MPs and mayors criticise Robert Jenrick's £3.5 billion cladding crisis funding

10 February 2021, 14:20 | Updated: 10 February 2021, 14:40

Tory MP blasts "incompetent" Housing Secretary over cladding crisis

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

MPs across the House have criticised Robert Jenrick after he announced £3.5 billion would be put towards ending England's cladding crisis.

The housing secretary told the Commons on Wednesday that leaseholders in high-rise blocks would no longer face costs for cladding remediation work.

He also said that people in low and medium-rise blocks would never have to pay more than £50 a month for cladding removal work.

However, politicians across the House have reacted angrily to the announcement, with Conservative MP Stephen McPartland branding Mr Jenrick "incompetent" on LBC.

The Stevenage representative - a vocal critic of the government's handling of the cladding crisis - told Tom Swarbrick: "It's clear he doesn't understand what's happening.

"They don't have a grip of the issue. It's incompetence and I think it's time the prime minister stepped in."

Read more: Leaseholders in high-rise flats to face 'no extra costs' to remove cladding

Read more: Flat owners 'exploring bankruptcy and facing bills of over £100,000'

He also branded the housing secretary's speech in the Commons as "all smoke and mirrors."

Earlier, Mr McPartland tweeted: "I am listening to @RobertJenrick's announcement with my head in my hands. Wondering how he can have got this so wrong.

"It is a betrayal of millions of leaseholders. It is not good enough. It is shocking incompetence. It is clear the PM has to step in now."

The MP added: "The statement from @RobertJenrick is all smoke and mirrors.

"He is very careful to just state cladding. No mention of fire safety defects, Waking Watches or Excessive Insurance Premiums which are often the main costs for millions of leaseholders."

Deputy leader of the Labour Party Angela Rayner tweeted: "Leaseholders should not and must not pay for the cladding crisis that was caused by dodgy developers, cowboy builders and manufacturers of flammable cladding.

"They should pay the costs, not residents who bought their homes in good faith and have been left in this situation."

Party colleague Margaret Hodge, MP for Barking and Dagenham, posted: "The announcement of loans for cladding remediation below 18m is an outrage.

"Leaseholders should not be hit with debt for fixing safety defects that they didn't create. Fire does not discriminate between height, neither should the Government. They are failing leaseholders."

Meanwhile, shadow housing secretary Thangam Debbonaire said the announcement by Robert Jenrick is a "repeat of undelivered promises".

She told the Commons: "As a result of government choices, three-and-a-half years on from the Grenfell tragedy in which 72 people lost their lives, hundreds of thousands of people are still trapped in unsafe homes, many more unable to move.

"And today's announcement is too late for too many. It's a repeat of undelivered promises and backtracks on the key one that leaseholders should have no costs to pay.

"The chancellor said last March all unsafe combustible cladding will be removed from every private and social residential building above 18 metres high, but that has not happened. Buildings haven't been able to access the fund and £9 out of £10 is still sitting where it was.

"At every stage, the government underestimated the problem and delays caused it to grow. They still don't know how many buildings are unsafe, where they are or what danger they pose.

"And until we have answers to those basic questions government will continue to make mistakes, offering piece-meal solutions that then have to be updated when they don't deliver."

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham asked: "How on earth can the Government justify this unfair and divisive move?"

He tweeted that the Cube apartment block in Bolton "was below 18m but it burnt as quickly as Grenfell".

"1,000s of people in Greater Manchester will now face a choice of unaffordable loans or living with unsafe cladding," he said.

"The campaign goes on."

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan tweeted that the government's cladding plans were "shameful".

He wrote: "Three and a half years after the Grenfell Tower fire and many leaseholders are still being told to pay for building safety issues they played no part in causing.

"Ministers need to give all leaseholders affected by this crisis the peace of mind they need and deserve."

SNP housing spokeswoman Patricia Gibson said in the Commons: "Despite what the Secretary of State has said that no leaseholder will ever pay more than £50 per month in paying back loans to remove this cladding, I'm sure he will understand this will still be disappointing for many since through no fault of their own they are still facing additional costs after buying their homes in good faith."

Grenfell United, which represents the bereaved families and survivors of the London tower block disaster, said the government's measures were "still a long way from what is needed to fix this scandal".

In a statement, the campaign group said: "For over three-and-a-half years we've been raising the alarm that thousands of people are living in unsafe homes and another Grenfell could happen at any time.

"It's heartbreaking to say but once again today's announcement is too little, too late.

"It does not address the various fire safety issues that are surfacing in many unsafe buildings. We needed something to deal with this mess once and for all - we didn't get that today."

The group said that "residents should not be forced into loans and new debt just because of the height of their building".

It also called for the development and construction industry to be "held fully responsible for what they have done", adding that a "small levy doesn't cut it".