Cladding crisis lumbers Havering Council leader with unsellable flat

Damian White and a cladding banner

Havering Council leader Damian White said he had become embroiled in the post-Grenfell cladding scandal, as it had rendered his Harold Wood flat unsellable. - Credit: Havering Council / Reece Lipman

Havering Council leader Damian White has been caught up in the post-Grenfell cladding scandal, he has revealed.

The Tory council chief told the Recorder his flat in Harold Wood had been rendered “un-mortgageable” and he faced a remedial bill of “tens of thousands of pounds”.

The government's Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said it had recommended EWS1 fire safety forms no longer be required for buildings under 18 metres, but leaseholders say mortgage-lenders are still refusing to lend on buildings with flammable cladding.

Cllr White detailed his personal situation after others caught up in the crisis criticised his party for “putting off” efforts to help them.

Leaseholders facing huge costs to remove flammable cladding gathered outside the Town Hall on September 1 ahead of a council meeting.

Labour members had filed a motion on the leaseholders’ behalf and asked all members to vote for it.

It said the council was “concerned at the ongoing adverse impact on leaseholders” and “called upon the government to lead an urgent national effort to fix the spiralling cladding and building safety crises”.

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However, Conservatives used their majority to rewrite the motion and pass it without debate.

The amended motion said: “This council welcomes the steps taken by the government so far in supporting leaseholders who are dealing with ongoing building safety challenges and calls for an all members’ briefing to be held to outline the current position within Havering.”

Reece Lipman, one of the protesters, said: “What does that mean? It means the council thinks the government’s doing an absolutely brilliant job."

Mr Lipman has been prevented from selling his one-bedroom flat, moving in with his partner and starting a family.

“We wouldn’t be protesting if we thought the government was taking fantastic steps in helping leaseholders," he said.

“This is one of the biggest issues in the country and they didn’t bother debating it.”

Cllr White said he “completely sympathised”.

“Leaseholders should not have to shoulder the significant financial burden for remedial works,” he said.

But he said he wanted to hold a series of meetings with leaseholders and councillors before approaching the government to ask for a Havering-wide support package.

“Until we know what the situation is across the borough, it’s difficult for the council to act,” he said. “We need to collect all this information and send it to the government.”

MHCLG said it was offering government-backed loans to repair buildings under 18 metres, with leaseholders' repayments capped at £50 per month.

For more, read:

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Flat owners faced £2m bill after being wrongly told cladding was unsafe