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Cladding crisis: Labour calls for legally binding deadlines for developers to make buildings safe

THE government has failed to bring an end to the cladding crisis, Labour charged yesterday, as the party called for ministers to set legally binding deadlines for developers to make buildings safe. 

Labour is pushing for an amendment to the Queen’s Speech, which lays out the legislative agenda for the next year, requiring developers to remove combustible cladding from buildings by 2022.

The government should charge developers for the cost and protect leaseholders trapped in dangerous and unsellable flats from having to fork out huge sums for the work, the party said.  

Four years after the Grenfell Tower fire, government statistics suggest that there are still about 321,000 people living in high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding. 

Labour stressed that the recent fire in east London’s Canary Wharf, at a block of flats believed to be covered in the same cladding that Grenfell was, must act as a wake-up call for the Tories.

In today’s Commons debate, shadow housing secretary Lucy Powell is set to tell MPs: “The Conservative Party is putting the interests of their developer donors over innocent homeowners. 

“Through no fault of their own, leaseholders’ lives are on hold, faced with crippling costs, with the fear of fire a real and present danger for many.”

Labour called for a new national cladding taskforce to oversee the implementation of demands including a legally enforceable 2022 deadline to make homes safe.

A spokesperson for Grenfell United, a group of the 2017 fire’s survivors and bereaved families, said it welcomed attempts to hold the government legally accountable over its broken promises, but added that “this living nightmare should have ended long ago.

“The recent fire at New Providence Wharf in east London – just days before cladding removal works were to start on the block – shows how urgent the situation is.”

Justice4Grenfell spokeswoman Yvette Williams said: “The government has not met any deadlines — instead they seem to be working towards ‘deathlines’.”

Ms Williams said that as well as enforcing a deadline for cladding removal, issues with alarm systems, smoke detection systems, fire door inspections, ventilation shafts and sprinklers all need to be urgently addressed, as well as funding for fire services. 

The Fire Brigades Union welcomed Labour’s demand for a deadline to remove combustible cladding, adding that the failure to do so four years after Grenfell “is simply not good enough.”

General secretary Matt Wrack said: “The onus is on ministers to force the companies responsible for these buildings to take immediate action to make them safe, without slapping innocent homeowners with a huge bill at the end.”

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