespread defects such as missing firebreaks and defective firedoors or paying for 24-hour fire patrols and steep insurance premium hikes.

Sarah Jones, the shadow police and fire minister, told parliament she had heard from “first hand [from leaseholders] the horrors this government is wilfully enabling” by not protecting them from costs.

Some have seen annual insurance costs for their blocks rise from £30,000 to £500,000, while one block with 56 leaseholders in Kent has already paid more than £500,000 for 24-hour fire warden patrols.

What will it take for this government sit up and take notice of the plight these homeowners are in and actually do something about it?
In all of the justified furore over the Grenfell tower block fire, the warnings posted by previous disasters have largely been forgotten. But, as the FBU has pointed out, the seeds of these homicidal events were sown by the Thatcher government and not addressed by Blair or succeeding administrations. Where is the opposition politician bold enough to call for a return to pre-1980 fire safety inspections?

https://www.fbu.org.uk/blog/deregulation-and-grenfell-tower-fire refers.

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