The scale and scope of the cladding and fire safety scandal is growing larger and larger every week. Nationally, it is predicted that 89% of developments are failing fire safety assessments and the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership believe that 2.8 million flats require EWS1 forms.
Locally, my own campaigning on this issue began with two blocks in the constituency, and has since grown to nearly 20 different developments across Wandsworth. I have been writing to Freeholders and Property Managers to urge them to protect leaseholders from bearing the costs of fire safety work and speed up applications to the Building Safety Fund.
Sadly however, it is clear that Freeholders realise that the law is on their side, and many (but not all) Property Managers are not taking their responsibility for applying for funds seriously – despite receiving considerable service charge payments from leaseholders.
The Government have stated eleven times that leaseholders should not be footing the bill. This is eleven promises that they have made. The draft Building Safety Bill broke all eleven of these promises, and just as worryingly Lord Greenhalgh seemed to row back of these promises in the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee last Monday.
I am Chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Labour Backbench Group and I arranged a meeting on Wednesday with other Labour MPs and the Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, Thangam Debbonaire last Wednesday on the cladding crisis. The Labour Frontbench are engaging heavily with Residents’ Associations across the country and they have also very recently intervened on the Government on the EWS1 issue. Our ultimate aim is to keep holding the Government to account on their promises to leaseholders, ensuring those responsible foot the bill for fire safety works and ending this injustice.
On both cladding and EWS1 issues, we are exploring new pragmatic solutions with a focus on the upcoming Building Safety Bill, which is our best chance to achieve real change.
It now looks like the Building Safety Bill will not be coming before Parliament this year, and is likely to do so early in 2021. We will wait and see what revisions to the Bill are made following its pre-legislative scrutiny phase, but unless major changes are made my Labour colleagues and I will be seeking amendments. I am also hoping to be selected to go on the Bill Committee when it reaches the Committee Stage.
Until then, the campaign continues. My colleagues and I will keep using all the Parliamentary tools at our disposal to hold the Government to their promises, and rest assured this is firmly on the Labour Frontbench’s agenda. I would also encourage you – if you have not already done so – to form or join a Resident’s Association which is officially recognised. Having residents come together to organise and mobilise and fight this is going to be crucial if we are going to be successful.