Essential workers in Southwark ‘face fire safety bills of £85,000 per person’

·3-min read
Oyster Court, Crampton Street  (wikimediacommons/geograph.org.uk)
Oyster Court, Crampton Street (wikimediacommons/geograph.org.uk)

Essential workers in south London are among those facing huge financial fire-safety bills reportedly in the region of £85,000 per person despite residents only owning a percentage of their homes.

Optivo, the housing association, have reportedly told residents of shared ownership properties in Oyster Court, Southwark, they face a total bill of about £2.6 million.

The Guardian reports this is the alleged cost of fixing issues such as missing firebreaks, combustible cladding and wooden balconies which are in place at the property.

The property houses a number of key workers, who bought their homes through shared ownership schemes. But under their contracts, they are obliged to stump up the entire cost of any remediation bill.

As the building is under 18 metres (59ft) tall, the costs will not be covered by the government’s planned £5billion bailout.

This is reserved to fix fire safety issues high-rise towers with cladding in light of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Grenfell Tower in west London (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Wire)
Grenfell Tower in west London (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Wire)

Optivo said it was waiting for clarity as to whether residents would qualify for government repayment loans, the Guardian reports.

The newspaper suggests a neighbouring, private sale block, where two-bed properties sold for £620,000 will see the government fund their bill as it it over 18 metres.

Emma McGovern, a teacher and mother of four who owns 45 per cent of her home with a £120,000 mortgage, said to The Guardian: “It’s insane. I don’t know any teacher who has £85,000.”

Optivo said in a statement: “Our evidence shows work is required at Oyster Court to ensure residents’ safety … We completely understand the situation around fire remediation costs is continuing to cause concern for affected leaseholders, including our residents at Oyster Court.

“We empathise with the difficult position leaseholders find themselves in and we’ll continue to lobby the government to protect them from these costs.”

It is the latest case in the growing cladding scandal crisis that Michael Gove, the secretary of state for levelling up, communities and housing, has been tasked with sorting.

Last month, Gove was given the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which was then renamed the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities – underlining its central role in delivering the Government’s agenda.

At the same time former Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane has been appointed head of a new levelling up taskforce formed jointly by Mr Gove and the Prime Minister.

In addition, Downing Street said Mr Gove was being given the title of Minister for Intergovernmental Relations with responsibility for UK governance and elections and co-ordinating with the devolved administrations.

New Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)
New Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

Announcing the appointments, Mr Johnson said: “This Government is committed to uniting and levelling up every part of the UK and I am determined that as we build back better from the pandemic we are geared up with the teams and expertise to deliver on that promise.

“Andy is uniquely qualified to lead our efforts to raise living standards, spread opportunity, improve our public services and restore people’s sense of pride in their communities.

“I look forward to working with him, and with my new ministerial team, to deliver the opportunities this country needs.”

Mr Gove said he was “thrilled” to be taking on the Levelling Up agenda, which he described as “the defining mission of this Government”.

“With a superb team of ministers and officials in a new department, our relentless focus will be on delivering for those overlooked families and undervalued communities across the United Kingdom,” he said.

“We have a unique opportunity to make a real difference to people’s lives.”

Mr Haldane, who is joining the Cabinet Office on a six month secondment from the Royal Society of Arts, where he is chief executive, said: “Levelling up the UK is one of the signature challenges of our time.

“It has also been a personal passion throughout my professional career so I am delighted and honoured to be making a contribution to this crucial objective.”

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