New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Election 2024
  2. UK Politics
1 February 2021updated 25 Jul 2021 11:51am

The post-Grenfell cladding crisis affecting millions is about to hit the government too

Leaseholders across the country are stuck in unsafe homes with mounting costs.

By Anoosh Chakelian

In April 2019, after four years of saving, 27-year-old marketing executive Hayley Tillotson put a £10,000 deposit down on a one-bedroom flat in central Leeds. Six months later, a letter from the West Yorkshire fire brigade turned her dream into a nightmare.

Her building was wrapped in dangerous flammable cladding, like the type used on the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower in west London.

She was hit with bills for a fire warden (to check throughout the night for fire), replacement cladding and a new fire alarm system. Her buildings insurance and service charge bills went up. The waking watch alone cost £300 a month – as much as her mortgage payments. Unable to keep up with the extra costs, or to rent the flat out (banned under the terms of her affordable housing scheme agreement), she declared herself bankrupt.

Thought to be the first person to go bankrupt for this reason, Tillotson is not alone. Buildings insurance, service charges, cladding replacement works and waking watch costs are falling onto the shoulders of hundreds of thousands of leaseholders who are then trapped in homes they can no longer afford, remortgage or sell.

Despite the government promising that work to remove Grenfell-style cladding from all blocks over 18 metres in height would begin by the end of last year, there are still 165 buildings with the dangerous cladding and 45 buildings that still have not begun works.

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.

Millions more homes in buildings below 18 metres are wrapped in flammable materials, according to research by the New Build Database, which suggests 4.6m properties could be affected overall.

In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 72 people in June 2017, the government has been slow to act. Only four of the 46 recommendations from the Grenfell Tower inquiry have so far been implemented, and millions of people are living in fire-unsafe buildings across the country.

Labour is forcing a symbolic vote on stopping costs being passed on to residents, and there is considerable pressure on the government from its own benches: the Tory MPs Stephen McPartland and Royston Smith have tabled an amendment signed by 30 fellow Conservatives to the Fire Safety Bill, calling for costs not to fall on leaseholders.

Residents themselves who are affected should also concern ministers: “It’s first-time buyers, wanting to get on the housing ladder and secure their future. It’s people trying to move up and start a family. It’s those approaching or in retirement, wanting somewhere smaller,” in the words of the shadow housing secretary, Thangam Debbonaire.

These are the likes of the “savers and strivers” whom the Conservative Party purports to support. Indeed, the Daily Mail is now campaigning to “end the nationwide cladding scandal”, running emotive interviews with people in devastating circumstances.

For the sake of millions stuck in unsafe homes, let’s hope the plight of people like Hayley Tillotson fast becomes a problem for ministers too.

[See also: How they built Grenfell]

Content from our partners
We need an urgent review of UK pensions
The future of private credit
Peatlands are nature's unsung climate warriors