Isabel Hardman

The Tories’ cladding crisis fix falls short again

The Tories' cladding crisis fix falls short again
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Most of the Conservative MPs who responded to Robert Jenrick's statement this afternoon about an extra £3.5 billion to help with the cladding crisis sounded relieved that the government is finally doing something. But if ministers think that the response in the Chamber means they can relax, they are in for a bit of a shock.

The two most active Conservative MPs on this issue are Stephen McPartland and Royston Smith, and neither spoke in the Commons after the announcement. But both have been critical elsewhere. McPartland called the policy – which will only offer loans to leaseholders in blocks between 11 and 18 metres high – a 'betrayal' and accused the government of 'shocking incompetence'. He added: 'It is clear the Prime Minister has to step in'. 

Smith was more emollient, calling it 'progress', but added that 'it's not going to help all those affected or protect the effects on the housing market'.

There are around 80,000 people in medium-rise flats who will only get loans, with taller buildings having all the remedial work to remove dangerous cladding paid for by the government. The loans will average around £40,000 per leaseholder, with monthly repayments capped at £50, which means it will take a lifetime to repay the debt. It does nothing to help those who are trapped in flats they cannot sell, because that loan is attached to the property.

On top of that, everyone, whether in a high- or medium-rise building, will still have to pay for other fire safety defects such as missing fire breaks, wooden balconies, waking watches and so on. This can run into the tens of thousands of pounds.

The question now is whether the response that other MPs receive from their constituents who are affected by the loans is so ferocious that they start to think that this is insufficient progress. Ministers have only acted now because pressure has finally built to the extent that they've needed to announce something. The sheer number of newspaper campaigns and cladding action campaigns means they may well realise they need announce something else again – and soon.

Written byIsabel Hardman

Isabel Hardman is assistant editor of The Spectator and author of Why We Get the Wrong Politicians. She also presents Radio 4’s Week in Westminster.

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