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Powell goes to bat for residents failed by govt over cladding removal costs

Manchester back-bencher Lucy Powell took on May’s failure – and weighed in on Johnson
Lucy Powell in the Commons chamber two weeks ago

Jeremy Corbyn raised Theresa May’s abject failure to keep its promises to Grenfell Tower survivors during Prime Minister’s Questions last week and received the usual meaningless ‘answer’ from a PM who seems to have learned no humility at all from her impending and ignominious departure from office.

But a Labour backbencher has also been fighting for those at risk of a new disaster like Grenfell: the thousands whose homes are clad in similar flammable materials and who face bills of may tens of thousands of pounds to remove cladding they played no part in installing.

Two weeks ago, Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell raised in the Commons the issue of huge numbers of apartment block residents who will not be covered by the government’s inadequate compensation scheme:

Ms Powell said:

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for hosting Grenfell United today. I hope you will continue that tradition.

I have hundreds, if not thousands, of constituents living in dangerous or potentially dangerous high-rise buildings. While I welcome the Government’s cladding fund for private blocks, many of those blocks are still waiting to hear from the Government whether they will be eligible for that fund. Meanwhile, their residents are trapped in dangerous properties, with their lives completely on hold as they wait for that information.

The fund does not cover many buildings in my constituency that have other cladding—not ACM cladding—or that have no firebreaks or other safety concerns. Residents in Skyline Central 1 face demands of up to £25,000 each to re-clad their building, and those in Burton Place face demands of up to £80,000 each. Those costs will not, as it stands, be covered by the fund.

As there are a very high number of private blocks in my constituency, will the Secretary of State come to Manchester to meet some of these residents and talk about how we can make their lives safe and free them from the trap they are in, with properties that they cannot sell and are frightened to live in?

The answer from Communities Secretary James Brokenshire was as vague and non-committal as the nation has come to expect from Tory ministers. So a week later Powell also wrote to likely next Tory PM Boris Johnson to ask him to ensure that the people affected – who are in many cases essentially trapped in unsellable homes that they cannot afford to fix or leave – are helped urgently if he takes up residence in number 10:

Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP
House of Commons

Tuesday 18th June

Dear Boris

I am writing to you as a prospective Prime Ministerial candidate to raise the important issue of fire safety currently affecting thousands of my constituents in Manchester, and many more across the UK.

It is now two years since the Grenfell Tower tragedy. In that time, the Government has proactively addressed public buildings with the same cladding (“ACM”). However, it has taken significantly longer for the Government to step-up and provide a solution for those living in ACM-clad privately-owned blocks.

As I write, many of these are waiting to hear if the recently announced £200m fund will help them. And the majority are still waiting for works to start and are unable to re-mortgage or sell.

If you are appointed Prime Minister, I ask that you commit to providing details of the fund, get works underway and completed as soon as possible, and convene senior figures from the mortgage industry to free residents from being mortgage prisoners.

A growing number of residents are living in blocks facing other significant fire safety issues. These include problems with other unsafe cladding, insulation and fire breaks.

Residents in one block in my constituency, Skyline Central 1, have recently been issued with payment demands for £15,000 to £25,000 each. Residents in another block, Burton Place, are being consulted on works of up to £80,000 each.

These are life changing sums for residents, many of whom are first time buyers. Their properties are effectively unsellable and unrentable while these costs hang over them. They are trapped. More importantly, the combination of these bills and the daily fear of living in an unsafe building is leading to severe stress and anxiety. Leading, in a growing number of cases, to mental health and other health issues.

This problem is growing, with residents from new blocks approaching me every week. Government have repeatedly promised that residents will not pay – however, this is a hollow promise for the residents I am dealing with here and now.

If you are appointed Prime Minister, I ask that you expand the new Government fund to meet the needs of these additional fire safety issues so that these residents do not experience a cladding lottery.

Whilst the Government is making important changes to building control following the Hackitt review recommendations, for those living in unsafe buildings there is still a genuine risk of another Grenfell-style tragedy.

I hope that you will place building fire safety high on your agenda and be a champion for people living in unsafe homes.

Kind Regards,

Lucy Powell
Labour and Co-operative MP for Manchester Central

CC James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government
CC Kit Malthouse MP, Minister for Housing

As London mayor, Johnson infamously told London Assembly members to ‘get stuffed‘ when they challenged his cuts to fire services, so a meaningful response or action from him is unlikely.

But Labour MPs continue to fight for the safety and quality of life of the people of this country against a party that is quick to speak platitudes and make empty promises but shows no real concern or action.

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  1. It would have sent out a much clearer message that Labour are the party that cares if the Labour benches had been full.

  2. The idiocy here is that what would have saved every one of the Grenfell residents, and what would save every other resident of every other tower block, clad or not, are sprinklers in the stairwells.
    Nowhere near the cost of stripping the cladding and replacing it.

    When sprinklers have been considered they’ve been judged too expensive and too tricky to retrofit on the basis of protecting every internal volume – which is completely unnecessary.
    Sprinklers anywhere inside the buildings won’t prevent fire spreading on the outside cladding, and removing the cladding does nothing to address other fire risks.
    Sprinklers in the stairwells alone are enough to let everyone escape and to let firefighters attack a blaze from any floor while keeping their escape route clear.

    The cladding should be replaced of course and at no cost to residents, none of whom bear responsibility for selecting inadequate and dangerous building materials.

    1. You may have saved lives ,if your suggestion is accepted We can only hope that someone listens before any more lives are lost because ordinary people are worth nothing to the Tory s.Charges of manslaughter should be levelled against the Council and the manufacturing company’s responsible.It has been an open secret in the construction industry for decades that a lot of the insulation was flammable and highly toxic.Money talks and working class lives are cheap,under the Tory regime!

  3. Simon McCoy on BBC news just said “…but Tories don’t like intrusive neighbours…” referring to Tom Penn, Borisgate and whether it would adversely affect BloJo’s chances.
    “Intrusive neighbours” ffs.
    First job – sack the BBC.

  4. With the money wasted on boris’ water canon you could have retro fitted sprinklers to three tower blocks the size of Grenfell

    1. Insignificant compared to what the Tories pissed away on the failed Garden Bridge.
      £53m total, £43m of which was public money.
      Mostly Johnson’s fault because he had oversight, but Cameron kept on underwriting the project against the advice of civil servants, who advised shitcanning it because of unpredictable cost over-runs.
      Even Boris Bikes have turned out to be a tourist trap rip-off. Not on the same scale as timeshares, PPI or pensions but they were all scams sanctioned by governments.
      A plague of locusts would be preferable to having that wanker or any other Tory as PM.
      And when we’re in power we need a government agency to identify these scams early and jail the scammers – including the corporate ones.

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