'The cladding and fire safety scandal continues to grow'

Protesters from Leaseholders Together gather at rally in Parliament Square, Westminster, London

Protesters from Leaseholders Together at rally in Parliament Square - Credit: Kirsty O'Connor/PA

If the prime minister doesn’t care about cancer outcomes, what hope have we that he cares about the building and fire safety scandal?

The number of residents impacted by the cladding and fire safety scandal continues to rise. Having met with hundreds of residents across Barnet and Camden impacted by the scandal, what always strikes me is how expert they become so quickly. It’s all around them-some have put off having families or adding another child to the family. It’s broken up relationships, wrecked finances and sadly led to the suicide of Tom Mansell last week, a 37-year-old who couldn’t see any other way out.

I was contacted by residents in one block whose insurance costs have risen by 400%, along with service charges increasing to over £1,000/month to cover a waking watch. Their building is surrounded by polystyrene and topped by Grenfell-style cladding. Their flammable wooden balconies are already showing signs of weather. The residents don’t yet know the full cost of remediating their building, but they do know that like most impacted buildings, it falls short of the 18m rule where the government would pay to remove the dangerous cladding.

Anne Clarke, Labour Party London Assembly candidate for Barnet and Camden

Anne Clarke AM has been meeting with residents impacted by the cladding scandal - Credit: Anne Clarke/Labour

I met with the management company to see if there was anything they could do to shield residents from the worst of these costs. The managing agent was in tears. She’s worried about the people who live there, loses sleep that they are not safe and tells me that she can’t see an end in sight.

There are now many waking watches in London. This is not only financially ruinous for those directly impacted, but It puts pressure on the fire brigade, which is now being expected to work harder to keep London’s built environment safe without additional government funding for the extra work this requires.

It also puts financial pressure on local councils, which are now providing support and collecting data on buildings in a way that was completely unforeseen pre-Grenfell. Social tenants have spent winters without exterior cladding, which has left their flats cold and often damp.

The government has failed to get to grips with the scale of these problems. The Fire Safety Bill has at last become law, but amendments that would have protected leaseholders from costs were rejected. For the thousands of leaseholders across London affected, it offers no protection from bankruptcy and no end to the safety scandal.

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The Grenfell tragedy was over four years ago, but here we still are with no real plan from government. I do hope that Michael Gove, our new secretary of state for "levelling up, housing and communities", gives the building safety scandal the priority it deserves.

Anne Clarke (Labour) is member of the London Assembly for Barnet and Camden.