Uncertainty continues for flat owners as cladding amendment fails
- Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND
Residents of Suffolk flats covered in insufficient cladding could continue footing the bill for remedial work after a Fire Safety Bill amendment was rejected in parliament.
What is the issue?
Amendments to the Fire Safety Bill – drafted in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster – aimed to prevent charges for improvement works on buildings cladded with flammable materials from being passed away from building owners.
One of the amendments, amendment four, aimed to prohibit costs – including one-off payments – being handed to leaseholders and tenants.
Despite the support of a number of rebel Conservative MPs, the Commons voted to reverse the amendment by 340 votes to 225.
A separate attempt to protect leaseholders from unexpected costs was also tabled by Conservative MP for Stevenage, Stephen McPartland, and backed by more than 30 Tory colleagues, including Ipswich MP Tom Hunt.
The amendment was not accepted for a vote however, although it is understood this will be tabled again in the House of Lords later this week.
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What do those affected think?
The amendment is supported by local campaign group Ipswich Cladiators – made up of more than 1,600 local people affected by the crisis – who said they were disappointed it did not go to a vote.
Alex Dickin, a member of the group, said: "It wasn't the news we were expecting, being left in a sort of stalemate.
"While amendment four was a positive step, the McPartland amendment firstly goes further, but also has cross-party support and we feel it had more of a promising chance.
"It is positive to have the support of our local MP, but at the same time he is just one MP and there are so many others around the country that don't have the same view.
"Hopefully the amendment will return from the Lords, maybe even with an improvement, and the Commons will have the opportunity to vote on it. But it feels like the government are putting up walls and barriers to stop it going through.
"Ministers have been to the dispatch box approximately 18 times to say that leaseholders shouldn't pay, but then at the same time it feels obvious they've obstructed the opportunity to vote. What is it? Should we pay or shouldn't we pay?"
Support has already been offered to residents affected by the scandal – although Mr Dickin said other fire safety defects - such as a lack of fire-stopping material and faulty fire doors - are not covered by the latest financial measures.
He said: "Imagine going to the doctor telling you you are ill and need 10 week's of medicine, but the chemists only give you two. Yes you have received medicine, but it is not enough.
"On a personal level, my building does have cladding. It is not a case of trying to be a pain, it is literally the case that I cannot afford this. This is not my fault, and I should not be paying for this. None of us should be paying for this.
"MPs talk about London and the big cities being affected, but here in Ipswich we are trying to push the fact that this is happening here, not in one of the biggest towns or cities."
The managing director's of Cardinal Lofts, Block Management UK Ltd, previously said it sympathised with those in similar positions.
What is the extent of the problem in Suffolk?
In Suffolk, 17 buildings are known to have insufficient cladding systems, with their owners applying to the government’s building safety fund to help foot repairs.
As many as 1,600 residents in Ipswich have become caught up in the issue, with many already paying for "waking watch" fire patrols in their buildings 24/7.
What does the town's MP think?
Speaking on the so-called McPartland Smith Amendment, Ipswich MP Tom Hunt said the "huge" issue is "destroying the lives" of his constituents.
Mr Hunt added: "I made a promise to my constituents that I would leave no leaseholder behind, yet sadly there are still a significant number of leaseholders who do feel left behind and this needs to be addressed.
"I've worked closely with ministers over the past couple of days to try and secure the assurances I need on behalf of my constituents but we're not currently where we need to be, which is why I was prepared to vote for the amendment today."
Another bill, the Building Safety Bill, is set to be introduced to parliament later this year.
Home Office minister Kit Malthouse said: “The Building Safety Bill is the appropriate legislative mechanism for addressing these issues and it will be introduced in the spring."