Yesterday the Labour Party set out Labour’s roadmap to safer homes, as analysis shows many thousands of homes across the country are likely to be affected by the cladding crisis, but Conservative MPs chose to abstain on the issue.

The Labour Party forced MPs to vote on this matter in Parliament yesterday, with Leader Keir Starmer calling for the government to remove the dangerous cladding by paying for it up-front. Costs must be recouped through legal action against those responsible for the cladding crisis, he believes, arguing that leaseholders and taxpayers must not left with the bill for making buildings safe.

According to Government statistics, 293 buildings in Tower Hamlets have registered for the Building Safety Fund (non-ACM), the highest number in the country, leaving many leaseholders unable to sell their homes and forced to pay thousands for 24-hour ‘waking watches’. Across London as a whole, there are at least 554 buildings with waking watches, according to data released by the Labour Party yesterday.

At a Tower Hamlets Full Council meeting in November last year, councillors adopted a Labour amendment calling on the government to increase funding for its building safety fund to fix cladding issues on private sector tall buildings. The Labour Group also called on government to publish a database of affected buildings and to streamline access to the building safety fund as many residents are struggling to apply to the scheme because of a complicated application process.

The council is calling on the government to expand the funding available to deal with these issues rather than leaving it to home-owners to foot the bill for failures in regulation. Currently, many homeowners face enormous financial bills because of the prospect of having to fund remediation works themselves.

After Mayor Biggs was elected, he commissioned a review of fire safety in council-owned blocks and the council invested over £6m over three years. Following the Grenfell fire, further checks were carried out.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “For many leaseholders across the country, the cladding scandal has left them feeling abandoned, unsafe, and facing hugely unaffordable costs for repair work, together with great difficulty in selling or re-mortgaging their homes, which they were sold on a promise they were safe. The Grenfell disaster was rightly a wakeup call for the whole country and it remains a scandal that years on we still potentially have buildings in our community which may have similar problems with cladding.

“The situation cannot continue, and leaseholders need solid action instead of the dither and delay that they have had so far from the Government.

“It’s simply not fair for homeowners to foot the bill for failures in regulation and it’s hugely disappointing that Tory MPs refused to support Labour’s motion in Parliament and implement Labour’s plan.”

Cllr Eve McQuillan, Cabinet Member leading on Planning, said: “The Government must do more to address the cladding scandal and I welcome the plan that Labour has set out which would see a new National Cladding Taskforce launched to get a grip on the crisis and protect leaseholders.

“I welcome the news that the Waking Watch Relief Fund is now open for applications, but this is a very limited fund and Tower Hamlets has the highest number of buildings registered for the Building Safety Fund across the whole country. They urgently need action to support them through the crisis.”

Cllr Danny Hassell, Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “The Government’s failure to get a grip on the cladding crisis has left leaseholders feeling forgotten and facing huge bills that most cannot afford. The Government has promised leaseholders that they would support them, but through their inaction they have failed to deliver.

“Conservative MPs have wasted the opportunity to ensure that Government keeps its promise to support leaseholders.”

The new National Cladding Taskforce

Proposed by Keir Starmer and modelled on the successful approach taken in Australia, to get a grip on the deepening cladding crisis and protect leaseholders from bearing the cost.

The National Cladding Taskforce would be given strong powers to establish the full extent of dangerous materials on buildings, prioritise them according to risk and ensure there is enforcement against those who refuse to undertake works. It would drive forward Labour’s six demands for safer homes, which include:

  • Immediate up-front funding for removing deadly cladding and other urgent fire safety work
  • Protecting leaseholders and taxpayers by pursuing those responsible for the cladding scandal for costs
  • A new, legally enforceable 2022 deadline to make homes safe
  • Legislation to protect residents from costs
  • Getting the market moving by ensuring affected residents can sell and re-mortgage
  • Stamping out rogue builders by reforming the sector
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