'There are still hundreds of thousands trapped in unsafe homes'

Twenty care homes in Redbridge failed fire safety inspections which were carried out after the Grenf

It is three and a half years since the Grenfell Tower tragedy - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Ever had the feeling that with everyone and everything so focussed on coronavirus, other serious problems are in real danger of simply being ignored?

It is three and a half years now since the tragic events of the Grenfell fire and despite all the promises made by two prime ministers, three secretaries of state and five ministers of housing, there are still hundreds of thousands of families trapped in unsafe homes – thousands right here in Brent.

That is why I will be voting in Parliament to make sure that the government does not quietly slip the costs of making these families’ homes safe back onto them.

Barry Gardiner, MP for Brent North

Barry Gardiner is campaigning for residents living with unsafe cladding - Credit: Louise Haywood-Schiefer/lhschiefer.com

After Grenfell, I held a public meeting and invited everyone living in high rise blocks in Brent to come and voice their fears and concerns. I invited the borough fire chief and the housing association chief executives too.

The litany of problems we uncovered was extraordinary. Many other fire safety concerns have still not been addressed, and tenants and leaseholders contact me every day about waking watch services, construction defects, faulty alarm systems, malfunctioning fire doors, a lack of firestopping and unfair service charges.

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It is simply not right that because a developer put unsafe cladding on a building, the leaseholder should be having to pay for a waking watch in their service charge, while the developer and the construction company argue about who is going to pay the cost of taking the dangerous material off and putting a safe exterior in its place.

Labour has tabled amendments to the Fire Safety Bill to ensure that leaseholders are protected from these unfair costs, irrespective of whether the defects were in the original design of the building or added later.

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But the government must go further. 

Government has said that developers should pay the cost of remediating these blighted homes, and so they should. But some developers have gone into a convenient liquidation and others are locked in protracted legal wrangling with their contractors. The regulations on building control run around in a circle such that nobody ends up bearing responsibility for the buildings’ design and construction failures.

That is why I have proposed in Parliament that the government should step in and levy a Windfall Tax on the entire construction and house building sector in order to pay for the necessary work and allow thousands of people to get on with their lives.

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