Many people have contacted me recently about the safety of high-rise tower blocks. Almost a year on from the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the country remains shocked by the devastating images of that night and by the 72 lives lost. My thoughts remain with the families and friends of the victims and of those who survived this terrible event.
In the immediate aftermath of the fire, I wrote to the Government, Lewisham Council and local housing associations about fire safety and cladding and my team and I have remained in regular contact with them about this ever since.
Directly after the incident, Ministers also promised to do whatever it takes to keep people safe, yet more than 11 months on, just ten of more than 300 tower blocks with the same dangerous cladding have had it removed and replaced.
In October last year, I questioned the then Housing Minister about the absence of the promised funding from the Government for councils to ensure tower block safety, which you can watch here: http://www.vickyfoxcroft.org.uk/tower_blocks_safety
I welcome the announcement of £400 million to fund the removal and replacement of dangerous cladding on buildings owned by councils and housing associations. However, I am disappointed that this is not new money and instead Ministers are planning to use the existing Affordable Homes Programme budget to pay for this. I believe the Government should take the necessary step and back plans for a £1 billion Fire Safety Fund to finance vital safety work and retrofit sprinklers in high-rise social housing blocks.
The review into building regulations, published in May, called for a “radical rethink” of the safety system but stopped short of recommending an outright ban on combustible cladding. I am concerned that the report continues to give a green light to combustible materials on high-rise blocks.
It is imperative that the Government fulfils its promises to ensure that Grenfell residents have the help and the new homes that they need, to make certain that all who are culpable are held fully to account and to guarantee that any measures that are needed to ensure that such a disaster can never happen again are fully implemented.
I assure you I will continue to press the Government to make sure that all other tower blocks with dangerous cladding are made safe and that councils get the funding needed to carry out remedial work.