Bethnal Green and Bow MP accuses government of ‘shirking’ responsibility over cladding
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An MP has demanded the government prioritise the removal of flammable cladding, amid concerns that too many buildings are still at risk three years on from Grenfell.
Bethnal Green and Bow MP Rusharana Ali faced off against Christopher Pincher, the conservative minister for housing, communities and local government at an adjournment debate last night (Tuesday July 14).
Ms Ali — long since involved in this campaign — used this occasion to once again outline its importance to her Tower Hamlets constituency.
The MP began by highlighting that an estimated 60,000 people still live in buildings covered with the aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding that caused the rapid spread of the fire at Grenfell Tower.
While welcoming the £1.6bn of government funding allocated for removal, the representative for Bethnal Green and Bow outlined two problems. Firstly, this amount fell short of the government’s own estimation that between £3-£3.5bn will be required and secondly, this commitment was only made after a year of lobbying from campaign groups.
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On the latter point she said: “It’s not good enough — the government’s had to do this kicking and screaming, rather than taking responsibility as was promised at the time of the fire.”
Mr Pincher said: “While there has been progress, we are under illusion that there is much more to be done.”
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In acknowledging the delays, the MP emphasised that extensive government funding has been made available to tackle this issue.
Ms Ali’s local authority area has 49 high-rise blocks with ACM cladding, amongst the country’s highest.
This is reflected in constituents’ concerns, highlighted by a number of first-hand accounts read out by the MP.
One said: “I haven’t slept well for months and don’t see any end in the situation. I’m trapped, I cannot sell, I’m not allowed to rent the flat out. I’m forced to stay here; it now feels like a prison.”
Another read: “Because of cladding I will end up losing everything I have worked for.”
The issues go well beyond safety, said the representative, who accused the government of “shirking its responsibility by leaving it (removal) to the goodwill of building owners”.
Mr Pincher vowed to clamp down on building owners, saying that those who are slow to act should expect “tougher enforcement action” from local authorities and the fire service.
He also made it clear that “leaseholders should not have to foot the bill” for any reparation works.