‘THREE and a half years on from Grenfell and hundreds of thousands can’t sleep at night because their homes are unsafe,’ Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire, said yesterday.
She was replying to a statement on housing and building safety by the Tory Housing Minister Robert Jenrick in which he announced an extra £3.5bn for the removal of flammable cladding from buildings over 18 metres high.
Responding to the government announcement, Karim Mussilhy bereaved family member from the survivors’ group Grenfell United, said:
‘It is nearly four years too late and it is only for buildings over 18 metres and it is no where near enough to solve the problem. It has been estimated that it is over £11-15 billion that is needed so they haven’t even scratched the surface.
‘Those that were responsible must be held accountable and effectively sent to prison and to fix the scandal that we are in at the moment.’
Speaking by videolink to Parliament, Debbonaire underlined that the government has promised 17 times that leaseholders will not pay for the cost of the removal of unsafe cladding and that they had been betrayed time and time again.
She said: ‘For many it has now been a nightmare for years as a result of government choices. Three and a half years on from the Grenfell tragedy in which 72 people lost their lives, hundreds of thousands of people are still trapped in unsafe homes, many more unable to move.
‘Today’s announcement is too late for too many. A repeat of undelivered promises and backtracks from the key one that leaseholders should have no costs to pay.
‘The Chancellor said last March all unsafe combustible cladding will be removed from every private and social building above 18 metres high, but that has not happened.
‘The government still do not know how many buildings are unsafe, where they are or what danger they pose.
‘Until we have answers to those basic questions the government will continue to make mistakes.
‘We can’t have a repeat of the “first come, first serve” free-for-all where the most dangerous blocks risk being fixed last.’
She called for the setting up of an independent task force to ‘prioritise buildings according to risk’.
Jenrick told Parliament: ‘After the tragedy of Grenfell Tower the expert advice that the government received identified Aluminium Composite Cladding (ACM) the material on the tower as by far the most unsafe form of cladding.
‘It should never have been used.’
He added: ‘I am therefore making an exceptional intervention on behalf of the government providing certainty that leaseholders in residential buildings will face no cost for cladding remediation works, we will make a further £3.5 billion of funding available to pay for the removal and replacement of unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in residential high rise buildings of 18 metres and above or in England above six stories.’