Since the tragedy of Grenfell, more than two years ago, I’ve been contacted by residents from across Salford, in both private and social housing apartment blocks, who’ve been living in fear and desperation because of the potentially flammable cladding surrounding their homes and the lack of action from government to urgently make their buildings safe.
Campaigners, residents, MP’s and councillors right across the country have been doing what myself and those in Salford have been doing. Repeatedly writing to Government, developers and freeholders and demanding that buildings be made safe urgently, at no direct cost to any resident.
Sadly however the Government continues to skirt around the issue, simply promising to name and shame those who allow ACM cladding to remain on many blocks in Salford and across the country. Years on, we are yet to see any enforcement action being taken, any meaningful funding support, nor have we seen any real attempts from Government to protect residents from incurring the costs of a crisis they did not create.
Large numbers of high-rise blocks are still cloaked in the same Grenfell-style cladding, many blocks have no plans in place to replace it, and following recent fires at Imperial Point in Salford and the Cube in Bolton the potential human impact of this continued inaction is staggeringly clear.
A report, published by the Greater Manchester High-Rise Task Force, found seven in 10 residents are worried about a fire in their building. They said the worry is causing increased levels of anxiety, difficulty sleeping and putting a strain on their personal lives and relationships. More than half of owner occupiers have also faced significant increases in service charges to make buildings safe, with some receiving demands of up to £30,000, and many now unable to sell or re-mortgage their homes.
Today, campaigners from Greater Manchester, Mayor Burnham and chair of the Task Force Salford Mayor Paul Dennett are calling on the Government to financially support residents in high-rise buildings by reforming the funding regime for cladding remediation to end the ‘cladding lottery’ and reversing cuts to the fire service.
In the upcoming budget I will be writing again to the Government and demanding that the Government takes urgent moral and financial responsibility to make our residents buildings safe.
The Government must respond to this crisis and acknowledge it for what it is: ‘a national emergency.’