More than 100 campaigners and politicians protested outside of the Houses of Parliament today, to demand that the government brings an end to the cladding scandal currently affecting thousands of leaseholders across the country.
Organised by Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, the protest in Westminster highlighted the issues faced by those who live in blocks with dangerous cladding and those who are unable to sell or remortgage their flats due to the presence of combustible materials on their external walls.
Speaking at the event, Mr Burnham said: “The government has not faced up to the full scale of the cladding crisis and the message we’ve got to send out today is stop gambling with people’s safety, stop gambling with people’s lives. You need to do the right thing and face up to this and deal with it.”
Mr Burnham was joined by several other politicians including London mayor Sadiq Khan, shadow housing minister John Healey and MPs Hilary Benn and Lucy Powell.
Mr Khan said: “It is a travesty that we live in one of the richest countries in the world and so many families are affected by cladding and combustible materials around their building.”
Speaking of the Grenfell Tower fire, Mr Healey said the tragedy was “not a natural disaster – it was man made”.
He added: “It was made by the total failure of a national system of building safety and building regulation and we know that that failure goes so much further than Grenfell Tower itself.”
At a reception in the Houses of Parliament after the rally, Rebecca Fairclough, a member of Manchester Cladiators, who lives in a block with dangerous cladding in the city, said: “I’m a solicitor and I’m at risk of being bankrupt because the bills are so high. As a solicitor you are not allowed to be bankrupt.
“Having spent years training and 10 years paying off the law school loans, I now face losing my home and my career.”
Ritu Saha, a leaseholder from the Northpoint block in Bromley, which has aluminium composite material cladding, and a founding member of the UK Cladding Action Group, added: “We are hearing stories of young people who just got onto the property ladder but also people who have retired. There is a 75-year-old man who has had to go back into work to afford to pay the bills. Is this acceptable?
“Perhaps this is the fault of building regulations, perhaps it is builders, perhaps it is the people who signed it off or perhaps it is the cladding manufacturers. But what did we do wrong? How long will we have to wait before the people in power sit up and listen?”
Nigel Glen, chief executive of the Association of Residential Managing Agents, added that the only way to solve the problem is the establishment of a government fund. “We can worry about the money later on – let’s get people safe first,” he said.
An MHCLG spokesperson said: “The government has taken urgent action on building safety, including committing £600 million for remediating high-rise buildings with unsafe ACM cladding in the social and private sectors
“Residents’ safety remains our utmost priority and there is no excuse for building owners not ensuring that residents are safe in their homes. We will continue to support leaseholders and are reviewing options on how best to do so.”
Inside Housing’s End Our Cladding Scandal campaign has called for government action on the issue.
UPDATE: at 2.28pm 26.2.20
This article was updated to include a response from MHCLG
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