Ahead of the Spending Review this week, I wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to raise the plight of leaseholders trapped in the building safety scandal in Edgbaston.
It is now over three years since the Grenfell Fire tragedy took 72 lives before their time. The shock and horror that filled that summer evening was like nothing like many of us will have witnessed in our lifetimes.
However, for hundreds of people in Edgbaston, the cladding scandal that this horror exposed remains a living nightmare.
The regulatory failures that were responsible for the fire we saw sweep up the side of Grenfell Tower continue to afflict around 2,000 other buildings across the country. At the current rate of progress, it would take more than three decades to remove the cladding from them all.
In the meantime however, leaseholding residents are forced to live in unsafe homes and face financial ruin paying for a crisis they didn't create.
As builders, freeholders and developers are often legally protected from liability, it falls to ordinary leaseholders to try to navigate a sprawling and expensive process to secure remediation works for their building, while paying tens of thousands of pounds on stopgap safety measures, legal fees and rocketing insurance premiums.
At the Cladding Scandal Summit I hosted recently alongside Shabana Mahmood MP, we heard the heartbreaking stories of the ordinary people caught up in this mess:
- One family who wanted to have another child, but whose flat had been made worthless once their building was found to be unsafe, meaning they couldn’t upsize to grow their family.
- Residents forced to pay £500 a month for stopgap waking watches, or face evictions and even homelessness.
- One couple told us how the stress of this crisis had caused them to lose their hair and develop clinical depression.
These people have been failed by their Government and a cowboy industry that has mostly gotten off scot free.
Despite bearing no responsibility for the fire safety faults in their building, the cost of this scandal has fallen on those least able to pay.
In the Spending Review this week I had hoped the Chancellor would acknowledge that things are getting desperate for the ordinary families caught up in this crisis, and that he would take action to speed up remedial work. We sadly got nothing.