Labour demands deadline for Grenfell-style cladding removal as Sadiq Khan warns of ‘dismal lack of action’

Councils should have power to seize privately-owned tower blocks, says party

Peter Stubley
Monday 10 June 2019 06:16
Theresa May claims Grenfell success in resignation speech

Councils should seize privately-owned tower blocks which still have Grenfell-style cladding at the end of the year, Labour has said.

The opposition called for the government to issue an ultimatum to owners of high-rise buildings to prevent a similar disaster happening in future.

Labour also suggested owners of blocks with dangerous materials should be publicly named and shamed.

The latest figures show 164 private blocks still had aluminium composite material (ACM) and 70 had no firm plan in place to replace it.

It came as the Mayor of London accused Theresa May and her government of an “utterly shameful” response to the Grenfell Tower fire.

Sadiq Khan pointed out that seventeen households were still in emergency and temporary accommodation and thousands of people across the country still living in homes wrapped with unsafe cladding.

“The reality is that two years on from this tragedy the dismal lack of action from your Government has been utterly shameful and you have failed to deliver on your commitments,” Mr Khan wrote in a letter to the prime minister.

He continued: “At the start of your premiership, you spoke about tackling injustices in our society. Two years later we are still a long way from achieving justice and reforms.

“Your claim that your response to Grenfell was one of your biggest achievements as Prime Minister is far from the truth, rather it is a legacy of your premiership that vulnerable people in our society have been let down, been continuously neglected and clearly ignored.”

Mr Khan concluded: ”Whoever replaces you as prime minister must make it a priority to act on the issues raised in this letter.

“We owe it to the 72 people who tragically lost their lives at Grenfell Tower, their family, friends and the Grenfell Tower community.”

Labour’s proposals for action on Grenfell include a December deadline for block owners to either finish the work or “prove there has been substantial progress”.

The party also wants new powers for councils to fine owners or even confiscate blocks that still have dangerous cladding.

Shadow housing secretary John Healey said: “Many private tower block owners have shown zero sign of replacing their Grenfell-style cladding, and Government ministers are letting them drag their feet.

“Two years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, concerned residents are still living in homes that may not be safe and many are having to pay for interim safety measures such as 24-hour fire wardens.

“Enough is enough. Private block owners should be made to replace this dangerous cladding, or face councils taking over ownership of these buildings to get this vital safety work done.”

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, welcomed Labour’s plans, which he said would “speed up the snail’s pace of remedial work and end the government’s half-hearted approach to public safety”

He added: “Two years on from Grenfell, it’s completely unacceptable that people are still sleeping in buildings wrapped in flammable materials.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

“Progress removing cladding has been painfully slow and inconsistent, leaving tens of thousands of people sleeping in unsafe homes.

“The government has done everything in its power to avoid hard questions about other risks to residents, abandoning those stuck in dangerous buildings with different forms of flammable cladding.

“Greedy landlords and property investors have shirked responsibility, forcing taxpayers to cover their basic responsibility to ensure people are safe in their homes.”

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments