Top 100 law firm Russell-Cooke, acting with fellow legal specialists advising survivors and bereaved families of the Grenfell Fire tragedy, has joined forces with a coalition of activists and community groups to relaunch the 'End Our Cladding Scandal' campaign.
Almost one year on since the publication of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry's Phase 1 report, the campaign relaunch comes as the Inquiry resumes its Phase 2 hearings, and six months after the Government pledged £1 billion in funding to support the remediation of unsafe cladding on high rise residential buildings. According to the HCLG Committee, 2,000 high rise residential buildings remain at high risk.
Together, the campaign group says that the current efforts are failing, and thousands of people are still living in dangerous conditions. It puts forward 10 aims – listed below, including a call for a national effort to remove all dangerous cladding by June 2022, which are based on the recommendations of the HCLG committee and which have secured the backing of MPs from across the political spectrum.
Graham French, consultant at Russell-Cooke, said:
“As Phase 2 of the Inquiry continues there are many important issues to be considered, including causation, responsibility, decision making, and the dangers associated with various combinations of cladding and insulation. But the Phase 2 report may take another two years or more to produce. In the meantime, thousands of people are still living with dangerous cladding on their homes, many of which have already been identified for remediation. Those people must not be made to wait for years for their homes to be made safe.
"The Inquiry's Phase 1 report clearly found that the cause of spread of the fire was the use of combustible cladding and insulation materials in the external wall of the Tower. Action must be taken, immediately, to ensure that these dangerous materials are removed from all buildings, and we are pleased to be working hand in hand with the community and experts in the field to highlight the issue to all those with the power to effect meaningful change and to help the campaign for the safety of people who are, right now, living in fear."
The resident groups in the campaign will hold a 24-hour 'waking watch' outside the headquarters of the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) on Friday 2 October.
- The Government must lead an urgent national effort to remove all dangerous cladding from buildings by June 2022, actively prioritising the buildings most at risk.
- The Building Safety Fund must cover all buildings, regardless of height, and a range of internal and external fire safety defects, not just cladding.
- The Government should provide the money up front, and then seek to recover it from any responsible parties or via a temporary levy on development.
- Social housing providers must have full and equal access to the fund.
- The Government must compel building owners or managers to be honest with residents about fire safety defects.
- The Government should cover the cost of interim safety measures.
- The Government should act as an insurer of last resort and underwrite insurance where premiums have soared.
- A fairer, faster process is needed to replace EWS and funding is necessary to ensure all buildings requiring a form are surveyed within 12 months.
- Mental health support must be offered to affected residents.
- Protecting residents from historic and future costs must be a key commitment of new building safety legislation.