THE GREATER Manchester High Rise Task Force (GMHRTF) said that the government ‘must act’ on the recommendations made by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee (HCLGC) report on the Building Safety Bill as regards ‘reform of a failing regulatory system’.

Yesterday, the HCLGC called attention to clauses in the draft Building Safety Bill that might allow leaseholders to be charged for fire safety works, an ‘abdication of responsibility’. The committee called on the government to ‘recommit to the principle’ that leaseholders should not pay towards the remediation of their buildings.

It was ‘deeply concerned’ by the government’s ‘failure to protect’ leaseholders from ‘historic’ building safety costs’, and added that it was ‘especially disturbed by its commitment to protecting [them] from only “unaffordable costs”’. Such a move ‘would be unacceptable and an abdication of responsibility’, in making leaseholders ‘contribute a single penny towards the cost of remediating defects for which they were not responsible’.

The Building Safety Bill proposes a building safety charge separate from service charges, which is ‘aimed to ensure that the building safety costs are clearly identifiable’. However, despite ‘growing campaigns’ that call for leaseholders to be protected from such costs, clauses in the bill ‘permit’ building managers and owners to charge leaseholders ‘for these costs, even for issues that pre-date them moving in’.

The HCLGC report listed individuals and groups that had said ‘they did not think any costs should be pushed onto leaseholders’, including the Health and Safety Executive. For the committee, ‘quite simply, no one besides the government thinks the leaseholders should pay’, and it was ‘evident that the responsibility for the costs of remediation lay jointly between the industry and the government’.

It recommended that ‘the only way to ensure’ such work was ‘done quickly’ was for the government to ‘forward fund’ it and ‘then pursue recouping the costs’, with cladding funding so far ‘not enough’.

Housing Minister Lord Greenhalgh had told MPs last month that leaseholders would be liable for ‘some costs’ where owners would not pay ‘and were not required to do so’ under lease terms, adding that the government was ‘determined to ensure the sums involved were fair and affordable’.

The committee argued that the government, while also footing bills ‘in the short term’, needed to ‘develop mechanisms’ to recover costs from those responsible for ‘historic failures’. It also warned that there was a risk that freeholders might seek to recover costs of historic remedial work ‘through the building safety charge’, and criticised the ‘lack of detail in key areas’ of the draft bill.

The taskforce, set up by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and led by City Mayor of Salford Paul Dennett, is supported by Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and includes social and private housing providers, local authorities, universities and other specialists. It said the government ‘must act’ on the HCLGC’s recommendations, and ‘listen to evidence from Greater Manchester’ to ‘ensure that the Building Safety Bill delivers reform of a failing regulatory system’.

The bill, while ‘intended to reform’ the regulatory system for buildings and improve building safety legislation ‘falls short of the radical reform required to ensure all new homes and buildings are safe in the future’, the taskforce had told the HCLGC. Mr Dennett in turn has ‘repeatedly said’ that the existing system of regulation for new buildings is ‘not fit for purpose’, and has led to a national ‘industrial and regulatory crisis that the government has not provided an adequate response to’.

The taskforce had submitted evidence to the HCLGC ‘drawing on the expertise on the wide range of members and the evidence developed since 2017 about the scale of the problem which is affecting Greater Manchester residents’, and highlighted ‘numerous areas’ in the bill that ‘need to be urgently addressed’, including that the scope is ‘too narrow’, and a ‘failure to prevent developers choosing their own regulator’, as well as a failure to ‘protect residents facing life changing bills’.

Having welcomed the £1bn building safety fund announcement in March this year, the taskforce noted ( that it has ‘repeatedly warned it is far from adequate to assist residents trapped in dangerous homes through no fault of their own’, and has ‘already raised concerns about the “first come first served” approach, specifically having highlighted the plight of residents living in the Skyline Central development in Manchester (

Residents had been forced into loan agreements with the freeholder to ‘make their homes safe’, and were ‘left with no option but to judicially review’ the government, which admitted the block had been ‘deliberately excluded because the building owner was taking steps to remove the cladding’. The taskforce called for ‘wider reform’ of the regulatory system to ‘include tighter regulation of all buildings’, and ‘an improvement in competence across all sectors’.

Citing Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, the taskforce noted that this had ‘found that a lack of competency across a range of industries significantly contributed to the failing system of regulation, yet this has not been addressed in the Bill’. Mr Dennett said: ‘Despite the mantra “residents should not pay” repeated by successive Ministers including the Housing Minister today, the government’s focus has clearly moved away from protecting residents caught up the industrial scale regulatory crisis facing the country.

‘I am pleased that the committee has categorically called out this flawed approach rightly describing it as an abdication of government responsibility. It is shocking that the Bill does not protect residents from costs of historic defects. It is a failure of regulation that has trapped residents. It is an ongoing failure of government not to hold those responsible to account and make them liable for the costs of remediating the dangerous buildings that they have profited from.

‘This is something the government must now urgently address as we are now three and a half years on from the tragic fire at Grenfell which claimed 72 innocent lives. I am pleased the committee has recognised many of the issues we raised in our submission and in particular that building height is not the only measure of risk.

‘I remain extremely concerned that the failure of the government to take steps to improve the whole system leaves room for developers to continue to choose their own regulators with no effective enforcement in many cases and will lead to illogical and unjustifiable distinctions between the requirements for different buildings.

‘The committee’s recommendation that the choice of regulator be removed from the building control system is welcome and I hope the government will act on this. There was inadequate information contained in the Bill as to how improving competence across a range of sectors will be resourced and funded.

‘This, coupled with the failure of the Bill to provide an effective mechanism to hold developers or builders to account for failings in existing buildings, undermines the intent of the legislation and fails to protect residents and the public. The committee has clearly identified the need for government to introduce a national system of accreditation for those working on the design and construction of buildings in scope.

‘I urge the government to go further and ensure that accreditation is required for those working on all buildings.’

Two Conservative MPs have written to all other government MPs who are not ministers to ‘take a stand’ and ‘press’ the government to take action to protect leaseholders from fire safety costs, with Stephen McPartland and Royston Smith stating that ‘the government has done its best, but it has been over three years and they are not tackling all the issues.

‘There are lots of options and solutions to support the millions of leaseholders that are being left behind in our constituencies and we are working with the UK Cladding Action Group (UKCAG) to urge the government to support leaseholders’. However, comments made by Housing Minister Christopher Pincher in parliament saw him state that the government would not write an ‘open cheque’, and that it was up to developers and building owners to ‘step up’ and take responsibility.

HCLGC chairman Clive Betts said that the support provided to leaseholders so far was ‘totally inadequate’, and was supported by Conservative MP Sir Peter Bottomley, who said that delays to repairs had effectively ‘frozen’ parts of the leasehold market, and those affected had suffered both ‘unimaginable anxiety and costs beyond the possible chance of paying’.