New laws that make the flat owners foot the bill for removing flammable cladding are “indefensible,” say Grenfell Tower survivors and relatives
The new Fire Safety Bill is aimed at making homes safer following the 2017 disaster that took place at Grenfell Tower, in which 72 people sadly lost their lives.
But a push to include more financial protections for leaseholders was defeated in a Parliamentary vote, despite a large Tory rebellion.
The government has made a £5bn fund available to remove cladding.
Thousands of leaseholders are now facing large bills to pay for the new safety measures, including new balconies, fire breaks, safer doors and sprinkler systems.
Ministers had previously suffered several defeats in the House of Lords attempting to pass the legislation as peers argued residents should be protected from the costs.
They said the government or the construction industry should pick up the bill instead.
This comes after a resident of Grenfell Tower raised multiple complaints about the fire safety flaws within the building in the years before a fire killed 72 people who lived there, but the council landlord “stamped on and marginalised” residents’ worries, the official inquiry into the fatal catastrophe has been informed.
Ministers say leaseholders in the tallest tower blocks in England will not have to bear the cost of removing unsafe cladding and a loan scheme will ensure that residents in lower rise blocks will have their costs capped at £50 a month for safety works.
But critics have argued this will not cover all of the costs potentially faced by leaseholders through no fault of their own.
The group, Grenfell United, which was set up after the tragedy in west London four years ago, said it was “deeply disappointed that ministers have broken their promises to leaseholders who have done absolutely nothing wrong”.
It described the government’s position as “indefensible” saying it was a “grave injustice that many innocent leaseholders will be financially ruined over fire safety issues that were not of their own making” and it accused ministers of “letting those responsible continue to get off scot-free”.
The campaigning group End Our Cladding Scandal, has said that the legislation had passed unchanged “much to the horror of hundreds of thousands of innocent people across the country whose lives are being ruined by the buildings safety crisis”.
The group said that the government had “fought hard” against the changes that would have saved many leaseholders from “widespread bankruptcy and financial ruin caused by bad regulations, corporate malfeasance and shoddy building work”.
“This Bill pulls the rug out from under a generation of homeowners” it added whose lives were still at risk from unsafe buildings.
The group has vowed to continue opposing the reforms, tweeting “We have the right to be angry. But the fight isn’t over yet”.
This comes after younger people are continuing to bear the brunt of the jobs crisis amid widespread cuts in sectors such as hospitality, official figures have shown. In the year leading up to March, 811,000 payroll jobs had been lost in the UK, with those under the age of 35 accounting for 80% of these job cuts.
Stephen Squires, a leaseholder who lives within a tower block in Manchester that bears dangerous flammable cladding, said ministers’ reluctance to compromise was “hugely disappointing and really makes us feel like the government do not grasp the severity of the situation we all find ourselves through no fault of our own”.
He added: “Our service charge account is running out of money whilst the freeholder delays things. Eventually we could end up with having the lifts switched off or the electric being cut off to a 20-storey building, which would make it uninhabitable”.