Inside Housing magazine recently reported that the Welsh government is ‘actively exploring options’ to protect leaseholders from cladding costs.
The housing minister Julie James told the magazine that the Welsh government is currently “considering funding models” to pay for remediation work. However, it warned that whatever option it pursues is “not likely to result in a completely satisfactory result for all”.
Responding to a question from Inside Housing, the Welsh government said it is not yet making a commitment that leaseholders will not have to pay for works.
As well as central government funds which are available to replace the Grenfell style ACM cladding, the minister also said: “Defects such as compartmentation and more proactive measures such as the installation of sprinklers” [in addition to the removal of cladding] were being considered by the Welsh government.
This differs from the approach taken by the UK government in England, where the Building Safety Fund applies to cladding work only.
Meanwhile addressing a joint meeting in Westminster of the All Party Parliamentary Groups for Leasehold and Fire Safety former Labour minister Hilary Benn, MP for Leeds Central said: “At first the UK government said that leaseholders should not have to pay. Now it is talking of financing solutions that protect leaseholders from unaffordable costs.”
Mr Benn did not have any opposition to passing on loans to freeholders, so long as the costs are not passed on to leaseholders.
Lord Stephen Greenhalgh, housing minister for leasehold and cladding, told the APPGs of leasehold reform and fire safety that the government was determined to reform leasehold and respond to the Law Commission’s reform proposals.
Daisy Cooper, LibDem MP for St Albans, urged the minister to bring some certainty to the cladding scandal. “It is the uncertainty for leaseholders in knowing when this cladding will be removed, and how much it will cost”.
“Can we produce a timetable, like the end of 2021, so that they can get on with planning their lives?”
According to the report here Lord Greenhalgh offered little detail, beyond a repetition of his sincere engagement with the issue. “We are straining every sinew to sort this out. The best minds in government are working on this.
“We do need certainty, but what we propose must also work. England has 11,000 high rise blocks compared with Scotland’s 150; Wales 50; and Victoria and New South Wales, in Australia, around 200.”
Lord Greenhalgh did not accept that the responsibility for the cladding scandal was with government.
His view wasn’t shared by the human rights barrister Michael Mansfield QC: “The government has got to pick up the bill for cladding. It is doing it with Covid and it will have to do it here, too.
“Imagine being the mother of three kids living in one of these flats, with national lockdown shortly before us, living there cooped up all day long.
“Government has got to take the lead on this and get things done.”
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