Shadow fire service minister, Sarah Jones, said: “Safety should be the Government’s top priority, but almost four years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, hundreds of thousands of people are trapped in dangerous homes that they can’t sell.
“Residents are calling out for the Government to do the right thing, protect leaseholders in law, and let the innocent residents move on with their lives.”
The Government banned flammable cladding on buildings over 18 metres tall but, almost four years after the Grenfell Tower fire, an estimated 400,000 people are still living in tall buildings fitted with flammable cladding with many more in buildings below the 18-metre threshold.
When the Fire Safety Bill was previously in the House of Commons, 38 Conservative MPs signed an amendment to protect leaseholders from costs, but in the end, none voted to do so.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced funding for the remediation of dangerous cladding last month which did not cover buildings below 18m. Neither cladding nor fire safety were mentioned once in the Government’s Spring Budget.
Opposition parties have now called for a new National Cladding Taskforce to get a grip of the crisis. The group would be given strong powers to establish the full extent of dangerous materials on buildings, prioritise them according to risk and ensure there is enforcement against those who refuse to undertake works.
Shadow housing secretary Thangam Debbonaire said: “Conservative ministers promised that residents would not be burdened with these costs, at least 17 times by my count. Yet the latest announcement heaps years of debt onto the victims of this scandal.
“Across the country, Conservatives’ constituents living in these flats will be rightly angry as their MPs are not speaking up for them. I’m calling on all MPs, whatever their political party, to speak up for their constituents and vote to protect leaseholders from these outrageous costs.”
A Government spokesperson said: “Our approach to fire safety is based on longstanding independent expert advice and evidence – which shows higher buildings have a higher risk and this is recognised globally.
“We’ve rightly focussed on buildings over 18m with unsafe cladding and we’re spending billions of pounds to make people’s homes safer.
“We support the intention to protect leaseholders from remediation costs but disagree that the Fire Safety Bill is the right vehicle to address this issue.”
The Conservative Party was approached for comment.