Tom Hunt promises to fight like a lion for St Francis Tower tenants
PUBLISHED: 13:13 13 February 2020 | UPDATED: 17:20 13 February 2020
Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has told Parliament that he will keep up the pressure on the government to support his constituents who face huge bills to make St Francis Tower in the town centre safe.
He used a debate in Westminster Hall to call for the government to recognise that his constituents should be treated in the same way as those in buildings with the same kind of cladding as at Grenfell Tower.
St Francis Tower had HPL cladding which has now been removed - but leaseholders have been left with bills of between £21,000 and £84,000 for this work.
Mr Hunt told MPs: " Individuals feel their lives have been destroyed by this and I would like the government to know that I will not hold back in doing absolutely everything I can to fight for them. I will be a lion in fighting for them.
"My constituents cannot understand why a type of cladding which has been, after an inquiry, said to pose an intolerable risk to life has been treated in a different way to the ACM cladding."
South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge, who has constituents who are leaseholders at St Francis Tower, pointed out that HPL cladding is actually considered more dangerous than ACM, which the government has set up a £200m fund to remove.
Speaking after the debate Mr Hunt said he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would pay attention to the concerns about the cladding when preparing his budget speech - although his comments came before the upheaval at the Treasury with Sajid Javid being replaced by Rishi Sushak in Boris Johnson's reshuffle.
He said: "More than 100 of my constituents live in St Francis Tower and they have had this issue hanging over their head for far too long. It's clearly a process which has been emotionally and financially draining for them and that's why I called on the Government today to step in.
"Money should be made available for the replacement of cladding of the type found on St Francis Tower on the same basis that money is available to replace the type of cladding that was on Grenfell Tower - especially given it's just as dangerous."
"This is what needs to happen in the short-term to provide residents with some much needed certainty but in the long-term I encourage the Government to track down the freeholders responsible for the dangerous refurbishments to recoup the cost.
"These are the people who were supposed to have knowledge of the issue and who should have obeyed the regulations at the time - not the leaseholders. It's unjustifiable that it is now on leaseholders to pay the huge costs caused by this catalogue of errors which is entirely not their fault.
"I will continue my close contact with St Francis Tower residents and will not stop raising this issue with Government. I stand by them in demanding clearer communication from Block Management and resolving a situation where one of their most valuable assets is completely frozen."
The problems for leaseholders at St Francis Tower has been an ongoing issue in Ipswich and it has attracted cross-party support. Former Labour MP Sandy Martin took up their cause before losing his seat in December's General Election.
Mr Hunt also paid tribute to former Labour cabinet minister Hilary Benn who has been leading national calls for a re-think on compensating leaseholders of affected flats.