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Tories' cladding fix is a towering disaster

Homeowners and taxpayers stung for billions in repairs

THE government’s new two-tier system for funding the removal of flammable cladding from people’s homes was criticised as “shameful” and “divisive” after it was announced today.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told the Commons that leaseholders in tower blocks over 18 metres high — above six storeys — will face no costs for cladding removal.

Those in low and medium-rise blocks however will not be covered and face being forced onto a government loan scheme instead, with ongoing payments of up to £50 per month.

And the government’s announcement of a £3.5 billion fund to remove cladding in England — in the wake of the Grenfell Tower that killed 72 people in 2017 — is to be funded by a new tax on residential property.

Jeremy Corbyn said that the government “must go further.”

The Islington North MP and former Labour leader said: “I stand by the principle that no one should have to pay for living in a dangerous building.”

Shadow housing secretary Thangam Debbonaire said the proposals “still leave too many people struggling”.

She told MPs: “People cannot continue to live in unsafe, un-sellable homes. Homeowners shouldn’t face bankruptcy to fix a problem they didn’t cause.”

Mr Jenrick replied that the government is “focusing on the buildings over 18 metres where the work needs to get done” insisted that leaseholders in homes not covered by the government’s grant scheme “can have great comfort” from knowing loans are available to them.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan tweeted that the government’s plan was “shameful.”

He wrote: “Three-and-a-half years after the Grenfell Tower fire and many leaseholders are still being told to pay for building safety issues they played no part in causing.

“Ministers need to give all leaseholders affected by this crisis the peace of mind they need and deserve.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham asked: “How on Earth can the government justify this unfair and divisive move?”

He tweeted that the Cube apartment block in Bolton, which caught fire in 2019, “was below 18 metres but it burnt as quickly as Grenfell.”

Mr Burnham added: “Thousands of people in Greater Manchester will now face a choice of unaffordable loans or living with unsafe cladding. The campaign goes on.”

Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy criticised the government for having promised 15 times that leaseholders would not have to pay for removal of cladding.

She said that it is “disgraceful” that these promises are broken.

Conservative MP Stephen McPartland, a critic of the government’s handling of the cladding crisis, said he listened to Mr Jenrick’s announcement “wondering how he can have got this so wrong.

“It is shocking incompetence. It is clear the PM has to step in now.”

He also said the fire safety issue facing residents was “much bigger” than cladding, and that many residents are lumbered with costs of waking watchers, excessive insurance premiums and fire safety defects.

Regarding the government’s new plan, he added: “This is just all smoke and mirrors to basically look as though as we have tried to fix the problem, but it’s not going to do it.”

The UK Cladding Action Group also criticised the government’s plans as a “horrific betrayal of millions of innocent people.”

It stressed that people living in buildings under 18 metres high have experienced “discrimination,” as well as those who live in buildings with fire defects not related to cladding.

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