Michael Gove’s admission of failures is welcome, but leaseholders need certainty they won’t be on the hook for any fire defects
For those who bought flats in tower blocks built with flammable materials, the dream of home ownership has become a nightmare. The Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 revealed that thousands of people in Britain were living in flats which were wrapped in unsafe cladding. Five-and-a-half years later, only 7% of dangerous homes have been fixed. Leaseholders have been stung with bills of more than £200,000 for defects they had no hand in creating. The effects of this are psychological as well as financial: one survey found that 90% of people affected by the cladding crisis said their mental health had deteriorated; 23% reported having suicidal feelings or a desire to self-harm.
Ministers long refused to acknowledge that slashing red tape played a role in this scandal. Their evasion was partly founded on hostility to regulations and loyalty to an industry whose leaders are among the key donors to the Conservative party. So a recent admission from the secretary of state for levelling up and housing, Michael Gove, that lax regulations were partly to blame for Grenfell, was a welcome shift in tone. The rulebook was “faulty and ambiguous”, allowing the industry to “put people in danger in order to make a profit”, he said. For those who campaigned tirelessly to make homes safer, this was confirmation that the ideology of deregulation helped to create this scandal, and that its beneficiaries should be on the hook for fixing it.