'We are coming for you': Developers told to pay cladding costs or face tax hit
- Credit: PA
The government will not hesitate to introduce a developers’ tax to hit those responsible for dangerous cladding, warned Michael Gove.
This penalty could be introduced if firms do not voluntarily step up to fix safety defects, vowed the levelling up, housing and communities secretary.
Mr Gove has today - January 10 - laid out a set of measures intended to compel those with “the big bucks, the big profits” to act to remedy fire safety risks which plague buildings across Britain.
Speaking to the House of Commons, the MP said: "Leaseholders are shouldering a desperately unfair burden.
"They're blameless and it is morally wrong that they're being asked to pay the price. I'm clear who should pay the price, the industries involved."
The secretary has announced that developers must agree a £4billion plan to remove dangerous cladding in buildings between 11m and 18m by early March or risk new laws forcing them to act.
A spotlight was cast on the use of flammable materials in the construction of high-rise buildings following the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire which killed 72 people.
Many leaseholders have since been left facing potentially ruinous bills after discovering that cladding on their homes could be dangerous.
Some have reportedly been hit with costs of more than £100,000 to replace the unsafe materials or pay for so-called “waking watches”, where someone is employed to patrol a building checking for fires.
Last February the government announced a multibillion-pound package in a bid to ensure no leaseholders in high-rise blocks over 18 metres tall in England face charges for the removal of cladding.
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For blocks of between 11 metres and 18 metres (36ft and 59ft), the government vowed to introduce a “long-term, low interest” loan scheme under which “no leaseholder will ever pay more than £50 a month towards the removal of unsafe cladding”.
But in November Mr Gove said he was "still unhappy with the principle of leaseholders having to pay at all".
In multiple interviews given ahead of today's Commons speech, the secretary promised the government would use the tax system - "if necessary" - to ensure developers fulfil their duty to fix dangerous cladding.
In a letter to the residential property development industry being sent today, Mr Gove has set a deadline of early March to publicly accept his ultimatum and provide a “fully-funded plan of action”.
Developers were also ordered to provide comprehensive information on all buildings of 11m and above they have helped construct over the past 30 years which have fire-safety defects.
Speaking in the Commons this afternoon, Mr Gove sent a clear message: "Those who knowingly put lives at risk should be held to account for their crimes.
"To those who are seeking to profit from the crisis should be stopped from doing so - today I'm putting them on notice.
"To those who cut corners to save cash - we are coming for you."
Mr Gove has conceded that it's unclear just how many buildings remain affected, owing to a "problem in the system" which means aggrieved residents have to come forward with the issue.
Explaining that “some of the most egregious cases” have already been tackled, the MP expressed his hope that the affected number can be clarified through conversations with owners and developers.
Campaign groups have tentatively welcomed the plans, including End Our Cladding Scandal, who met with Mr Gove today.
Reservations remain over what now happens with leaseholders in buildings under 11m tall, and to those living in buildings between 11m and 18m who have already stumped up huge sums.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the action on cladding was welcome but “very late”.
“Anything that helps the people who are in this awful position in relation to cladding is welcome,” he said.
“I would prefer there was a plan rather than just a promise, because the terms of what’s going to happen are still very vague.”
However, developers insist they should not bear the financial burden alone.
Could you be affected by today's announcements? If you'd like to share your story, please email us - LondonLive@archant.co.uk