It is no exaggeration to suggest that by the time the Government’s draft Building Safety Bill passes into law, hundreds of flat owners around the country could have filed for bankruptcy. Such is the depth of the crisis that now faces thousands of people living in buildings with fire safety problems. And it just got worse.
Yesterday, MPs voted to pass the Fire Safety Bill into law without amendments. The bill has merit. It will tighten up fire safety requirements in residential buildings and clarifies that references to ‘external walls’will in future include “doors or windows in those walls” and “anything attached to the exterior of those walls (including balconies).”
What it doesn’t do is offer any help to leaseholders who are faced with the cost of putting right existing fire safety defects. Amendments to the Bill put forward by the House of Lords would have ensured leaseholders didn’t have to pay towards remedial work. But MPs voted against the changes and passed the Bill anyway. This was because, as Housing Minister Christopher Pincher said in the House of Commons last night, the taxpayer should not be expected to pay for remediation work.
Nor should leaseholders. But today, there is a glimmer of light in the darkness in the form of a report from the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee which has carried out an inquiry into government funding of fire safety remediation.
The report pulls no punches. Its big idea is that the government stop messing around with loan schemes that so far have failed to materialise and simply stump up the full amount that is needed to sort out the cladding crisis. They estimate that to be around £15bn. It’s a huge amount of money. But if the Government can put its hand in its pocket to compensate the injustices that have been done to Post Office staff, why can’t they do the same for leaseholders? They are no more to blame for the situation they find themselves in than the falsely accused postmasters and mistresses.
The industry has been calling for more money to be allocated to the building safety fund for months. It is now almost four years since the Grenfell Tower and its high time for the Government, finally, to take decisive action.
Author : Maryanne Bowring
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