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Government promises extra £3.5bn for cladding removal but not for low rise blocks

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An extra £3.5bn has been promised by the government to residents in high rise flats facing huge bills to remove dangerous cladding.

Controversially, Hpsung Secretary Robert Jenrick said blocks below 18m higher were not included as the fire risk was significantly lower, sparking a wave of criticism.

Leaseholders who live in blocks at least 18m high or with six stories will have to pay nothing if the cladding is removed said Jenrick.

People in these blocks say they have been effectively trapped since the Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017, which highlighted just how dangerous cladding can be.

Jenrick said the new money was an “exceptional intervention” by the government and the “largest-ever government investment” in building safety.

A £1.6bn fund had already been set up in 2019 following the controversy surrounding Grenfell Tower, but critics said the top up today was still not enough.

In addition to the building work, leaseholders have seen insurance costs for blocks affected rocket.

Jenrick also said that for people in the blocks below 18m a long-term scheme would be introduced to ensure no leaseholder paid more than £50 a month to remove unsafe cladding.

To help pay for the removal costs, a levy will apply from 2022 on all new developments with the government also looking at a new residential property tax.

Critics though were quick to respond.

Tory MP Stephen McPartland said in a tweet that the Housing Secretary has been very careful to just state ‘cladding’.

“No mention of fire safety defects, Waking Watches or Excessive Insurance Premiums which are often the main costs for millions of leaseholders.”

David Westgate, group chief executive of Andrews Property Group, added the extra would barely scratch the surface of the cladding crisis.

“Millions of property owners are stuck in limbo because their building has potentially unsafe cladding, and haven’t got the time to wait for it be replaced, which could take years. 

“They are already facing financial difficulties because they can’t sell their property or remortgage onto a more affordable rate product.  

“The Government has also failed to address all those homeowners who are living in buildings below 18m that have cladding, and have been caught up in this fiasco.

Earlier today Persimmon PLC (LON:PSN) Britain’s largest housebuilder said it was setting aside £75mln for remedial work on cladding on blocks it had built, but it too made a distinction between those above and below 18m.

Cladding on nine buildings at 18m or above might need to be removed, it said but for seventeen buildings under 18m high more detailed investigation is needed, it said.

In all cases, FTSE100 member Persimmon said it would only carry out work where it still owns the building.

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