The Mayor of Tower Hamlets in London has responded to the announcement of additional funding to remove unsafe cladding and called for the government to move fast and go further to protect residents and ensure they are not picking up the burden of costs.
Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, announced last week that a further £3.5 billion will be available to ensure that all leaseholders in high-rise flats more than 18 metres or six storeys and above will not have to pay for replacing cladding.
However, those leaseholders in lower or medium blocks where remedial cladding work is needed will not be eligible for this funding and will instead have to pay up to £50 a month for cladding replacement through a long-term loan scheme.
The government will also be introducing a new levy that will be levelled against developers when seeking permission to build high-rise blocks in the future.
The ‘gateway levy’ is expected to raise £2 billion from the country’s largest developers in the next 10 years and will be used to fix historic fire safety defects.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “In Tower Hamlets we have one of the greatest number of buildings with external wall systems known to contain combustible material. I have met with many residents who saved up to buy homes that they can’t sell and have spent the last four years in a nightmare situation where they are trapped in unsafe homes and have no way of covering the costs of these safety measures.
“We have been lobbying Westminster to recognise the dire needs of these leaseholders and provide them with the necessary financial support they need. The announcement of this new funding is welcome, but it has taken far too long for the government to act and I remain concerned that it saddles leaseholders with debt and only focuses on cladding and not other fire safety issues so the government needs to recognise that more support is needed."
Councillor Eve McQuillan, cabinet member for planning and social inclusion, said: “It’s shocking that over three years on from the Grenfell Fire, residents are still living in unsafe blocks. We’ve seen the government make announcements on this before but our residents need action and we will continue to lobby on their behalf.
“We need to look at the detail of the funding arrangements announcement but I welcome the setting up of an independent task force to identify the most dangerous buildings so that the cladding removal can be expedited.”
In 2020 the government had set up a £1.6 billion building safety fund. Figures from last year showed that Tower Hamlets had the highest number of buildings that had registered for the fund.
The new funding means £5 billion will now be available.
The funding announcement does not cover shared ownership properties or offer additional powers or money for councils to carry out enforcement.