Housing developers should be set a hard deadline of one year to fix the post-Grenfell cladding crisis, Labour demanded tonight.
The party called on the Government to give companies a timetable for stripping tower blocks of unsafe paneling and carrying out “all necessary remediation work to make buildings safe”.
Shadow Housing Secretary Lucy Powell will use her parliamentary debut in the role to outline plans for a National Cladding Taskforce “to get a grip of this crisis” – and urge a June 2022 deadline for fixing problems.
She said: “This is the biggest building scandal in modern history, and instead of decisive leadership to solve it, Government delays are putting lives at risk.
“The Conservative Party is putting the interests of their developer donors over innocent homeowners.
“Ministers have failed to meet targets to assess unsafe buildings and remove cladding, and broken promises that residents will not pay the costs of those responsible for the building safety scandal.
“The Government must step up and end the waking nightmare for millions of residents trapped in unsafe, unsellable homes.
“Through no fault of their own, leaseholders’ lives are on hold, faced with crippling costs, with the fear of fire a real and present danger for many.”
A total of 72 people were killed when fire ripped through Grenfell Tower, a 24-story block in West London, in June 2017.
Cladding panels fixed to the outside of the building were blamed for fuelling the spread of the blaze.
Hundreds of thousands of leaseholders are stuck in flats where they face bills of tens of thousands of pounds to pay for remedial work to fix defects, including replacing highly flammable cladding on the outside of tower blocks.
The situation has left many people unable to sell their apartments.
The Government has earmarked £5billion to fund work to remove cladding.
But experts believe it will cost billions of pounds more.
Other defects were also found, leaving leaseholders facing large bills to pay for protective measures such as fire breaks, balconies, safer doors and sprinkler systems.
Ministers say a loan scheme will ensure costs are capped at £50 a month for safety works and that residents in the tallest tower blocks in England will not have to pay to have cladding removed.
Critics believe the Government should fund initial work and claw back costs from developers through taxes.
Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack said: “We welcome Labour’s demands for a deadline to remove all combustible cladding.
“Developers and the Government must put an end to our building safety crisis once and for all.
“Decades of deregulation in the building industry led to the fire at Grenfell and urgent action needs to be taken to get to the heart of this crisis and make homes safe.
“We have called for the removal of all flammable cladding since the fire at Grenfell.
“The Government has had four years to make our buildings safe, yet thousands of people across the UK are still living in homes wrapped in dangerous materials.
“It is simply not good enough.”
A Housing Ministry spokeswoman said: “The Government is bringing forward the biggest improvements to building and fire safety in 40 years, including a comprehensive £5billion plan to help protect hundreds of thousands of leaseholders.
“This is an important step towards restoring confidence in the housing market – reassuring lenders that where cladding remediation is needed, costs will not be a barrier or mean that mortgage payments become unmanageable.
“Fixing unsafe cladding is the building owner’s responsibility and we will ensure that industry pays its fair share towards the costs of cladding remediation through a new levy and tax, striking the right balance in protecting leaseholders and being fair to taxpayers.”