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Portsmouth MP demands action from government on unsafe cladding costs

Stephen Morgan MP led a debate in Parliament last night calling on the government to protect leaseholders from steep costs to remove unsafe cladding from their apartment blocks.

Efforts to remove unsafe cladding from high-rise buildings have accelerated since the Grenfell Tower disaster. Due to decades of poor regulation, the responsibility for costs often falls to leaseholders, leaving them in unsafe homes, unable to sell and subject to life-altering costs.

A number of properties in Portsmouth have been impacted by this issue, with Admiralty Quarter and Gunwharf Quays among those affected.

Speaking in the debate, the Portsmouth South MP said that some of his constituents fear they may be liable “to contribute between £20,000 – £30,000 each towards remediation.”

They also fear losing their homes and many are retired or on low incomes.

Currently open to building owners and freeholders to help cover the cost, the government’s Building Safety Fund has been criticised for poor communication with residents, taking too long to distribute funds and turning down requests with little rationale.

The government recently announced an additional £3.5bn loan scheme for high-rise cladding removal and loans for buildings under 18m, but Mr Morgan criticised the scheme, arguing it would it leave residents liable to pay to fix an issue they did not create and will likely mean many will still struggle to sell.

The Portsmouth South MP called on the Minister for Housing to meet the costs of remediation work in full and release the funds for repair work as quickly as possible.

He has also called for the government to include measures to ensure leaseholders cannot be held responsible for future costs in the forthcoming Building Safety Bill.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, commented,

“It is scandalous for the government to expect leaseholders to pay these astronomical costs in full, with every moment of delay to these critical cladding changes putting lives at risk.”

“Last night I urged government to take responsibility for these costs, speed up the distribution of funds for remediation and legislate to ensure that regulation is never allowed to fail Portsmouth residents again.

“We know these concerns are not just felt in Portsmouth and the government must address them immediately.”

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‘Unfolding Scandal’ of Military Accommodation ‘falls far short’ of Armed Forces Covenant

Labour has criticised the government’s ‘appalling record’ on military housing, as data reveals that just half of service personnel are satisfied with the standard of their accommodation, the lowest since 2009.

The Army’s 2020 Continuous Attitudes Survey shows that a third of tri-service personnel said accommodation provision increased their intention to leave the service.

New data has also revealed that more than 9,000 military homes in England and Wales are awaiting repairs.

Since 2017, £300,000 has been paid in compensation for 9,088 missed maintenance appointments, with compensation given in the form of high street shopping vouchers.

Last week the National Audit Office’s report into Single Living Accommodation, which more than half of the Armed Forces call home, told a similar story.

The report concluded that “the Ministry of Defence is not meeting its commitment to provide high-quality subsidised accommodation to all service personnel.”

Meanwhile, the government continues to arbitrate its dispute with Annington Homes on the rent for Service Family Accommodation, currently occupied by a third of tri-service personnel.

The previous 1996 deal, dubbed “disastrous” by the Public Accounts Committee, held rents down by 58%, meaning service families could face rent hikes under a new deal.

The revelations come as the government’s Armed Forces Bill is due for its second reading on Monday.

Labour has criticised the Bill – which the government claims will ensure ‘fair treatment’ for members of the Armed Forces – for being too narrow and not going far enough to guarantee the rights afforded to service personnel under the Armed Forces Covenant.

Speaking ahead of the Bill’s Second Reading, Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP said:

“The unfolding scandal of dilapidated military accommodation is a far cry from the ‘homes fit for heroes’ our service personnel should expect.

“The Tories appalling record on this issue is evident in every home that has trouble with basics like heating, hot water, with endless waits for repairs. This falls far short of the promises in the Armed Forces Covenant and those who serve deserve better.

“Labour stands squarely behind our service communities, and will press the government to make sure the Armed Forces Bill delivers quality, affordable housing for all service personnel, families and veterans.”

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Portsmouth MP vows to ‘hold the Government to their promise and help ensure leaseholders are protected from unfair fire safety costs’ 

Labour will hold a vote on Monday (1 February 2021) in order to force the Government into action and protect millions of leaseholders from life-changing cladding costs and unsellable properties.

News of the latest intervention in the House of Commons has been welcomed by Stephen Morgan MP who has been taking action a range of actions to stand up for constituents over the remediation of unsafe cladding on residential blocks, and the impact this is having on leaseholders across the country.

Despite repeated promises from Ministers that cladding remediation costs would not be passed onto leaseholders, the Government has failed to deliver on this.

In the meantime, leaseholders across the country remain trapped in unsafe blocks during a third lockdown facing increasing interim costs and are often unable to sell or re-mortgage their property.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Three and a half years on from the tragic fire at Grenfell tower, the Government’s handling of the cladding crisis that has emerged has lacked any sense of grip or urgency.

I have deep concerns that people are being put at risk, trapped in flammable buildings for a third lockdown, and facing an unclear financial future.

Inaction has gone on too long. Labour is forcing a vote in Parliament calling on the Government to urgently establish the extent of dangerous cladding and prioritise buildings according to risk, provide upfront funding to ensure cladding remediation can start immediately, and protect leaseholders and taxpayers from the cost by pursuing those responsible for the cladding crisis.

I will also be supporting amendments to the Fire Safety Bill that hold the Government to their promise and help ensure leaseholders are protected from unfair fire safety costs”.

The amendment tabled by McPartland and Smith also provides welcome clarity on the specific costs that would be prevented from being passed on to leaseholders, but Labour has sought to go further.

As currently drafted, the McPartland and Smith amendment would not cover leaseholders in blocks where flammable cladding has been added at some stage following the building of the block. It only applies to defects in the original design of buildings. As an example, the Grenfell Tower was built in the 1970s, but the flammable cladding was added in 2017.

The Portsmouth South representative added:

“Labour has tabled an amendment that would ensure that the cost of fire safety problems from refurbishment jobs, like the cladding on the Grenfell tower, cannot be passed on to leaseholders. 

Labour’s amendments also include new clauses so that the Bill protects leaseholders from the day it comes into law, instead of an unknown date in the future. And Labour’s amendments ensure that if the Fire Safety Order is extended in the future, the Secretary of State must publish an analysis of the financial implications for leaseholders”.

MPs will be given the opportunity to vote for these amendments when the Bill returns to the House of Commons.

Stephen Morgan MP has been liaising with leaseholders at the Vista Apartments, Admiralty Quarter and Gunwharf Quays affected.