12 March 2020 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a new Building Safety Fund worth £1 billion to make sure that all unsafe combustible cladding is removed from every private and social residential building above 18 metres high.
In his first Budget Sunak said: "Two-and-a-half years on, we're still grappling with the tragic legacy of Grenfell. Last year, we allocated £600 million to remove unsafe aluminium composite material [or ACM] from high-rise residential buildings".
He said launching the fund was the right decision because "expert advice is clear that new public funding must concentrate on removing unsafe materials from high-rise residential buildings" because "that is what the independent experts have called for. That is what the select committee has called for. That is even what the Opposition have called for'.
Sunak also announced a Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Infrastructure Fund to establish CCS in at least two UK sites, one by the mid-2020s, a second by 2030. To encourage more environmentally friendly ways of heating homes and other buildings, the government will also introduce a Green Gas Levy to help fund the use of greener fuels, increase the Climate Change Levy that businesses pay on gas, and reopen and extend the Climate Change Agreement scheme by two years.
Sunak said statutory sick pay would also be available for all those who are advised to self-isolate - even if they haven't yet presented with symptoms of novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Mary-Anne Bowring, author of leaseholdersupport.co.uk and group managing director of Ringley, which has more than 10,000 leasehold and private rented homes under management, said: "More than 1,000 days since Grenfell, the government has shown that it is still not ready to act at the scale needed for the cladding crisis. We cannot simply wait for the next crisis to happen, while millions of people are left unsure over the safety of their building.
"There needs to be an acceptance of the scale of the problem and the sums [announced in the Budget] just simply are not enough.
"The crisis goes far beyond removing Grenfell-style cladding. Even leaseholders who have had their cladding found safe are still unable to remortgage or sell their properties due to the challenges of getting a signed EWS1 form. It is not just about dangerous cladding, it is about retrospectively tracing the physical construction of the building, and testing and how all the components and layers of the building act together. Support is needed for leaseholders and freeholders alike to navigate the process of getting their homes certified as safe as we have to retroactively recreate the 'as built' reality of the homes people are living in."