Leaseholders still living in the shadow of the cladding crisis will be wondering what – if anything – will be in tomorrow’s Budget for them. We can expect further details on the Residential Property Developer Tax, which may provide some relief for flat owners further down the line, but what about the loan scheme they were promised earlier in the year?
The Spring Budget was silent on the subject. Amendments to include it in the Fire Safety Act were rejected and the current draft of the Building Safety Bill doesn’t include provision for the scheme. So flat owners are unlikely to be holding their breath as the Chancellor takes to the floor in Parliament tomorrow.
The government has committed more than £5 billion to tackle the cladding crisis but it’s clearly not enough. The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee estimates the full cost of fire safety remediation work that is needed to fix our dangerous blocks at around £15bn.
The long-term low-interest loan scheme under which the government told us “no leaseholder will ever pay more than £50 a month towards the removal of unsafe cladding” seems as far away as ever. The delay on getting this sorted is simply adding to the woes of leaseholders who, according to a recent report in The Telegraph, are now being hit so hard by rising building insurance premiums that they are finding themselves in mortgage arrears. So not only can they not move or remortgage but they can’t even afford their original payments.
Help may be at hand from the same Tory rebel who tried to amend the Fire Safety Act back in June. Stephen McPartland, Conservative MP for Stevenage, has announced that he will be tabling three amendments to the Building Safety Bill when it returns to parliament.
He wants to ensure that all remediation and waking watch costs are given a zero VAT rating, together with a government-backed insurance scheme, and legislative protection to prevent costs being passed down to leaseholders. His first amendment will call for the VAT rating to be backdated, so that those leaseholders who have already paid for cladding to be replaced would receive a rebate.
This MP is clearly on a mission to find practical financial solutions to the cladding crisis but whether or not his amendments will be any more successful this time round is anyone’s guess. So we will be listening carefully to Rishi Sunak tomorrow in the hope that he has some relief of his own to offer flat owners.
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