They can see the Senedd, but feel it’s not helping them: Why the Welsh Government must act on cladding
Mabon ap Gwynfor, Senedd Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd
Rhys ab Owen, Senedd Member for South Wales Central
We’re pleased to see that the availability of housing across our nation and the condition of our homes has gone up the political agenda since the Senedd election in May.
One aspect we have campaigned on is the issue of fire safety of high-rise buildings and the cladding that surrounds those buildings. Many of the people that have made their homes in the high-rise apartment blocks in Cardiff Bay can see the Senedd, yet they feel their plight is ignored by Welsh Ministers.
The issue of cladding has been raised with Plaid Cymru by some of those constituents in Cardiff. We believe the Labour Welsh Government must make an announcement urgently about the money to remedy the situation for high rise flats and when we will see the consequential spending in Wales.
This is the frustrating thing for those people living in high rise flats in Swansea, Cardiff, and Newport, they feel they are in limbo without knowing whether they might have to shell out for safety measures themselves or whether the Welsh Government will provide resources for those in private accommodation.
The Welsh Government must provide answers about the amount available and how will it be accessible through grants or loans. There are also questions around who will be eligible to apply, and what defects and what remediation will it cover.
To be fair to our political opponents it is not just Plaid Cymru that is raising this important issue. Labour backbench members are also putting pressure on the Welsh Government about the subject.
The Welsh Government is correct when they say this is a far wider issue than cladding on the exterior of buildings. We have seen for ourselves the fire safety measures taken inside buildings like the Celestia development in Cardiff.
In the Senedd this week we reiterated our call for a statement to answer the questions of flat dwellers and put their concerns to rest before the recess.
The Welsh Government say they are working quickly on this issue, but this issue of safety came to the fore following the tragedy at Grenfell Tower way back in 2017.
New legislation was promised by the Welsh Government in this Senedd term to address this issue but that will take some time and will not address the added stress many of these flat owners feel now.
We have people a stone’s throw away from the Senedd who are not sleeping at night. People are crippled with anxiety, people in fear for their own safety and the safety of their loved ones. They will note that there was no mention of any new laws about building safety this year in the Welsh Government’s legislative programme.
It is no comfort for them that statistically, the risk in Houses of Multiple Occupancy/converted properties is higher than in their type of flats. Over the past 10 years there have been around 29 casualties per 100 fires in HMOs in Wales and 26 per 100 fires in purpose-built blocks of flats.
Therefore, it is sensible the Welsh Government’s proposals for new building safety measures for Wales cover all multi-occupied residential buildings.
The umbrella group the Welsh Home Fire Safety Victims has organised a demonstration on Saturday when they will walk between the BBC HQ in Central Square to the Senedd in Cardiff Bay. Plaid Cymru will be walking with those flat owners on Saturday and in the future as we seek justice for all. Everyone has a right to feel safe in their home.
In the long term if we were Ministers in a Plaid Cymru Welsh Government we would seek the powers to introduce a windfall tax on the profits of large developers and use the proceeds to solve the problems created by poor builds, which can trap owners into poor quality flats and houses with no recourse, which has been the case with the cladding scandal.