The Government today issued a direct threat to developers over the cladding crisis, telling companies who put “sheets of petrol encased in metal” on tall buildings they face legal measures if they refuse to fund removal.
Michael Gove, the Housing Secretary, has confirmed plans for a £4 billion pot, funded by developers, to remove dangerous cladding from tower blocks — and warned of a possible developers tax.
The move is set to take the burden off leaseholders who faced hefty bills for safety works after the Grenfell Tower disaster. Mr Gove said he is writing to companies telling them to draw up plans to fix cladding issues by March.
Developers who refuse to pay will face tax or legal measures, he added. “We want to say to developers, and all those who have a role to play in recognising their responsibility, that we want to work with them,” Mr Gove told Sky News.
“But if… it’s necessary to do so, then we will use legal means and ultimately the tax system in order to ensure that those who have deep pockets, those who are responsible for the upkeep of these buildings, pay, rather than the leaseholders who in the past were being asked to pay with money they didn’t have for a problem that they did not cause.”
Leaseholders in buildings between 11m and 18m will no longer have to cover the costs of work. Instead developers will have to agree to start contributing this year to cover the “full outstanding cost” of remedial work, estimated at £4billion.
Mr Gove acknowledged the Government cannot be “absolutely precise” about how many buildings still have flammable cladding, over four years after 72 people died in the Grenfell fire. He said it was in the thousands.
A spokesman for the End Our Cladding Scandal group said they were “cautiously optimistic” about the plan.
Shares in house building companies fell today as the news was announced.
Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said councils and housing associations should contribute to remediation costs.
A government review into building regulations after Grenfell found a “race to the bottom” in safety practices. Mr Gove admitted the Government had got “stuff wrong”. But he told LBC that “you would be hard-pressed to say that putting, essentially, sheets of liquid petrol encased in metal on the side of a tower block was the right thing to do.”