Just hours after government announce new proposals to improve safety in high rise buildings, Labour MP and Shadow Housing Minister Sarah Jones has warned that the risk of another Grenfell is “far too high.”
Outlined in a letter to Housing Minister James Brokenshire, Jones warns that the proposed government commitment to provide £200m in funding for the removal of flammable cladding “does not represent an end to the cladding scandal.”
In an address to Commons today (6th June), Shadow housing secretary John Healey said commitments to building safety should extend to bringing “those culpable” over Grenfell to justice.
As announced by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the proposed funding coincides the outline of new options, including that of clearer responsibilities for those building or managing high rise residential buildings.
Also outlined is:
- A stronger voice in the system and better information for residents
- Greater oversight by regulators
- Tougher enforcement when things go wrong
However, Labour’s Andy Slaughter questioned the timing of the MHCLG releasing the publication during the Grenfell response debate.
Kit Malthouse has acknowledged a need for continued work on improving relationships – and perceptions of relationships – between social housing tenants and providers and stood by rehousing efforts, saying that some outstanding cases were dictated by “specific circumstances.”
In her letter, Jones presses the government to set a deadline for the removal of ACM cladding, adding that funding for this work has still not been fully allocated despite it being announced over a year ago.
But timetabling fire safety works and related legislative reform is, Kit Malthouse says, more complicated than “fixing a date.”
Jones also urges a government guarantee that all flammable cladding will be identified, citing a Labour warning since 2017 that the cladding crisis was not limited to just that of ACM.
“Two years on, you have still not completed testing on samples of non-ACM cladding which may be just as, or more dangerous than the type on Grenfell Tower”, she said.
Victoria Moffett, NHF Grenfell Programme Lead, said housing associations had spent two years “working tirelessly” to replace unsafe cladding, carry out in-depth safety checks and put in place interim safety measures – with some already piloting variations on the government’s new regulations.
“This work to remediate buildings is essential, but it is complex and costly.
“The government needs to ensure the implementation of the new system is fully funded so that housing associations can ensure existing residents are safe in their homes, and continue their other essential work to tackle the housing crisis”, she said.
The letter to Brokenshire continues to urge the importance of putting resident safety first, adding that tenants deserve to know immediately if their block is covered in dangerous materials.
“Ministers continue to insist that building owners are responsible for informing residents. Given reports of residents in buildings with flammable cladding being kept in the dark about this fact, will you commit to communicating directly with residents in blocks with failed cladding?”
In terms of funding, Jones also urges government to clarity what it will exactly cover and if it will “be enough.”
“How will you ensure work is done and whether you will cover costs if this work exceeds £200m?”, she added.
Responding to the announcement of government proposals earlier today, LGA chairman Lord Porter said it was “vital” that there is a consistent approach to buildings across the proposals.
And in this context, Porter said it made “little sense” for the planning gateway set out in the consultation document to only apply to residential buildings above 30 metres in height.
“The proposals announced today do reflect many of the calls we have made, but there is still work to do to drive these reforms forward and this must happen as soon as possible,” he said.
Full letter can be found here: