The Grenfell disaster lingers. After 3 years of hand wringing and fine words from successive Conservative governments, those who suffered directly have not had justice. Further, the shabby building standards that applied to Grenfell have been revealed to apply to many many other buildings across England and many homeowners subject to leasehold also find themselves indirectly to be in trouble. Building Control is now often undertaken by Government approved building control contractors in the private sector.
Stevenage Labour Party has had representations from constituents whose lives have been seriously affected by the building safety crisis. All have something in common. They didn’t build the homes they live in or select the building materials or certify the buildings as safe. Yet they are faced with remediation costs being dumped on them by leaseholders. They cannot sell since potential buyers are refused mortgages till the properties are made firesafe. The properties that surveyors approved and banks and mortgage companies were happy to lend against before Grenfell have suddenly been deemed of zero value by the same surveyors, banks and mortgage companies…
In February 2021 Labour forced a vote in parliament to protect millions of leaseholders impacted by cladding scandal.
Labour called on the Government to
- “establish the extent of dangerous cladding and prioritise buildings according to risk;
- “provide upfront funding to ensure cladding remediation can start immediately; and
- “protect leaseholders and taxpayers from the cost by pursuing those responsible for the cladding crisis.”
A similar amendment was proposed by Tory backbenchers Stephen McPartland and Royston Smith and has been supported by almost 50 cross-party MPs but most Conservative MP’s have ducked the issue.
The Labour amendment added further protection for homeowners and includes clauses that would force the Government to consider leaseholder costs when making future changes to fire rules. It also stipulated residents would be freed from costs regardless of when their lease was signed whereas the McPartland-Smith proposal only applies to defects that predate the start of the lease. The Labour amendment therefore prevents recharging regardless of when the problem arose. So it would cover the same problems as the McPartland-Smith amendment but would also catch fire safety problems which arose because of a refurbishment, for example Grenfell Tower.
When it came to vote, all of the conservative party abstained and Labour won the day. However, an opposition day motion places no obligation on the government to enact law so once again, what the Conservative party says is not what it actually does.
It seems that in the end, it will be left to Labour to fight for the cladding scandal victims.