Hilary Benn calls on Michael Gove to end cladding scandal at Leeds flats
A Leeds MP has called on the new housing secretary Michael Gove to end the cladding scandal, and to allow leaseholders in Leeds restart their lives.
Hilary Benn (Lab, Leeds Central) was speaking from a cladding scandal rally in Parliament Square, in which hundreds of leaseholders voiced their anger at having to pay sky-high fees for waking watches and seeing the value of their homes vanish through no fault of their own.
Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017, it was revealed that tower blocks across the country, some in Leeds, had been clad in potentially flammable materials.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson removed Robert Jenrick as housing secretary this week, replacing him with former environment and education secretary Michael Gove.
In a video posted to Twitter, Mr Benn said: “We are here with a message: it’s not fair to make leaseholders pay for the failures and mistakes of others.
“People can’t afford the bills they are paying at the moment. They can’t afford to fix the building safety defects, and the Government has to come up with a plan.
“Everyone here who is a leaseholder, the first thing they think about when they wake up in the morning is ‘oh my goodness, I am living in a fire risk. My flat is worth nothing. I can’t sell it. My future is on hold’.
“They long for the day when they can get on with the rest of their lives and it’s down to the Government to make that happen. We are not going away.”
In the case of most flats, the owner buys a lease on their individual home for a certain number of years.
The building itself – known as the freehold – is often owned by a landlord or management company, which can collect fees from leaseholders for maintenance and upkeep of the building.
Since Mr Benn and campaigners called for more help back in January, former housing secretary Robert Jenrick had said the Government would fully fund the leaseholder costs of replacing unsafe cladding in residential buildings in England that are taller than 18 metres – around six storeys.
In a statement in February, Mr Jenrick added that leaseholders in lower-rise buildings would be offered long-term, low interest, government-backed loans to replace cladding.
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