St Albans MP describes fire safety row as ‘national scandal of epic proportions’

St Albans MP Daisy Cooper scrutinises the Fire Safety Bill.

St Albans MP Daisy Cooper scrutinises the Fire Safety Bill. - Credit: Daisy Cooper

MP Daisy Cooper has condemned the financial burden of making homes across the UK fire safe as "a national scandal of epic proportions".

Buildings with unsafe cladding and fire safety defects are affecting thousands of people across the country, including hundreds in St Albans.

This week the Fire Safety Bill passed into law despite attempts to persuade the Government to fix the bill or let it fall and introduce a better version in the next Queen’s Speech.

Last year, Daisy joined the fire safety bill committee – the cross-party group of MPs scrutinising the Government’s proposed new laws – after meeting with local residents who discovered their homes were not fire-safe.

She tabled an amendment to the bill that introduced the principle that no leaseholder or tenant should have to pay for fire safety defects not of their making, but the bill was passed without this being added on.

Now thousands of homeowners could receive extortionate bills for safety improvements – perhaps within a matter of days.

Daisy said: “Nearly four years on from the Grenfell tragedy and millions of homeowners, including hundreds of residents in St Albans, are still living in death traps, facing exorbitant costs to fix the fire safety defects.

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"Some have declared bankruptcy. Some are homeless. Tens of thousands are struggling with their mental health.

“Boris Johnson promised that ‘No leaseholder should have to pay for the unaffordable costs of fixing safety defects’ – yet this is another promise broken.

“The Government has had 10 whole months to break the deadlock and propose a solution that they find acceptable but they have refused to compromise.

“They have turned their back on those who are dealing with the devastating consequences of the cladding crisis. Leaseholders themselves said they would rather that this bill fell and didn’t pass into law without vital financial protections, but the Conservative Government just refused to listen. The Government’s handling of this crisis is a national scandal of epic proportions.”

Daisy is supporting the national Cladding Action Group, which is calling on the Government to cover the costs up-front so as to make millions of homes fire-safe as quickly as possible, then to set up a scheme to claw the money back from those responsible, including developers.”

Alison Hills, who owns a flat in St Albans with her father that has flammable cladding, insulation and other fire safety issues, said: “We bought the flat in good faith, having completed all the right surveys and paid professionals’ fees.

“When we first found out, a waking watch was put in place which was a total joke because all they did was sit around on their phones, they never patrolled the building like they were supposed to and they were actually increasing the fire safety risks by blocking fire exits, overloading power cables and falling asleep on the job. We were paying £400 per month each for this ‘service’.

“Also, the more we found out from the Grenfell inquiry the more my mental health was negatively and hugely affected. I couldn't sleep, couldn't eat, couldn't concentrate. I’d have nightmares every night about facing a choice of having to jump from my balcony or burn to death. I was terrified at the prospect of having to pay a £150,000 bill which could cause bankruptcy.

“I was experiencing suicidal thoughts and was in tears every night. Eventually I just had to move out.

“I am now renting somewhere else and the flat is empty. My mental health has now improved because I know I’m living somewhere safe, but I still worry about my financial future and my dad’s.

"Neither he nor I, nor the three million other leaseholders across the country who are innocent victims of a Government-fuelled corruptive scam deserve this.

“I’m absolutely outraged at the result of the fire safety bill, but thankful to Daisy and the Lib Dems who are the only party who have demonstrated to us that they truly care about us – the innocent victims – and are willing to fight this to the bitter end.”