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9 June 2021

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Cladding safety: Protests demand developers and government pay

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Pete Mason, Barking Reach Residents Association chair

Protests took place around the country on 5 June highlighting the cladding crisis, covered by both the BBC and ITV news. Four years after the Grenfell Tower disaster, flammable cladding, balconies, insulation and missing cavity barriers are still causing untold misery.

All around the country protesters explained that they had sunk their life savings into a home which is now valued at zero - unsellable, and they are facing bankruptcy.

We took our protest to the Beckton Parkside sales office of Bellway Homes. Cars were constantly beeping their support.

On the megaphone, I pointed out that the government is defending the profits of the big building companies, and called for them to be nationalised, so that all unsafe buildings could be immediately remediated, to break the deadlock residents are currently facing. This could then start a mass high-quality council housing building programme to set new standards in the building industry and end homelessness.

Protests hit the local offices of Countryside, in Clapton and Barnet in London. Over 100 gathered in Hayes.

Large crowds in Birmingham condemned a range of developers. On the Bellway protest in Manchester, protestors chanted: "Hey Bellway, rich and rude, we don't like your attitude". Local TV covered the Manchester protest against Lendlease.

In Canary Wharf in London, protesters from the New Providence Wharf, where a fire broke out just a month ago, angry at developer Ballymore, were joined by protestors against Persimmon. A New Providence Wharf resident said that the fire brigade told them their fire was a "very near miss" - with two hospitalised, and many evacuated - and that "next time they may not be so lucky".

A big protest took place in Brighton against Barratt Homes, where 600 residents have organised themselves into a residents association. They said: "We're going to confront the government, and we're going to confront Barratt Homes."

The Socialist Party says an essential next step is bringing all the campaigns together in a conference to discuss the way forward - include resident associations, Fire Brigades Union and other unions, such as those covering housing. That conference could propose to build a national Saturday demonstration, and participate in the May 2022 local elections.

Ipswich residents are trapped

Teresa MacKay, Ipswich Socialist Party

Ipswich Cladiators, founded in the wake of the cladding crisis exposed by the fire at Grenfell Tower, protested at Taylor Wimpey's Wolsey Grange development. They are worried their homes are unsafe, and they could face bills of tens of thousands of pounds to fix the problem.

Alex Dickin is part of Ipswich Cladiators. He cannot sell his home as it is valued as being worth nothing.

He is worried he will be left bankrupt. He is trapped, unsafe and cannot move on.

It's not just the cladding that is the problem. Cardinal Lofts on the Ipswich Waterfront, where Alex lives, have wooden balconies and no fire breaks. A fire could just take off and spread throughout the building.

In fact, the overall design of the building is extremely poor. And Alex is not the only one. A further 225 Ipswich leaseholders are also trapped in this scandal.

Many buildings affected no longer have active developers that can pay to fix the cladding. The government has only revealed three of the 17 buildings affected in Suffolk, refusing to say which the others are.

Residents now face huge bills for fire marshals and repairs. The financial impact is horrendous - bills of more than 90,000, which they cannot afford to pay.

These are predominantly young people on the first step of the ladder in purchasing their own property - or so they thought! If they forfeit the lease on their flat they then can lose their homes and their jobs. On top of that, there are 70 schools around the country with this cladding that were built after Grenfell!

Taylor Wimpey is promising 165 million to fix the 232 affected buildings. But this is not nearly enough. The average cost for each building will be 2 million, according to government data, almost three times as much.

Both Taylor Wimpey and the government must pay for removing dangerous cladding from high-risk buildings. Safety is their responsibility. They should meet the costs of remediation work, and not pass it onto leaseholders.

"Barratt must pay!"

Ferdy Lyons, East London Socialist Party

The Socialist Party and the Social Housing Action Campaign attended a protest outside Upton Gardens, Barratt's development at the site of West Hams' old Boleyn Ground, as part of the national day of action over the cladding scandal.

Leaseholders of Barratt developments are facing bills of up to 31,000 to remove the unsafe cladding from their properties, on top of the extortionate service charges they are already paying for waking watches and fire wardens. The demo was very well attended, with many Barratt leaseholders and residents, various community groups, local MP Stephen Timms and London Assembly members Umesh Desai and Zack Polanski.

Demonstrators drowned out the traffic of Green Street with chants of 'Barratt must pay' that was met with drivers honking their horns in support. The flammable cladding was erected by these developers in the full knowledge it was unsafe, and the government is letting them get away with it. All flammable cladding off now and make the developers and government pay not the residents!

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