Labour has updated its plan to take urgent action on the “national emergency” of dangerous cladding, setting a new deadline for tower block-owners following the Bolton student flats fire.
Housing spokesperson John Healey is expected to outline proposals for tougher measures tackling the issue of cladding on a visit to Bolton today, where he will say that Tory complacency on the issue is “putting lives at risk”.
Labour is suggesting that a a deadline of the end of December should be set, by which time block-owners must prove that they are getting rid of dangerous cladding. If they fail to do so, councils would be empowered to take over the buildings and make them safe.
Labour has updated its five-point plan, which now proposes:
- Naming and shaming owners of blocks fitted with dangers cladding;
- Giving councils powers to impose tougher fines on owners who don’t have a plan to remove dangerous cladding;
- Empowering councils to take over blocks whose owners refuse to make them safe, in order to get the works done and make buildings safe;
- Immediately making funds available to councils who take over blocks with dangerous cladding;
- Immediately directing officials to widen the government-sponsored testing regime to comprehensively test non-ACM, as well as ACM cladding, including on private blocks.
Commenting on Labour’s plan, Healey said: “It is shameful that, over two years since the horror of the Grenfell Tower fire, people are still living in tower blocks with flammable cladding.
“The Conservatives’ complacency is putting lives at risk, and the fire in Bolton must be a wake-up call. Labour will treat the removal of unsafe cladding as a national emergency and deliver real change for the thousands of people still living in homes with deadly cladding.”
The announcement follows a fire in Bolton that saw a student housing block burn, leading to the evacuation of 100 students – none of whom were seriously injured. The fire started on the fourth floor of the building, which was clad in high-pressure laminate (HPL) panels.
Residents of other similar blocks had previously asked the Housing Secretary to remove all types of combustable cladding, but the government responded to say that they would provide money for aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding only – the cladding used on Grenfell Tower.
According to official figures published last week, the government will miss targets for removing Grenfell-style ACM cladding from tower blocks by over a decade. Nine in 10 private blocks have not had dangerous cladding replaced.