At today’s (3rd Feb) meeting of Manchester City Council, the motion written by Councillor Marcus Johns on the campaign to #EndOurCladdingScandal and to remediate fire safety defects was debated. This followed the UK Labour Party’s opposition day motion on Monday (1st Feb):

That this House calls on the government to urgently establish the extent of dangerous cladding and prioritise buildings according to risk; provide upfront funding to ensure cladding remediation can start immediately; protect leaseholders and taxpayers from the cost by pursuing those responsible for the cladding crisis; and update parliament once a month in the form of a written ministerial statement by the Secretary of State.

Unfortunately, because all three Deansgate Councillors (Marcus Johns, Joan Davies, and William Jeavons) are directly affected leaseholders at different stages in the EWS1 or remediation processes in the city centre blocks where they live, they were not able to take part in the proceedings or the vote on this motion at Council.

Nonetheless, this does not impede their ongoing commitment to the motion or the campaign. They strongly supported the motion and lobbied their colleagues to back the campaign. They were pleased to have the full support of their Labour colleagues and delighted that Marcus’ motion passed unanimously.

If Marcus could have spoken, his speech would have included the following comments:

“Thousands of residents in Manchester and millions across the country are currently trapped. They are trapped in unsafe homes, with inadequate protection from fire, and they are trapped by the prospect of paying for the work needed to put it right.”

The emotional pressure of feeling unsafe and financially trapped because of your home is overwhelming. From my own experience, I know the fear of not knowing what the bill might be. Imagine being in your home and hearing the waking watch walk passed your front door, and it reminding you constantly of the seemingly endless cost of this interim measure, of skyrocketing service charges due to leaps of up to 800 per cent in insurance costs, or of every letter addressed to you filling you with dread at the potential of a demand for tens of thousands of pounds to provide something that should be a given: that your home is a safe place to live.”

“Firstly, this crisis is a product of decades of systemic failure to ensure safe homes were built.

Secondly, millions of people across the country, and thousands in Manchester, are now trapped in unsafe homes through no fault of their own.

Thirdly, an unhelpful Government has responded inadequately, blind to the scale of this scandal, and lacking the urgency needed to resolve it.

And finally, is a basic value from which solutions emerge: that those responsible ought to pay the price. This is a common value seen in many policy arenas, including the polluter pays principle so central to environmental policy. Yet, the building industry are responsible for this scandal, they have made billions of pounds of profit from it, and still residents are being forced to pay.

At the most basic level, this is a glaring injustice.”

There are just solutions available and we need Government to grasp them now. Let us show support for these principles, for our people, and show solidarity to the thousands of Manchester residents who desperately need an end to our cladding scandal.”

The motion (as of 3rd February) read:

This Council notes:

  • the tragic fire in Grenfell Tower in 2017 led to a series of events which uncovered a growing scandal of residential buildings with flammable materials, missing fire breaks, and other fire safety defects;
  • that thousands of Manchester people live in such buildings, and that number continues to rise, including disabled people who face compounding difficulties including lack of specific support for their needs, additional financial pressures, and the potential exacerbation of health conditions;
  • the outstanding support that the Manchester Cladiators and CLADDAG campaigns have been providing to many residents;
  • that many are unable to sell or re-mortgage their homes due to this situation and a broken EWS1 process;
  • the support of the Executive Member for Housing & Regeneration alongside Manchester’s Members of Parliament in putting pressure on Government to seek resolution and to protect affected Manchester People;
  • that Manchester City Council has been named an early adopter of Hackitt’s Grenfell building safety review, within which the Council aims to champion building safety, to encourage cultural change across the development industry, to ensure building safety is considered ‘upfront’ to prioritise safety now, and play an active role in developing building safety policy.

This Council believes that:

  • the cladding crisis is a scandal that punishes leaseholders and Manchester people for systemic problems with building safety regulations and methods of development in England;
  • this has a cruel effect on affected Manchester people’s mental health, leaving them in unsafe homes and facing lifechanging bills;
  • it is grossly unjust that residents who bought homes in good faith should face remediation costs;
  • the Government’s Building Safety Fund is inadequate both in scope and amount, failing to protect leaseholders from costs and to accelerate remediation;
  • the Government must right broken promises, return to the original premise that no cost is past to leaseholders, abandon ‘loan schemes’, and act quickly;
  • a viable route to remediation is for payment nationally to fall on the building industry coupled with a ‘pay now, litigate later’ approach as recently developed by the Australian Labor Party State Government in Victoria.

This Council resolves to:

  • thank Manchester Cladiators and all campaigners for their efforts fighting this injustice, and to continue to support them in their campaign;
  • continue supporting the End our Cladding Scandal campaign’s 10-step plan to tackle this crisis, to which Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, the Leader, and Councillors Richards, Lyons, Wheeler, Johns, Davies, and Wright are signatories
  • ask the Chief Executive to write to the Minister for Housing Communities and Local Government to ask Government to accede to those 10 asks
  • continue providing practical support to affected Manchester people, including asking the Planning Department to prioritise applications for fire-related remediation work, asking the Executive Member for Housing & Regeneration to continue to work with local groups, and helping affected Manchester people to understand their situation;
  • continue acting inclusively on this issue, including actively involving affected disabled people, raising awareness of their specific issues and campaigning
  • ask the Executive Member to work alongside Manchester’s Members of Parliament to develop a ‘Manchester Ask’ outlining the funding required remediate affected buildings in our city, saving Manchester people from hardship, unfair cost and worse consequences.

Proposed by Councillor Johns Seconded by Councillor Jon Connor Lyons and also signed (via email) by Councillors Jeavons, Wright, Murphy, Igbon, M Dar, Douglas, Wheeler, Davies and Richards

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