Cladding scandal victims’ anger at West Midlands MPs over leaseholder protections vote


Cladding victims have expressed frustration after West Midlands MPs voted against proposals to protect leaseholders from costs to make buildings safe.

The Government opposed proposed amendments to the Fire Safety Bill intended to prevent remediation costs for fire defects being passed onto buildings’ leaseholders.

The bill had been passed between the House of Commons and House of Lords, with MPs most recently voting to turn down the Lords’ suggested amendment last month.

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MPs voting for against the amendment were all from the Conservative Party, with many of the region’s Conservative MPs among them.

But a minority of Conservative MPs voted for the proposals, alongside Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs and members from other parties.

West Midlands MPs who voted against the proposals on April 28 were:

* Wendy Morton MP, Aldridge-Brownhills (Con)
* Gary Sambrook MP, Birmingham Northfield (Con)
* Marco Longhi MP, Dudley North (Con)
* Mike Wood MP, Dudley South (Con)
* Saqib Bhatti MP, Meriden (Con)
* Julian Knight MP, Solihull (Con)
* Suzanne Webb MP, Stourbridge (Con)
* Eddie Hughes MP, Walsall North (Con)
* Nicola Richards MP, West Bromwich East (Con)
* Shaun Bailey MP, West Bromwich West (Con)
* Jane Stevenson MP, Wolverhampton North East (Con)
* Stuart Anderson MP, Wolverhampton South West (Con)

Funds are being made available from the Government to cover the costs of removing cladding-related defects.

But residents have warned there are other types of defects not being covered by the fund – and the costs of fixing are being passed to leaseholders through “archaic” legislation.

Brian Simpson is a resident of Islington Gates in the Jewellery Quarter and a founding member of BrumLAG – the campaign group which supports cladding victims in the city.

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The group has written to several of the MPs who have voted against the amendment including Sajid Javid MP, MP for Bromsgrove.

Mr Simpson said: “The way we see it, it’s not really a party-political issue. The MPs are having to stay in line with the party whip.

“They should be taking a more moral stance in my view, rather than following the party.

“The amendment would have protected leaseholders from costs for remediation work – passing the buck to them.

“We are being asked to pay for remediation costs for issues we have no responsibility for.

“It’s archaic leaseholder law that is why we are being held responsible for costs.”

Stan Silverman, 66, retired, lives in Hampton-in-Arden, Solihull – which sits in the Meriden constituency – and owns a flat at Hemisphere Apartments in Edgbaston.

Leaseholders at Hemisphere have been hit by extra costs of around £2,000 per year per flat and also face the possibility of having to pay considerable remediation costs including defects not covered by the Government.

Mr Silverman has written several times to Meriden MP Saqib Bhatti and was unhappy with a template response he received stating leaseholders are being supported.

Mr Silverman said: “I have written to him many times about this issue. He has replied a couple of times – once it was clearly a central office reply, the normal lines they are issued with I’m sure when a constituent raises this.”

He said he believed home ownership is a central point of Conservative policy and that the cladding issue is “completely undermining that aspect”.

He said: “I am concerned Mr Bhatti says one thing but doesn’t actually decide to support what he is saying.

“I am not going to go bankrupt or homeless because of this but other people might, and that’s my central concern.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service contacted each of the West Midlands MPs who voted against the amendment, and received a reply only from Dudley North MP Marco Longhi.

He said: “The Housing Secretary confirmed that the Government will fully fund the replacement of unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in residential buildings 18 metres and higher in England, which have been independently judged to be the highest risk buildings.

“For leaseholders in lower-rise buildings between 11 and 18 metres, a new scheme will protect against unaffordable cladding removal costs through a financing arrangement where leaseholders pay no more than a maximum of £50 per month towards remediation when the building owner cannot pay for the work.

“I have ensured that Ministers are aware of the strength of feeling about the loan and have requested a meeting to take the concerns of my constituents who are directly affected to the Ministers directly.”

Andrew Mitchell MP, MP for Sutton Coldfield, abstained from the vote.

He said: “I am not happy that a certain section of leaseholders are disadvantaged as things stand and that’s why I did not support the Government and abstained.

“I recognise the Government has moved helpfully on much of this but unfortunately there is still an element who have yet to receive the help to which I feel they are due.”

The Government has previously said it is removing dangerous cladding from the highest risk buildings “as quickly as possible” with a fund of more than £5 billion.

They have added owners and industry will “pay for the mistakes of the past” with a new levy and tax to contribute to the costs of remediation.

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