More funding for cladding costs likely after MPs' vote

Albert House in Woolwich, which has cladding that since Grenfell has been deemed unsafe.

Government action, including an increased funding package, to address the growing cladding costs scandal appears increasingly likely after a Labour motion calling for measures "to protect leaseholders and taxpayers from the cost by pursuing those responsible for the cladding crisis" was passed unopposed by MPs after the Conservative leadership asked its MPs to abstain.

Although the result of the vote is not binding on the government, pressure is increasing on ministers to act after Labour leader Keir Starmer set out a series of demands to tackle the growing cladding scandal, as new figures from Labour suggested up to 11 million people are at risk from life-changing cladding costs and unsellable properties.

Before the vote in parliament last night, Labour called for a new National Cladding Taskforce, modelled on the successful approach taken in Australia, to get a grip on the deepening cladding crisis and protect leaseholders from bearing the cost. As analysis shows one in six UK homes are now at risk from the cladding scandal, Starmer also set out a comprehensive set of policy demands to kickstart action from the UK government.

Labour's proposed taskforce would ensure that costs are not passed on to residents and those responsible for fitting unsafe cladding are pursued.

The National Cladding Taskforce would drive forward Labour’s six demands for safer homes, which include:

  • Immediate up-front funding for removing deadly cladding and other urgent fire safety work;
  • Protecting leaseholders and taxpayers by pursuing those responsible for the cladding scandal for costs;
  • A new, legally enforceable 2022 deadline to make homes safe;
  • Legislation to protect residents from costs;
  • Getting the market moving by ensuring affected residents can sell and re-mortgage;
  • Stamping out rogue builders by reforming the sector.

Labour is calling for a National Cladding Taskforce to drive this work after years of delays and what they describe as "ineffective measures" from the government. The taskforce would be given strong powers to establish the full extent of dangerous materials on buildings, prioritise them according to risk and ensure there is enforcement against those who refuse to undertake works.

Labour’s analysis of figures from the New Build Database and the ONS suggests the cladding scandal could be even larger than previously thought, affecting as many as 11 million people. The New Build Database estimates the scandal may affect up to 4.6 million properties, with an average of 2.4 residents per property. Data also shows the scandal risks freezing the entire market for flats, after sales halved compared to last year.

Shadow housing secretary Thangam Debbonaire said the situation was “extraordinary”. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “Nearly four years on from the Grenfell fire tragedy, in which 72 people lost their lives, there are still hundreds of thousands of people across the country in a situation where they’ve got either dangerous cladding or other fire risks and are being faced with huge charges, skyrocketing insurance, and it’s almost impossible to sell their homes.

“There are models around the world of how to do that recouping of cost,” Debbonaire said. “If you bought a car and it was found to be dangerous, you wouldn’t be expected to take out a loan to mend it. And this is people’s homes. This is bigger than party politics – this is about people’s lives, and feeling safe in their own home, and protecting them from going bankrupt.”

Following the vote of MPs, reports emerged that the government was planning to provide substantial extra funding to head off a growing rebellion by its own MPs on the issue. At least 35 Conservative MPs have signed an amendment to ensure that the cost of replacing unsafe cladding does not fall on homeowners and the funding required is thought to amount to billions of pounds. Housing minister Chris Pincher said the government would announce a financial solution "very shortly".

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