MP: Government should fund removal of flammable cladding from high-rises


The Government should pay the upfront costs of removing flammable cladding from tower blocks to ensure the immediate safety of residents, an MP said.

Labour MP Steve Reed urged central Government to act immediately, after it emerged residents from a privately owned block in his south London constituency were facing a £2 million bill to replace its Grenfell-style cladding.

Leaseholders at Citiscape in Croydon, which has aluminium composite material (ACM) panels, thought to have fuelled the fire at Grenfell Tower, are appealing for the public's help in their "David and Goliath" fight.

The frightened residents have been told by their property management company that the cost of a new cladding system for the 10-storey block will likely be covered through service charges, which would be borne collectively by leaseholders.

The ACM cladding panels on the outside of Citiscape tower block (Anuj Vats/PA)
The ACM cladding panels on the outside of the Citiscape block (Anuj Vats/PA)

A hearing at a first-tier property tribunal will take place on February 6 to determine where the costs should fall.

Mr Reed told the Press Association: "Above all else here there's a threat to life, and that must trump everything else. Given there are ongoing legal uncertainties, the Government needs to come up with the money.

"You've got people now afraid to sleep at night worried about whether they'll wake up the next morning or not. The Government needs to get in there and protect these people.

"Whether they later on then have to attempt to claim that money back, is a matter for discussion, but right now the Government needs to make sure people are safe in their homes."

Smoke billowing from the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London (Rick Findler/PA)
Smoke billowing from the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London (Rick Findler/PA)

"They need to answer a question here. What would they say if another Grenfell-style tragedy happened because they had chosen to do nothing?"

Mr Reed raised concerns last year with Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, who replied he would urge landlords to "not attempt to pass on costs to leaseholders".

The MP said he would be writing again and that he was seeking an emergency debate on the matter.

The building is one of 228 across the country which failed fire safety tests carried out by the then-named Department for Communities and Local Government in the weeks after the blaze, in which 71 people died.

Statement from the Independent Expert Advisory Panel on cladding tests following the #GrenfellTower fire.

-- Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Govt (@mhclg) June 30, 2017

FirstPort Property Services, the building's property manager, was advised in August that measures should be taken to replace the cladding.

Alexandra Blanc, 37, who bought her flat in 2014, said: "We are not asking for a handout. We are asking for them to fix a broken system.

"This is a David and Goliath fight."

Anuj Vats, a first-floor Citiscape resident, bought his flat in November 2016 with all his savings and said he was now questioning his decision.

He set up a Go Fund Me page last week after learning the total amount would be between £1.8 and £2 million.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid speaks in the House of Commons (PA)
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid speaks in the House of Commons (PA)

The 41-year-old said: "I'm not saying it should be the public's role (to help us).

"I personally would not be able to pay that much money within the short duration time and we haven't heard any concrete response from Government so far, that they will try to help us or put some measures in place to safeguard our interests, our lives and our homes.

"So that's when I put up the page - to seek broader public support and interest. Because if the Government is not able to help us, by directing the freeholder/landlord then where else can we go? What can we do?"

He said, should the cost of the cladding be covered, then any money raised would be diverted to other residents in the same situation.

A Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) spokesman said: "Keeping people safe in their homes is paramount.

"We are clear we want to see private-sector landlords follow the lead of the social sector and not pass on the costs of essential cladding replacement to leaseholders. We are keeping the situation under review."