London Liberal Democrats call for action on cladding

Rightly, we expect Government to step in when the market has gone wrong. Through regulation or remediation, the state is there to protect its citizens.

And yet millions of leaseholders are being horribly let down by the Government. A government which is letting developers off the hook.

The Government and developers have now known for over four years that homes are unsafe – not just with dangerous cladding, but with all sorts of other fire risks which have been identified – and not just on high rise blocks, as I know too well from the local Worcester Park fire in my local area back in 2019 in which 23 low rise flats were destroyed by fire within minutes.

And yet, even though leaseholders bought these homes in good faith, they now face thousands of pounds in bills to put these defects right. Buyers should not be held liable for the faults of sellers and yet, in the case of buying homes, they are.

The Government repeatedly promised to fix this scandal, first in the Fire Safety Bill and now in the Building Safety Bill which is currently passing its way through Parliament. But, once again, leaseholders are being betrayed and there is still no support or protection for them.

Recently I was pleased to join Daisy Cooper MP, Deputy Leader of the Lib Dems and others at the rally in Parliament Square to support the victims of this appalling scandal. We heard first-hand from leaseholders whose lives are being destroyed by this scandal. Living in fear, facing bankruptcy and desperate for the Government to do the right thing.

Liberal Democrats are determined that leaseholders must not pay and we will continue to work to amend any and all relevant legislation to make the Government pick up the bill urgently, which it can then recoup from those responsible. We are also calling for an inquiry into the way the Government has handled this scandal.

Since I was elected as a London Assembly Member in May, I have also used my role at City Hall to continue and support the work started by my colleague Caroline Pidgeon, raising the plight of leaseholders at every opportunity. The Lib Dem Group on the London Assembly have been pushing the Mayor to take four key steps to support those caught up in this scandal, which are:

  • stop working with or funding developers or housing associations that are not taking action to support leaseholders in their existing stock;
  • establish a fire safety victims support hub, to provide mental health and practical advice to leaseholders affected by the scandal;
  • trial a public fire safety risk assessment register in London for residential properties, so that prospective buyers or renters can see the fire safety rating of any potential home; and
  • ensure applicants to the Building Safety Fund and the Waking Watch Relief Fund hear back from the GLA regarding their applications far more quickly.

Being a Liberal Democrat is about making sure that people have a fair opportunity and freedom to live their lives. This scandal is ruining the financial, mental and physical health of leaseholders leaving them trapped in homes which are unsafe or which they can’t sell. It isn’t fair and it is a scandal to just leave them to it.

Leaders – the Mayor and the Government – need to step up and step in. And they need to do so now.

* Hina Bokhari is a Liberal Democrat member of the London Assembly.

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4 Comments

  • Helen Dudden 29th Sep '21 - 8:30am

    I read back as far as 2004 this cladding was known to be a fire hazard. Yet it still carried on.
    With a determined effort the problems could be solved. As layers of this saga are open to transparency, it’s truly shocking the amount of buildings there are.
    When is a fire risk not a fire risk? It seems that when it’s to costly to make safe.

  • Laurence Cox 29th Sep '21 - 12:52pm

    Linked to this, members in the London and Birmingham areas may wish to see “Value Engineering”, which uses verbatim testimony from Part 2 of the ongoing Grenfell Tower inquiry: https://grenfellvalueengineering.com/

  • Rightly, we expect Government to step in when the market has gone wrong.

    It’s the regulation which was wrong as it prioritised insulation over fire safety.

    Liberal Democrats are determined that leaseholders must not pay and we will continue to work to amend any and all relevant legislation to make the Government pick up the bill urgently, which it can then recoup from those responsible.

    Send the bill to the EU who imposed Directive 2010/31/EU…

    ‘The Grenfell Tower fire would not have happened without the EU and global warming’ [July 2017]:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/08/grenfell-tower-fire-would-not-have-happened-without-eu-global/

    By 2002, however, the EU had adopted its inadequate test, incorporating it in a European standard using EN 13501. Under EU law, this became mandatory, leaving the UK’s BS 8414 as only a voluntary option.

    The EU had also become obsessed with the need for better insulation of buildings to combat global warming, which became its only priority. All that mattered was the “thermal efficiency” of materials used for insulation, for which none was to prove better than the polyisocyanurate used in Celotex, the plastic chosen in 2014 for Grenfell.

    Fire experts across Europe have pointed out that the lack of a proper whole system test was ignoring the risk of insulation fires, not least in Germany, where there have been more than 100.

    ‘Brexit: Grenfell Tower – blood on their hands’ [July 2017]:
    http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=86528

    Why this so firmly puts the ball in the EU’s court is that the EU itself has created a situation where combustible material was going to be used – as a matter of necessity – to satisfy its energy efficiency demands. This is in the context where, as the Croatian team points out – there was an indissoluble link between energy performance and fire performance of buildings, when it was already known that the EU-mandated test standard was wholly inadequate. […]

    Putting this together, had the EU made the use of enhanced insulation in buildings conditional on the application of tougher fire tests – which was within its power to do – instead of blocking national attempts to make such testing mandatory, then one can state, without equivocation, that the Grenfell Tower fire would not have occurred. The evidence is there for those that wish to see it.

  • There are so many fundamental failures of the state in this but something urgently needs to be done about mortgage financing. We, and many others, face rising costs not only on service charges but also mortgage repayments.
    Our 5yr fixed term deal ended about 18 months ago so now we are stuck on the lender’s standard variable rate, unable to change lender or even change mortgage product with the existing lender. I would like to see a motion brought forward to force lenders to accept switches to interest-only or product changes with the existing lender for people stuck in this situation. The risk profile from the lender’s perspective is the same and even for interest only at their standard rate they still get their risk covered. This is a simple step that would help alleviate leaseholders’ financial pressure at least to a small degree. This Govt was quick enough to force all lenders to agree to non-means-tested mortgage holidays at the start of C19. Legislating for some flexibility from mortgage lenders for leaseholders stuck in this situation that’s not of their own making should be incredibly simple and cheap.
    As a member this is something I would be proud to see the Lib Dems propose.

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