Cladding scandal: Manchester residents heading to Westminster for large protest outside Parliament
Members of the Manchester Cladiators protest group will join similar campaigns across the country in London to demand the prime minister resolves the situation.
Campaigners from Manchester caught up in the cladding and building safety scandal will descend on Westminster this week as a major national rally is held in London over the issue.
The Manchester Cladiators will be among the groups outside Parliament on Thursday 16 September for the protest organised by End Our Cladding Scandal (EOCS), the National Leasehold Campaign (NLC) and charity Leasehold Knowledge Partnership (LKP).
They want prime minister Boris Johnson to take control of the issue and intend to make their voices heard and show the strength of feeling at the heart of British politics.
What is the cladding and building safety scandal?
The scandal began when the problems with Aluminium Composite Material (ACM), which was the main reason for the way the Grenfell Tower fire in London accelerated so lethally with the loss of 72 lives, became clear.
However, there are fire safety issues with other types of cladding as well.
And groups such as the Manchester Cladiators say that decades of insufficient regulation and oversight of building construction means high and medium-rise blocks of flats are riddled with safety problems.
Although there is no exact data available, the Cladiators believe there are around 190 high-rise buildings in Greater Manchester as well as a large number of blocks between 11 and 18 metres in height.
There is also a massive issue on who is going to pay for the work to put the problems right.
The Cladiators and other similar groups are adamant that leaseholders should not have to pay a penny when the problems are of government and the industry’s making.
Despite that, many leaseholders have received large bills for remediation work and fire safety measures and feel trapped as the crisis means they are unable to sell their homes.
What is happening at the protest this week?
The Cladiators will be joined by people in similar positions from towns and cities across the UK in Westminster on Thursday.
They will demand the Government takes urgent action in the upcoming Building Safety Bill to protect existing leaseholders from extortionate costs brought under the leasehold system.
They will be joined on the day by Grenfell United, a group of survivors and bereaved family members of the Grenfell Tower fire, MPs and peers from all three major parties, and other prominent campaign supporters.
There will be a 72-second silence in honour of the lives lost in the Grenfell Tower blaze.
The rally will then hear from politicians from the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
Victims of the cladding scandal and other leasehold issues from across the country will speak candidly about the effect these crises have had on their lives and finances.
The rally is being held on Thursday straight after a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Leasehold and Commonhold Reform.
What does the Manchester group say?
Manchester Cladiators co-founder Giles Grover said: “The time for warm words but limited action is over. We need the Government to finally hold true to the many promises made over the years to protect us from paying to fix safety defects we didn’t cause.
“Alongside our campaign partners, NLC and LKP, we will make sure Boris Johnson hears our voices on 16 September and finally takes control of this crisis to ensure the people he is supposed to represent have protection in law.
“This is the first chance we have had to physically get together en masse and make sure our voices are heard.
“The prime minister must directly intervene to protect us.
“It is a point of simple fairness. We shouldn’t be made to pay for the failings of the state and industry.”
A Manchester protest was recently held at Salford Quays where residents received support from Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, the Salford City mayor Paul Dennett and the MP for Salford and Eccles, Rebecca Long-Bailey.
However, Mr Grover admitted the removal of Robert Jenrick from his cabinet position as secretary of state for housing, communities and local government in the reshuffle on Wednesday had created some nervousness over what the immediate future holds for the campaign.
Mr Jenrick was replaced by Michael Gove as housing secretary in the shake-up within Government.
What do the authorities say?
The Government has said it is spending billions on improving building safety but has also claimed that some residents are being billed for unnecessary work due to the industry being too cautious on the issue, something the campaigners dispute.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) previously told Manchester World: “We are spending £5bn to fully fund the replacement of all unsafe cladding systems in the highest-risk buildings and are making the biggest improvements to building safety in a generation.
“It is clear that excessive industry caution is leaving many leaseholders in lower-risk buildings unable to sell, or facing bills for work which is often not necessary.
“This must stop - that’s why following advice from independent experts we’ve set out that EWS1 forms should not be requested for buildings below 18m and we urge the market to follow this approach, and welcome the support of major high-street lenders.”