London council leader adds to Labour calls for stronger action on ‘cladding crisis’

London council leader adds to Labour calls for stronger action on ‘cladding crisis’

A London council leader whose borough experienced a serious housing block fire two years ago has added his voice to calls for stronger government action to remove flammable cladding from buildings and prevent the huge cost of the work from falling on individual leaseholders.

Darren Rodwell, leader of Labour-run Barking & Dagenham, welcomed the demand of Labour leader Keir Starmer for the creation of a new National Cladding Taskforce to deal with the issue, which is thought to affect over 2,000 mostly residential buildings in the capital and many more across the country, saying “it is not acceptable that families do not feel safe in their own homes and face extortionate costs as a result of industry and regulatory failure”.

A Labour motion demanding the government establish the full extent of dangerous cladding and pursue companies responsible for fitting it to meet the remediation costs was passed in the Commons yesterday. The vote is not binding on the government, but BBC Newsnight has reported that ministers intend to provide substantial extra funding amid a growing rebellion among Conservative MPs, who say bills running to tens of thousands of pounds should not fall on homeowners who bought properties unaware of fire risks exposed by the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire.

Rodwell, who is also deputy chair of cross-party local authority body London Councils with special responsibility for housing and planning, urged the government to “cut through the noise and get the essential cladding works funded and underway as soon as possible, with leaseholders protected and the building industry making a proper contribution to make homes safe and begin to rebuild public trust”.

In 2019, fire tore through the wooden balconies of a new, six-storey housing development in Barking, leaving dozens of residents traumatised and temporarily homeless. An independent review of the aftermath of the fire recommended a clarification of the responsibilities owners of such privately-owned buildings have to residents and increased powers and resources for local authorities.

Last month, Sadiq Khan endorsed campaigners’ demands for a £3 billion government-imposed levy on house builders to help pay for fire danger cladding to be replaced. The “cladding crisis” has also been a focus of campaigning by Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon and her Labour colleague Andrew Dismore, who said during a Mayor’s Question Time session last June that at that time there were still nearly 200 buildings in London with Grenfell-type aluminium composition material cladding, most of them owned by private companies.

Also last June, Inside Housing reported that combustible cladding installed by the company that working on Grenfell had been removed from 14 tower blocks in London, including five towers of the Chalcots esate in Camden, which its council leader evacuated straight after the Grenfell blaze.

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