Image above: Grenfell Tower
Ruth Cadbury calls for urgent action on fire safety & housing crisis
Data released by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan this month, the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell fire, has revealed there are 21 buildings in the borough of Hounslow which have serious fire safety risks.
Over 1,000 buildings across the capital have been identified as containing serious defects such as flammable cladding, combustible balconies or missing fire breaks. Residents of these buildings must be evacuated immediately from their homes in the event of a fire, which could spread quickly, and should be alerted either by a waking watch patrol or a common alarm system.
Residents themselves are often left with the financial burden of such measures, which can cost thousands of pounds.
Brentford and Isleworth MP Ruth Cadbury MP addressed the issue in Parliament last week, warning the Government the crisis was far from being fixed. She called for urgent action to ensure that leaseholders and residents were protected from unfair and large bills.
A map of showing the distribution of unsafe buildings across London is available here.
Image above: Brentford and Isleworth MP Ruth Cadbury
Constituents unable to sell their homes
In her speech Ruth said that many of her constituents were “living in fear” because of the crisis, while facing “life-changing bills that can ruin them” and which have stopped them from being able to sell their homes.
“The worst incident in my constituency relating to the building safety crisis is that experienced by the shared owner leaseholders and students of the Paragon building in Brentford.
“They had to be evacuated, with a week’s notice, in October 2020. The cladding had already been removed but the inspections revealed fundamental flaws in the system-built housing blocks.
“Hard-working leaseholders and students just starting university were cast out. As shared owners, the hard-working leaseholders struggled to get back on the housing ladder, as the Notting Hill housing partnership could not afford to give them the current value for something they would be buying now.
“They were given only the deemed value of their property at the time, and it was too low to buy another property as a shared owner in west London. Their salaries had not increased significantly, but the values of alternative properties had.
“Meanwhile, all the costs of the compensation, the legal and organisational costs, had to be covered by Notting Hill housing partnership from its building and maintenance budget.”
Government action “too little too late”
The Government announced new measures designed to make industry to pay to remove cladding and to protect leaseholders from exorbitant costs in February.
This she said was “too little, too late” and there were a number of flaws in the Governments support programme, such as the failure to tackle high building insurance costs or non-cladding related problems in flats – such as faulty insulation or firebreaks.
She criticised the Government for its failure to make personal evacuation plans mandatory in buildings at risk from fire, and spoke about the experience of a disabled constituent. Ruth warned the Government they should not leave it to private companies to decide where to put these plans in place.
New measures “woeful” and “discriminatory” against disabled people
“To me, the announcement that personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEP) will not be mandatory in buildings at risk was particularly shocking.
“The plans are crucial for residents with disabilities and their families to ensure that they can escape buildings during a fire. That was a recommendation from the first report of the Grenfell inquiry. I recently spoke to a constituent whose husband needs a PEEP. In this case, he needs a special chair to ensure that they can get him out of their flat and down the stairs.
“My constituent rightly said that the Government’s position is “woeful and discriminatory”. It is outrageous that the Government refuse to ensure that residents with disabilities are given the support that they need to escape during a fire.
“As we know from the past decade, if this is left to the invisible hand of the market and private companies in the sector are relied on to do the right thing, they will not do so.”
“No plan” to tackle the housing crisis
Ruth ended her speech with an attack on the Government’s ongoing failure to tackle the housing crisis, particularly for residents living in private rented accommodation. She warned that the Government had no plan, saying:
“After 12 long years in power, it is clear that the Government still have no real plan to fix the housing crisis, no plan to end the injustice facing leaseholders and no plan to ensure that we build good, high-quality, truly affordable homes.”
Image above: Grenfell Tower as seen from Chiswick
Hounslow residents have “had their lives ruined” says Ruth Cadbury
Speaking after making her speech in Parliament, Ruth said:
‘‘Hundreds of residents across Hounslow have had their lives ruined by the building safety crisis. Leaseholders are still facing huge bills to fix problems they did not cause, and many are unable to sell their homes- leaving them trapped.
“There are simply too many gaps in the Government’s approach and residents locally are stuck in limbo waiting for action from the Government. It’s also disgraceful that the Government are letting down residents with disabilities by failing to ensure that buildings have evacuation plans.
“It’s been five years since the horrific fire at Grenfell, yet it’s clear that the Government have not acted with enough speed or urgency on the building safety crisis.
“I know from listening to people locally that they want truly affordable high quality safe housing. Yet after 12 years in power the Government have failed to fix the crisis facing leaseholders and have failed to tackle the housing crisis.’’
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