Manufacturers must pay to remove dangerous flat cladding, says Michael Gove

·3-min read
Housing Secretary Michael Gove  (PA Wire)
Housing Secretary Michael Gove (PA Wire)

The Government will take “every step necessary” to ensure the building industry fixes the problem of dangerous cladding, Michael Gove has said.

Four and half years after the Grenfell fire exposed the dangers of cladding, the Housing Secretary said no leaseholder living in a block above 11 metres would have to pay for fixing dangerous problems.

Leaseholders in buildings between 11m to 18m would no longer have to take out loans to pay for removing cladding, Mr Gove confirmed, bringing them in line with those in high-rise blocks.

He said that he had “an absolute assurance” from Chancellor Rishi Sunak that taxes could be imposed on the sector if they did not come forward with a solution.

“We will take action to end this scandal and protect leaseholders,” he said. “We will make industry pay to fix all the remaining problems and help to cover range of costs facing leaseholders.

“Those who manufactured combustible cladding and insulation – many of whom have made vast profits, even at the height of the pandemic – they must pay now instead of leaseholders.”

(Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
(Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

He said while he was seeking a meeting with industry leaders for an agreement, he was ready to “impose a solution on them in law” to cover the estimated £4 billion costs to deal with the issue if needed.

However, Labour’s shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy said a leaked letter from the Treasury Chief Secretary Simon Clarke showed he had warned a decision to impose new taxes was “not a given at this point”.

“It appears what he’s told the public – that tax rises are the backstop – is not what he’s told the Treasury,” she said.

“Has the Chancellor agreed to back a new tax measure if negotiations fail or is he prepared to see his own already allocated budgets, levelling-up funding, or monies for social or affordable funding, raided?”

Mr Gove said he had established a dedicated team within the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to expose and pursue the firms responsible.

He also said he was revising the safety rules for medium rise blocks with greater use of “sensible mitigations” such as sprinklers and fire alarms in place of “unnecessary and costly” remediation work.

Protesters from Leaseholders Together gather at rally in Parliament Square (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire)
Protesters from Leaseholders Together gather at rally in Parliament Square (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire)

The End Our Cladding Scandal welcomed Mr Gove’s revised approach but said his talk needed to be backed by “tough action”.

“It is clear from a leaked Treasury letter over the weekend that Chancellor Rishi Sunak still does not appear to understand the gravity of our situation and is seemingly doing all he can to evade ensuring homeowners are protected,” it said in a statement.

The Grenfell United campaign group, representing survivors and the bereaved, said the change of approach was long overdue.

“The success of this change of tactic remains to be seen. When the reliance is put on those responsible to come forward and provide funds to fix it, our experience gives us little faith,” it said.

However, David O’Leary, policy director at the Home Builders Federation, said the solution needed to go beyond developers and builders.

“There are questions to be asked about the product manufacturing sector. Clearly there are some issues with testing and the testing regime on products on which we are reliant,” he told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

“This is a conversation that needs to go beyond property developers.”

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