"We have more rights buying
a bloody toaster than buying our own flats"
UPDATE: The House of Lords passed the McPartland-Smith amendment 326 to 248 so it now goes back to the House of Commons. (See below). Maximum pressure must now be put on Tory MPs.
The full extent of the cladding crisis became clear at last night's meeting of Brent and Camden campaigners on the cladding crisis attended by Brent's three Members of Parliament, Dawn Butler, Barry Gardiner and Tulip Siddiq.
Leaseholder after leaseholder told their stories of desperate financial circumstances and even bankruptcy as a result of massive bills for remediation works and waking fire watches, worthless homes as a result of the lack of an EWS1 certificate, and the enormous emotional stress caused by their circumstances and the lack of government action.
Barry Gardiner told the meeting that he couldn't think of any important agency anywhere in the world that would tell a fraudster that those he had defrauded would have to pay his bill. Developers and builders were going into liquidation and setting up shadow companies in order to avoid their responsiibilities. He said people must understand that the system is breaking down at the local level of building control. Responsibility for building control had been shifted from local councils to private companies that, competing for business with each other, did as few checks as they could get away with, thus favoring developers. They then blame each other while meanwhile developers and contractors go into liquidation in so that they don't have to deal with the repercussions of their own shoddy work.
He added that that Labour was doing its best but it was essential that campaigners created as much noise as possible in order to get noticed.
Dawn Butler said she had been taking up the issue of funds not being available for remediation of blocks of under 18 mentres height, this applied to a third of thse in Brent. She had heard of people who lived next door to buildings with cladding not being able to get an EWS1 certificiate. She said the government in the first instance must take control and responsibility for addressing the crisis and then claim the costs back from developers. She said that she would continue to push and pursue this with the Secertary of State but as the Tories had a majority of 80 they would only do soemething if enough pressure was applied, petitions and other actions make a huge difference.
A vital issue discussed was the Fire Safety Bill, going through the House of Lords today (Wednesday). It would put the burden of remediation works directly on leaseholders rather than freeholders or developers. An amendment (McPartland-Smith) has been put that would then bring the Bill back to the Commons.
Sir Peter Bottomley of the All Party Parliamentary Group for leasehold and commonhold reform has said:
“The Fire Safety Bill in its present form places an automatic, unchallengeable financial burden on residential leaseholders for building safety remediation costs, even in circumstances where a Lease may have excluded the obligation.
“The proposed amendments to the Bill are intended to protect leaseholders from being solely responsible for these costs. The Bill strengthens landlord/freeholder’s legal right over leaseholders. The amendments provide for more balanced liability for costs. The amendments should be supported. The alternative wrongly and disproportionally disadvantages innocent leaseholders. Many are unable to pay and are frightened.”
While the amendment does not deliver all that campaigners want it is essential it gets through the Lords today.