Recladding a building. Copyright Robin Drayton.
Recladding a building. Copyright Robin Drayton.

The Grenfell Tower tragedy was a national scandal. What has happened since is a national disgrace. It is a story of broken promises, leaving thousands of innocent people trapped in potentially unsafe properties, unable to move.

At the three-year anniversary of the tragedy in June, we estimated 56,000 people were still living in buildings with the same ACM (or aluminium composite material) cladding found on Grenfell Tower.

And the problem is even bigger – there are other dangerous cladding types which need to be surveyed and replaced. The government needs to step up here. If the replacement of other types of dangerous cladding occurs at the same rate as Grenfell-style ACM removal, it will take 39 years to complete.

The process to check fire safety of external wall cladding – often referred to as ‘ESW1’ – is not working. Many families across the country have written to me about this, telling me they are unable to sell their property because the survey process is so slow. The government must wake up and get a grip of the EWS1 system, and put in place a much faster and fairer process.

While some funding has been promised, most has not been distributed. Thousands of leaseholders are still waiting for funding that was promised months ago. When reviewed in June, a small proportion of the funding for Grenfell-style cladding, and none of the funding for other forms of cladding has actually made it out the door.

Sadly, that is not the only promise the government seems willing to break. I have counted at least 15 times when government ministers or the Prime Minister have stated that leaseholders will not have to pay to fix the cladding on these properties.

It now looks like the government is preparing to let leaseholders down. When giving evidence to the Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Select Committee, one minister said “there has always been an expectation that some of these costs will fall on leaseholders, the challenge has been how you make that affordable”. This is not what was promised.

In the meantime, families are suffering. Thousands have been forced to spend a second lockdown trapped in unsafe homes. Some of them are paying huge sums for waking watch – the median cost is more than £11,000 per building – while some leaseholders are paying up to £840 per month. Putting these financial worries on leaseholders is unacceptable.

Having spent months insisting it will provide no support to leaseholders, the Government has finally u-turned under pressure from campaigners and Labour to provide funding for fire alarms. While funding for temporary fire alarms is welcome, it shows that the Government expects that many buildings won’t be made safe for some years. The only way to make people safe is to fix their homes.

I recently spoke about this on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme to argue that leaseholders should not be left with the financial burden – play the interview below:


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