New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Election 2024
13 August 2021

Cladding crisis exclusive: Only 2 per cent of voters think leaseholders should pay fire safety costs

New polling reveals Tory voters agree that protecting flat owners from building safety bills is critical.

By Anoosh Chakelian

Four years after 72 people lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire, between 760,000 and 1.36 million people in the UK are caught in the cladding crisis, facing the prospect of having to pay to make their buildings fire safe while living in unsellable properties.

Despite political and media pressure, the government is pushing ahead with plans to burden leaseholders of flats in affected apartment blocks with the cost of remediation work.

Who pays for cladding bills?

While there are government funds set aside to contribute to the cost of removing dangerous cladding from residential buildings above 18 metres in height in England and provide relief for running a “waking watch” in such buildings, ineligible leaseholders whose freeholder or developer will not foot the bill are liable for fixing fire safety defects – as well as the huge insurance cost and waking watch bills.

[See also: Tinderbox Britain: Four years after the Grenfell Tower fire, the cladding crisis rages on]

This injustice is increasingly becoming a political problem for the Conservative Party, since the affluent “cladding classes” – identified by the New Statesman last month – and their families may turn on the Tories at the ballot box.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

There has already been a back-bench rebellion of 31 Tory MPs on related legislation in April, and further rebellions are expected to come. Over the past ten months, influential right-leaning newspapers such as the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail have launched campaigns on behalf of affected leaseholders.

More than a fifth of applications to the Building Safety Fund (22 per cent) for cladding remediation cover come from Tory-voting council areas, including Westminster, Wandsworth, Surrey and Hertfordshire.

[See also: Why the “cladding classes” pose an electoral threat to the Conservatives]

According to exclusive polling for the New Statesman by Redfield & Wilton Strategies*, just 2 per cent of the general public believe the leaseholders who live in these buildings should pay the costs of making their building fire safe.

The public is split on who should pay, with 32 per cent saying the government, 32 per cent the original developer of the building, 27 per cent the current building owner, and 7 per cent saying they don’t know.

Who should pay for fixing dangerous cladding?

What should worry the Conservatives is that Tory voters share this view. Just 2 per cent of survey respondents who voted Conservative at the 2019 general election believe “the people who live in the building” should pay for the work (the same as the public average). Some 36 per cent say the original building developer should pay, 36 per cent the current building owner, 21 per cent the state, and 6 per cent don’t know.

Around 1 per cent of Labour voters say residents should pay, 46 per cent the government, 28 per cent the original developer, 19 per cent the current building owner, 1 per cent answered “other”, and 5 per cent said they didn’t know.

While housing in general is relatively low down on the list of important issues for Tory voters at the moment, the impact of the building safety crisis is likely to have a knock-on effect on the housing market beyond frozen high-rise flat sales, affecting more of the population.

As Nigel Glen, from the Association of Residential Managing Agents, told a parliamentary committee earlier this year:

“We should be very concerned. We have a perfect storm here. It is ghastly what is happening to the market… Sorry to sound like a bit of a doom-monger here, but it could be very significant across the whole property market.”

*Polling conducted on 29 July 2021, with a sample size of 1,500 eligible voters in Great Britain.

Content from our partners
"Heat or eat": how to help millions in fuel poverty
We need an urgent review of UK pensions
The future of private credit