Jane Dodds: Welsh Government must act on cladding scandal

A protest was held this Saturday in front of the Senedd steps in Cardiff Bay to demand action by the Welsh Government on the cladding scandal. The meeting was organised by the Welsh Liberal Democrats and is the first hosted by a political party in Wales.

Groups attending included: the Welsh Cladiators, Ripped Off by Redrow and Cymru Cladding Crisis.

Victims of Cardiff’s cladding scandal, unveiled during the wake of the Grenfell disaster are facing bills up to £60,000 each for safety work to fix their unsellable, fire defective homes.

Although the Welsh Government have agreed to fund the recladding of social housing, many private leaseholders are still facing both the costs of recladding and interim safety costs themselves.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have called on the Welsh Government to introduce a Welsh Building Safety Fund to deal with all fire safety defects as quickly as possible and ensure no tenant or leaseholder is left out of pocket.

Jane Dodds said:

“It is utterly appalling that over four years on from Grenfell we still have people being trapped in unsafe buildings and let down by those in power. People should absolutely not be forced to front the cost for the serious mistakes of property developers.

“The Welsh Government needs to urgently step in and provide funds to fix all fire safety defects as soon as possible. It should then be up to the Government to pursue property developers to claim the money back. We cannot have people living in limbo and unsafe buildings while they try and chase property developers for funds.

“The stories we have heard at this protest are really harrowing and the Government urgently needs to engage with those affected and step up to the situation.”

Lib Dem Councillor Rhys Taylor said:

“This is a national scandal and yet most politicians are mostly silent on the issue. People have waited far to long for action and are trapped in potentially unsafe homes. These leaves not only the possibility of another disaster on the horizon, but is having hugely negative impacts on the finances and mental health of those affected.

“Welsh Labour urgently need to introduce funding for those in private leaseholds to fix cladding issues. Many of the people we’ve spoken to simply cannot afford to make the changes themselves, let alone wait while they chase property developers. The Welsh Government on the other hand has the financial power to do this.

“We heard from one protestor who was paying over £500 of her £8000 pension out in service charges and repair charges for her flat.

“It was disappointing to hear from so many at the protest about the lack of engagement from the Welsh Labour Government and Labour-run Cardiff Council.”

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  • Brad Barrows 31st Jan '22 - 11:41am

    This is a complex issue because it is not usually the job of government to pay the cost of upgrading work on privately owned property unless the need for the upgrading is due to a failure on the part of the government. In the case of replacing cladding on buildings, the company that did the work would be liable if it failed to comply with building regulations, unless it had been wrongly advised by council planning officials who indicated that the proposed work would comply with regulations and then signed the work off as doing so. Either way, the liability is not the Welsh government’s.

  • John Marriott 31st Jan '22 - 5:08pm

    I’ve never fully understood why cladding was used in the first place. Given that most blocks of flats are built out of poured concrete, which leaves them rather unattractive, I assume that the purpose of covering over the concrete is mainly for cosmetic reasons. Apparently it was complaints from more well heeled residents that ‘encouraged’ the council to add cladding to Grenfell Tower, when it was refurbished some years ago.

    So, if the cladding of such buildings is not an integral part of their construction, why bother to replace it? Unless, of course, somebody who understands these matters can tell me otherwise.

  • Ian Sanderson (RM3) 1st Feb ’22 – 2:22pm:
    The government does have a responsibility in all this as it sets the regulatory system for construction and materials, and this has failed.

    BS8414 was not used…

    ‘Unravelling the real story behind the Grenfell tragedy should be tackled now, not in November’ [May 2018]:

    This problem had first come to light after two previous tower-block fires in 1989 and 1999, when that inquiry led to the Building Research Establishment (BRE) producing a new British Standard, BS8414. This was to replace the existing “single burn” fire safety test, which only required each material involved in refurbishing tower blocks to be tested separately, with a new “whole system test”, to determine how they all acted together in combination.

    But in 2002 the EU had become so preoccupied with the need for better insulation of buildings, as a way of reducing CO2 emissions to combat global warming, that it issued a directive concerned only with maximum “thermal efficiency”. On fire safety it required only the dangerously inadequate “single burn test”.

    The British were still free to use their BS8414 test if they wished. But under EU law this could not be made mandatory and it was significantly more expensive. So, unsurprisingly, with thousands of tower blocks needing external refurbishment, councils went for the cheaper option.

    …the fact is that if the BRE’s BS8414 test had been properly applied – as subsequent demonstrations confirmed – that dreadful conflagration would never have happened.

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