Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who thinks nothing of getting rich party donors to pay for lavish gold flock wallpaper costing tens of thousands of pounds for his Downing Street flat, has this week refused to offer help to hard-pressed residents in a Croydon block who are facing bills of £23,000 each to have dangerous, potentially flammable cladding removed.
Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones raised the issue of Bridge House, a block on Waterworks Yard, just off Surrey Street, at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
“My constituents in Bridge House, Croydon, live in flats covered in dangerous cladding that will cost millions to remove,” Jones told the House of Commons.
“They are not eligible for the government’s building safety fund because it is the ‘wrong’ type of cladding.
“Can the Prime Minister confirm: do my constituents have to pay the £23,000 each that they are being charged to remove this cladding, or does he have a better plan?”
According to the specialist website InsideHousing.com, since the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017, when 72 people perished as fire caught hold outside the block through its cladding, it is estimated that nearly 24,000 people live in residential blocks which are covered in potentially dangerous cladding. As many as 600 blocks could be affected.
But Johnson’s off-hand reply to the Croydon MP did not offer much hope for the long-suffering Bridge House residents.
“If the honourable Lady’s constituents are being told that they do not have to remove that cladding, then the answer is, ‘No’,” Johnson said.
“It is very, very important that this House should recognise that too many buildings have been unnecessarily – unfairly, I believe — categorised as dangerous and unsafe. Of course we must remove dangerous cladding, and we are doing that, but I want householders and leaseholders — people living in flats across this country — to have the confidence that they can do so in safety, and that is what this government are doing.”
Or, more accurately, what this government is not doing.
Despite pledges made in the immediate aftermath of Grenfell that the government would underwrite the removal and making safe of cladding on other affected blocks, in the four years since, the Tories have left it to the building owners and developers to sort out the issues.
One block in Croydon, Citiscape, on Drummond Road and Frith Road in Old Town, earlier this year became the first to be bought back by its builders in order to resolve issues around the building’s dangerous Grenfell-like aluminium composite material cladding.
There is no such solution on offer for the leaseholders and tenants in Bridge House, who have had a tough year dealing with less-than-attentive managing agents, including sometimes going for days without any reliable water supplies.
“While it’s right to put residents of cladded buildings first, the leaseholders should not have to bear the brunt of required building alterations, not to mention the inability to sell – particularly as they had no idea that these financial burdens would be imposed when they first purchased them,” said Ruban Selvanayagam, of home-buying company Property Solvers.
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