Some constituents contacted me recently with their concerns about the outstanding work, especially on cladding, needed on high rise buildings following the Grenfell Tower inferno.
I replied to them that I broadly shared their concerns and had signed before Christmas (I think the first other MP to do so) the amendment to the Fire Safety Bill put forward by colleagues Royston Smith and Stephen McPartland calling for leaseholders to be protected from the costs of cladding remediation.
Last week the PM made important commitments to resolve this issue and said the Housing Secretary would lay out details soon.
The Housing Secretary’s statement yesterday (Wed 10 Feb) laid out his Department’s 5 point plan on how the government intended to tackle the remaining challenges on building cladding.
Effectively the government has committed a further £3.5 billion to pay for all the work needed on the highest (>18m) buildings (ie the highest risk buildings), and the provision of government low interest loans to those below 6 stories (ie 11-18m high), with a cap on cost to leaseholders of £50 pm via their service charge - ie without impact on individual credit ratings.
There will be a levy on developers the Chancellor will spell out in the budget which I particularly welcome - it’s right that they take some responsibility for what has happened.
This follows changes in the Building Safety Bill (inc a £1bn building safety fund) going through Parliament with building & fire safety reforms and a new Building Safety Regulator, and separate commitments to reform leaseholds in general. This was badly needed anyway.
I recognise that not everything is perfect: there will be some leaseholders for whom the cost of remediation is still hefty.
But at the same time it cannot be right that taxpayers absorb all the costs, and the Chancellor has many demands on the public purse - not least from the pandemic.
So although some elements can and will be debated I welcome this package of action, promised by the PM, and I think it achieves much of what I hoped to see.
As I explained to Royston Smith, I’ve therefore withdrawn my support from the McPartland-Smith Amendment and will be watching to see that the commitments made are delivered.