TRADE union Unite has urged its members to sign an open letter to housing secretary James Brokenshire condemning a lack of progress on removing combustible cladding from buildings.
At the start of October, the secretary of state announced that all combustible cladding, like that used on Grenfell Tower, would be banned from use on all newbuilds.
However, Unite and other campaigners have called the Government’s efforts to have such cladding removed from existing residential high-rises and other buildings as “disgraceful”.
The open letter, orchestrated by Fuel Poverty Action, which campaigns against fuel poverty, is said to have been signed by more than 50 organisations, MPs and prominent individuals and says “the Government’s history on this issue is disgraceful”. It will be handed to Brokenshire following a demonstration outside the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government on Wednesday, 17 October.
“The Grenfell Tower tragedy destroyed lives and caused unimaginable pain and suffering for the survivors and surrounding communities. What happened must never be forgotten or be allowed to be brushed under the carpet,” said Liane Grove, head of Unite Community.
“The Government has a duty of care to those people whose lives were uprooted by the fire – the causes of which it shares responsibility for – and to other people across the country who live in the knowledge that their homes could also suffer the same fate.”
The Fuel Poverty Action letter says: “Eleven months after the Grenfell fire, when the announcement (to fully fund the replacement of cladding on social housing blocks) was made, only seven out of over 300 tower blocks had been re-clad.
“On a third of the 158 social housing blocks deemed to be in danger, work had not even started. People who were initially told they could move out of dangerous buildings have been denied the opportunity to do so.
“On private blocks, leaseholders have been told to fund the works themselves – which they cannot afford – or continue to live in a fire-trap. Leaseholders in these blocks often have trouble meeting even their normal heating bills, and many go cold each winter.
“Nothing had been done, or offered, for people in danger in flammable office blocks, hotels, or other workplaces, or in schools or hospitals.”
As well as demanding that Grenfell survivors be suitably housed in an area of their choice, the letter calls for the Government to urgently enact its promise to “fully fund” the replacement of flammable cladding on social housing blocks.
It also says the Government should also cover the initial costs for making private housing safe and then seek to recover the funds from landlords, developers and contractors and ensure alternative housing is provided for those forced to move when work is being carried out, the letter says.
Additionally, tenants living in buildings where cladding and insulation has been removed should be provided with special measures to protect them from cold.