For the 72 people who died in Grenfell Tower, “the cladding scandal was fatal”, says Simon Jenkins in The Guardian. Now, for thousands more, “it is becoming a nightmare”. The government is pulling deadly cladding off 500 of the riskiest towers, but people living in 1,500 “unsafe” high-rise buildings are on their own. The government’s decision to mark these blocks as high-risk means their homes are “unsellable, unmortgageable and uninsurable”, but the best Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick can do is advise residents to sue the builders – “if they can afford it”. The government will not bear the cost, even though a “maze of Whitehall regulators” and six private companies have spent four years passing the buck back and forth in an inquiry that has cost the taxpayer £117m “and counting”.
It stands to reason “and justice” that the companies that made vast profits building cheap towers in the 2000s should pay for these essential repairs. “If these were faulty cars or medicines, they would be recalled at the expense of companies, not owners.” Responsibility in the meantime lies with government, “the inspector, regulator and arbitrator of last resort”. Boris Johnson has squandered billions on friends, gimmicks and vanity projects. The one thing he should never be allowed to say is: “We can’t afford it.”
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