It is now more than four years since the Grenfell Tower disaster. Over those four years, the government has procrastinated, dodged responsibility and changed direction. As a result, the cladding crisis has ballooned to affect a huge number of people.
This week Labour is once again bringing this matter to a parliamentary debate. Labour MPs will be pushing the government to make good on ministers’ often-repeated promise, that leaseholders should not pay for a problem they did not cause.
As Shadow Housing Secretary for more than a year, I had some success making the government accountable for these promises. After pressure from Labour and campaigners, ministers announced billions of pounds for the Building Safety Fund to make taller buildings safe. Unfortunately, this is yet another broken promise, with only 10p of every £1 of the Building Safety Fund allocated.
The news is even worse for people living in smaller buildings. Instead of government grants, they will be forced to take out loans to make their homes safe.
I have seen first-hand the suffering this is causing in my constituency. I have heard miserable stories from constituents who have spent a year of lockdowns in unsafe buildings. Mounting bills – in several cases over £100,000 per flat – only add to the anxiety. This is not right.
The debate today is what’s called an ‘Estimates Day Debate’, where we discuss elements of government spending.
Labour is asking the Government to establish a Building Works Agency to deal with this crisis.
I previously called for a National Cladding Taskforce to establish the extent of dangerous cladding, prioritise works according to risk and ensure there is enforcement against those who refuse to undertake works.
Labour is now calling for this taskforce to be further strengthened, given the failure of the government to adopt this approach, and safeguard lives and livelihoods.