Housing Secretary Accused Of Betraying Leaseholders Over Cladding Loan Scheme

Tory MPs and Labour vent fury at Robert Jenrick as thousands face huge bill for fire-safety improvements in wake of the Grenfell fire.

A Tory MP has accused housing secretary Robert Jenrick of a “betrayal” of leaseholders as it was revealed the government scheme to remove unsafe cladding from homes will force some into loans.

Stephen McPartland has called for Boris Johnson to “step in” and take charge of the cladding plan, as he levelled an accusation of “shocking incompetence” at Jenrick.

Thousands of people living in flats cased in combustible cladding face huge bills, after the Grenfell fire disaster revealed huge flaws in medium and high-rise buildings’ fire-safety.

In the Commons on Wednesday, Jenrick announced a government “intervention” to help home-owners with an extra £3.5bn in public cash.

But the money will only pay for the removal of cladding in buildings over 18 metres high. People living in buildings below that height will have to take out loans, wiping thousands of pounds off the value of their homes.

Labour also accused the government of a “betrayal” and the news has infuriated Tory backbenchers who have been pressing Jenrick for a better deal for leaseholders.

McPartland, who represents Stevenage, asked how Jenrick “can have got this so wrong”.

He added: “It is a betrayal of millions of leaseholders. It is not good enough. It is shocking incompetence. It is clear the PM has to step in now.”

McPartland later told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One programme: “The taxpayer is going to have to pay up-front to resolve a lot of these issues and then try to claw the money back from developers, building owners and insurance companies.

“Leaseholders are the innocent parties in this. Many of these people were in primary school when these buildings were being constructed and they are now being hit with bills that will be bankrupting them.

“I noticed he said something around it would be £50 a month, that would be just for cladding. But if that was £50,000, that £50 a month would take somebody 83 years to pay the bill off.

“And if it was a £50,000 bill, that’s just on cladding, never mind anything else.”

Jenrick defended the announcement by saying the taxpayer should not foot the entire bill, adding that loan repayments would be limited to a maximum of £50 a month.

Those buying a flat would be expected to take on the loan rather than the original home-owner, the government has said.

Leaseholders in high-rise flats over 18 metres “will face no costs for cladding remediation works”.

He said: “The government will develop a long-term scheme to protect leaseholders in this situation, with financial support for cladding remediation on buildings between four and six storeys.

“Under a long-term low-interest scheme, no leaseholder will ever pay more than £50 a month towards the removal of unsafe cladding, many far less.”

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeted: “Leaseholders should not and must not pay for the cladding crisis that was caused by dodgy developers, cowboy builders and manufacturers of flammable cladding.

“They should pay the costs, not residents who bought their homes in good faith and have been left in this situation.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan called the cladding plans “shameful”.

He tweeted: “Three-and-a-half years after the Grenfell Tower fire and many leaseholders are still being told to pay for building safety issues they played no part in causing.

“Ministers need to give all leaseholders affected by this crisis the peace of mind they need and deserve.”

Grenfell United, which represents the bereaved families and survivors of the London tower block disaster, said the government’s measures were “still a long way from what is needed to fix this scandal”.

In a statement, the campaign group said: “For over three-and-a-half years we’ve been raising the alarm that thousands of people are living in unsafe homes and another Grenfell could happen at any time.

“It’s heartbreaking to say but once again today’s announcement is too little, too late.

“It does not address the various fire safety issues that are surfacing in many unsafe buildings. We needed something to deal with this mess once and for all – we didn’t get that today.”