A Liverpool politician has raised fears of “another Grenfell” amid further disappointment for residents affected by the ongoing cladding crisis.
Seventy two people lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017 when flammable cladding encased the building contributing to the the rapid spread of the fire.
Last month minister for housing Robert Jenrick announced £3.5 billion extra funding to pay for the removal of dangerous cladding on high rise buildings over 18 metres, telling the House of Commons that he was “making an exceptional intervention on behalf of the government.”
However, MP for Liverpool Riverside Kim Johnson believes this latest offer of support is insufficient for a crisis that is likely to cost around £15bn to rectify.
Ms Johnson told JMU Journalism: “I can only think that the government do not yet see the political advantage in financially supporting leaseholders over developers. I am fearful that it will take another Grenfell to move this government.”
As well as not going far enough, Ms Johnson says the government’s plans ignore other issues that will leave many leaseholders stuck in unsafe buildings:
She said: “Firstly, the arbitrary decision on the height defies rationality. Buildings less than 18m in height with flammable cladding are still potential fireballs that could end in lost lives. It cannot be left to leaseholders to accept full costs to ensure their safety in otherwise unsafe buildings.
“Obviously the costs many leaseholders have already shouldered, for Waking Watch and new fire alarms, will not be recompensed in full. Also, wooden balconies and flammable insulation are not included. The Housing, Communities & Local Government Select Committee identified that the real costs to remediate all affected buildings would be around £15bn, so even the additional £3.5bn is insufficient.”
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Leaseholders were hit by more bad news after an amendment to the fire safety bill by Conservative MP Stephen McPartland, which would have protected leaseholders from paying for the removal of flammable cladding, was not brought up for a vote. Without this protection thousands of leaseholders face possible bankruptcy.
“I think it was inevitable it was going to happen but I think watching it and seeing it, it broke my heart” said Debbie Byrne, a leaseholder at the Deck in Runcorn, which has been found to have dangerous cladding.
“I’ve got to admit I cried a bit and I’m sure other people did as well.”
Another resident at The Deck, Derek Booth, said: “It was a bit of a blur really. I got so upset and angry watching the TV; to be classed as a second-class citizen, which is how it really felt.”
According to Barry Kushner, cabinet member for housing and regeneration at Liverpool City Council, the problem is widespread across the city.
He said: “There are about 40 non and aluminium clad high rise (above 18 metres) blocks.
“The response from ministers has been poor, including to a letter I wrote to the housing minister Christopher Pincher. The MPs have also struggled to get adequate response to the building safety fund.
“We don’t have the resources to pay for cladding remediation and it is not the responsibility of the council. This is a government issue. The recladding of all the blocks in the city would likely cost over £300m.”