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Bishop says builders not taxpayers should pay for improper cladding

by Sophie Drew

Michael Gove has given property developers just two months to sign up to a £4 billion plan to eradicate dangerous cladding.

If companies fail to sign up, a new form of tax could be put in place.

The move comes four-and-a-half years after the Grenfell Tower fire – the devastating blaze that saw 72 people killed, partly due to the improper cladding surrounding the building.

Rev Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington, has since been a staunch campaigner for safe housing, and welcomed Gove’s new move.

He told Premier: “There's definitely stronger language here being used by the Government, which I think is really welcome. I think there's a sense that the Government is beginning to really grapple with the size of the issue.”

However, he says that – despite the move being a step in the right direction – there’s still a long journey ahead. In particular, he’s urging the Government to look beyond cladding to the wider issues prevalent in improper housing.

“There are all kinds of other safety issues besides cladding, because obviously what happened in Grenfell was related to the cladding but as the inquiries proceeded, they have realised that there's been a fairly sort of long term pattern within the construction industry; cutting corners and what's called Value Engineering, which has meant all kinds of safety issues have been revealed; things like fire doors that don't work, combustible insulation, missing cavity fire breaks within buildings which aren't affected by the money that's been put aside.

 “The 4 billion pounds will remove the cladding, but it won't address those wider issues and here are many people across the country living in properties where they've got real safety issues, and they're worried about not just the prospect of fire in their flats, but the bills that are being given for remedying these problems, and insurance bills and so on.”

The new plans mean leaseholders may be able to rest a little easier knowing that they won’t have to foot the bill for the cost of the cladding, but things haven’t quite been cleared up yet. The Chairman of the Homebuilders Foundation has said that builders shouldn’t necessarily be forced to foot the bill for replacement cladding, but Rev Grahame Tomlin doesn’t believe it should fall upon the taxpayer.

The Bishop continued, saying: “I think that they're right in that leaseholders should not be liable for defects that they weren't responsible for. I think the other principle is that the taxpayer should not really have to pay for it either.

“I think there is still a principle that if a building was put up, and corners were cut, or that it wasn't compliant at the time of building, then the developers really are responsible for it.”

"Now, obviously, I'm aware there's a complexity to that because it's not just the developers, it's the people who produce the actual cladding material and so on. There's a lot of parties involved in putting up a building but it seems to me we need to start somewhere.”

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