Cladding victims: ‘£3.5bn fund won’t stop our sleepless nights’
- Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND
Hundreds of homeowners facing huge bills for dangerous cladding say they feel betrayed after the government announced a financial package aimed at ending the “scandal” gripping the UK.
There are now 1,600 people in Ipswich hit by problems with cladding and fire safety issues at their homes some three-and-a-half years after Grenfell, with many forced to fork out tens of thousands of pounds to replace unsafe material.
On Wednesday, housing secretary Robert Jenrick told MPs the government’s “unprecedented intervention” of financial measures meant leaseholders in high-rise blocks over 18m would no longer face costs to fix unsafe cladding.
He also revealed those in low and medium-rise blocks would never have to pay more than £50 a month for cladding removal.
Alex Dickin, who owns an apartment in Ipswich’s Cardinal Lofts, said: “For Ipswich, it’s a small victory because there are many buildings above 18m with cladding.
“But the government promised us no leaseholder would have to pay to make their homes safe.
"Today, we feel betrayed. We were hoping for a solution to stop the sleepless nights and for millions living in buildings less than 18m there is none.”
An even bigger problem for Ipswich, he added, is that other fire safety defects - such as a lack of fire-stopping material and faulty fire doors - are not covered by the latest financial measures.
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In his building, the cladding will be covered, but he warned of a “looming cost” of other defects.
Mr Jenrick said in his Commons statement that the government’s combined £5bn plan is fair and generous.
He added: “We continue to take a safety-led approach and this funding will focus on the higher-rise buildings where the independent expert advisory panel tells us – time and again – the overwhelming majority of the safety risk lies, in line with the existing building safety fund and the anticipated scope of the new building safety regulator that we’re establishing and will shortly be legislating for.”
In Ipswich, where more than 20% of all properties are flats, more than 1,600 people are now known to be affected – and across Suffolk, owners of 17 buildings have already sought government funding for cladding repairs.
A drive to ‘end the cladding scandal’ in the town in recent weeks has seen membership of Mr Dickin’s new group, Ipswich Cladiators, balloon from 225 to 1,600.
The town’s MP, Tom Hunt, feels it should not matter whether a building is 18m or below.
“It’s still not where we want to be," he said.
"There’s no doubt some constituents will benefit from what’s been announced today, but sadly there will still be many who don’t get covered by this. I won’t stop pushing until everyone is covered.”
Mr Hunt said he had raised these points with Mr Jenrick, who reassured MPs leaseholders in blocks between 11 and 18m can have “great comfort” from the fact the new financing deal is in place.
The Ipswich Cladiators also told Suffolk County Council’s scrutiny committee earlier on Wednesday that homeowners in the county are continuing to face bankruptcy as a result of the cladding crisis.
Mr Dickin warned of a future hit to the local housing market and a looming mental health crisis, adding: “We are trapped here, living in our dangerous homes almost 24 hours a day due to the pandemic, and there is no sign of any route out in the near future.”
Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service bosses said they are due to inspect buildings over 18m as part of a national review which must be completed by the end of 2021.