Residents in flat blocks with unsafe cladding still waiting for details on Government help scheme, MP says

Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn has said those who live in flats with dangerous cladding are still waiting for details on how a Government scheme which promises to pay for safety repairs will work, as a new report found 70 per cent of respondents still had combustible cladding on their building.

Earlier this year the Government announced a new £1bn fund to pay for the removal and replacement of unsafe cladding for high-rise buildings.

This was on top of £600m already pledged to remove the type of cladding which was on Grenfell Tower.

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Owners of flats in a dozen buildings in and around Leeds were reported to be paying up to £400 a month each for 24-hour fire marshalls as an interim measure to avoid being evicted, after West Yorkshire Fire Service inspectors found their buildings were unsafe.

Grenfell Tower, where a devastating fire nearly three years ago unearthed issues with unsafe cladding. Photo: PA

And less than three weeks ago Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, along with the mayors of Greater Manchester, Sheffield City Region, London, Liverpool City Region and the West Midlands, pledged their support to ensure vital safety work to remove the dangerous cladding could continue as long as social distancing rules are being followed.

But last week he said work to remove unsafe cladding on high-rise tower blocks has come to a halt on up to 60 per cent of sites due to coronavirus.

Yesterday a report from the Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee found residents continue to face bills of thousands of pounds and some residents were still having to pay for round the clock fire watches, facing higher insurance premiums or increased service charges.

Labour’s Mr Benn, who has been raising the issue, said: “My constituents who are leaseholders are continuing to face the nightmare of an unsafe home, the cost of waking watch bills, and they still have no idea when their homes are going to be made safe.

“And we urgently need the Government to set out how their funding will in practice be available to get this work started as soon as possible.”

Committee chair and Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts said: “It is vital that we get an understanding of the reality of the situation for thousands across the country as we continue our work into cladding remediation.

“What we have heard is not encouraging and it appears that much more will need to be done if people are to feel safe in their homes, and no longer face the stress of large bills to resolve issues not of their making.

“The Housing, Communities and Local Government will continue to hold the Government and industry to account while the issues remain widespread.”

Mr Jenrick said at the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing yesterday: "The Government has been determined to ensure that the vital work of keeping people safe in their homes also continues.

“So with the support of the mayors of London, of the Liverpool City Region, of Greater Manchester, of Sheffield, of the West Midlands, and others, we were able to announce the building safety pledge. These mayors have come together because they have a number of the high rise buildings with highly flammable cladding in their respective regions.

“And the pledge that we agreed sends a very clear message that vital building safety work must continue despite the coronavirus pandemic, and we've been joined by 25 local authorities including 18 in London, who’ve also given their fulsome support, as work on many of these critical sites was paused early on, it's now slowly starting to reassume as a result of this initiative, and I would urge any building owner or contractor to do so, as soon as practicable where it's safe to begin work once again.”