Govt continues to fail residents trapped in unsafe buildings
By Zoe Franklin
When you think of fire safety issues with blocks of flats it's likely that your thoughts will, understandably, turn to high-rise buildings in cities such as London and Manchester. However, as I highlighted last month we have residents in Guildford experiencing these issues too.
The scandal of industry-wide issues with fire safety has been ongoing since the Grenfell disaster in 2017 and legislation to tackle the problem has been moving slowly through the House of Commons and House of Lords. In February, Baroness Featherstone kindly used time within her speech on the bill to raise the terrible situation residents of the Bellerby Apartments have found themselves in where they face potentially crippling bills to fix the problems. Problems that frankly should be resolved by developers and not passed onto residents.
Yesterday, the House of Lords heard the third reading of the Building Safety Bill. Despite comments from Christopher Pincher MP earlier in the Bill's progress which suggested that the Government was starting to understand the extent of fire safety issues for leaseholders and owners alike, there was nothing in the Bill ensuring that they are protected from having to foot the bill of remedial works. I was therefore grateful that Liberal Democrat Peers stepped in and proposed a series of proposals that would have forced developers to undertake vital fire remediation work, including removing unsafe cladding, within five years.
The Lib Dem proposal to protect leaseholders from the cost of remediation work was passed 137 votes to 123 which means that the Government-proposed £100,000 cap on bills that leaseholders can face has been reduced to £0. Potentially great news for leaseholders - providing the Government is willing to accept them when the Bill comes for a final reading in the House of Commons shortly.
However, the Conservatives voted down the Lib Dem proposal that would have forced developers to undertake vital fire remediation work, including removing unsafe cladding, within five years.
Once again, I find myself disappointed but not surprised that the Government has failed to stand up for leaseholders who are living with the constant financial and emotional stress and anxiety of the situation. This is unacceptable and shows how little the Government cares.
We must end the building safety scandal for good by ensuring those responsible undertake this vital remediation work quickly and cannot shift these costs onto residents. I won't hold my breath but I dearly hope that the Government does the right thing when the Building Safety Bill returns to the House of Commons.
Parliamentary Candidate for Guildford, Cranleigh and our villages
1st April 2022