Labour urges government to 'get a grip' on cladding crisis and set up national task force

A workman removes cladding from a tower block. Credit: PA

A national task force must be established to “get a grip on the deepening cladding crisis”, according to Labour.

The party’s leader Sir Keir Starmer made the call ahead of a parliamentary debate on Monday about protecting tenants and leaseholders from unsafe cladding.

Labour will push for a vote on the issue in demanding the Government urgently establishes the extent of dangerous cladding and prioritises buildings according to risk.

It comes more than three and a half years after the disaster at Grenfell Tower in 2017, which claimed the lives of 72 people.

The Grenfell Tower fire claimed the lives of 72 people. Credit: PA

Speaking ahead of the debate, Sir Keir said: “Today needs to be a turning point for those affected by the cladding scandal.

“Millions of people have been sucked into this crisis due to years of dither, delay and half-baked solutions from the government.

“For many leaseholders, the dream of home ownership has become a nightmare. They feel abandoned, locked down in flammable homes and facing ruinous costs for repair work and interim safety measures.”

The National Cladding Taskforce proposed by Labour would be modelled on the approach adopted in Australia and would seek to urgently carry out an audit to establish the extent of dangerous materials on buildings.

Six demands have been set out by the party towards fixing the issue, including providing immediate up-front funding to remove deadly cladding and setting absolute deadlines to make homes safe.

They also include creating new laws to protect leaseholders from being passed historic fire safety costs, protecting leaseholders and taxpayers by pursuing those responsible for putting cladding on the buildings, as well as stamping out rogue builders by reforming the sector.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has urged the government to ‘get a grip’ of the cladding scandal. Credit: PA

The party has also said the government should work with lenders, insurers and other industry leaders to ensure residents can sell and remortgage.

Sir Keir said: “I urge Conservative MPs to vote with us in Parliament today and put their constituents’ safety and security first.

“And I urge the Government to get a grip of this crisis through a national task force and by implementing Labour’s six demands.”

Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner said the party hopes to "end this scandal" of unsafe cladding with Monday evening's vote.

She wrote on Twitter: "Three and a half years on from the Grenfell Tower fire the Inquiry recommendations have not been implemented and hundreds of thousands of people are still living in buildings wrapped in flammable cladding.

"Labour will force a vote in Parliament to end this scandal tonight."

Earlier this year, the Grenfell inquiry was temporarily suspended as a result of the national lockdown in England.

Hearings were due to begin after the Christmas break on January 11 but have now been pushed back until at least February, when it is hoped that evidence can begin to be heard remotely.

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “Leaseholders shouldn’t have to worry about the unaffordable costs of fixing safety defects in high-rise buildings that they didn’t cause – and should be protected from large-scale remediation costs wherever possible.

“We all want to see homes made safer, as quickly as possible and backed by our £1.6 billion funding we are making good progress on remediating unsafe homes.

“The Building Safety Bill is the appropriate legislative mechanism for addressing these issues and will be brought forward in due course.”