Could budget announcement help owners of St Francis Tower flats in Ipswich?
PUBLISHED: 16:58 11 March 2020 | UPDATED: 07:39 12 March 2020
Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s first budget was full of giveaways and measures to help businesses and individuals cope with the coronavirus crisis – and possibly good news for the owners of flats in St Francis Tower in Ipswich.
They had been told they were not eligible for financial help from the government to get rid of potentially dangerous cladding because it was not the same material as that on Grenfell Tower in London.
The announcement that the rules covering government funding for the removal of tower block funding will be relaxed will be welcomed by many people in Ipswich.
Leaseholders who bought flats in the block were faced with bills of £21,000 each to remove the dangerous cladding because while many felt it was more dangerous than that at Grenfell Tower, it was not included in the government scheme.
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Both former Ipswich MP Sandy Martin and current MP Tom Hunt supported the leaseholders in their battle to get compensation, and Mr Hunt welcomed the budget news as a huge step forward.
He said: 'I don't know that this is the whole answer, but it would appear to be very good news. I was at a reception in Number 11 (Downing Street) last week and I made the point to the Chancellor about the problems the leaseholders have been facing.'
He felt those looking for compensation from the government for the renewal of the cladding would want to see more details - but it was important to recognise that this was a very important step on the road to justice.
However Phillip Maricic, a leaseholder of a flat in St Francis Tower warned that this might not be the end of the fight. He said: 'It's good news, but people are still wary that this is just a step down the path we need to go. The fact that this is an additional £1bn on top of the previous money announced for this is great, and the money is for both the removal and the replacement of the cladding.
'However, early estimates I saw for St Francis Tower, a small block in comparison to some in the UK, were about £2.5m. £1bn is not going to be enough to cover every tower in the country. Until people are safe in their homes, this is just a nice gesture.'
Work is continuing to remove the cladding from St Francis Tower.