Prime Minister Boris Johnson refuses to meet Sheffield cladding victim he allegedly insulted on TV
A Sheffield MP demanded that Boris Johnson meet with a leaseholder tormented by the fire safety crisis affecting tower blocks after he insulted her on television.
Paul Blomfield asked the Prime Minister for the meeting in Parliament today following a broadcast interview in which Mr Johnson accused a Sheffield woman of a “frankly unnecessary sense of anxiety” about fire safety defects in her home that have cost her thousands of pounds and led to evacuations.
Jenni Garratt, who lives in a tower block in Mr Blomfield’s constituency and is part of Sheffield Cladding Action Group, was forced to pay £5,500 for a waking watch and new alarm, £1,200 a year for car parking she can no longer access and will have to pay even more costs – she has been warned will be several thousand pounds – due to fire safety issues in her building.
She is one of many residents in tower blocks in Sheffield and the country who face bills of tens of thousands of pounds.
Leaseholders in Daisy Spring Works, in Kelham Island, for example, were quoted around £70,000 per flat for remediation work.
In response to Mr Blomfield’s requst to meet Ms Garratt, Mr Johnson said: “I’m afraid to say to the Honourable Gentleman, I have every sympathy with his constituent, but what I think is unfair is that people such as her are placed in a position of unnecessary anxiety about their homes, when they should be reassured. I sympathise deeply with people who have to pay for waking watches and other such things, I think it is absurd.
“But what people should be doing is making sure that we do not unnecessarily undermine the confidence of the market and of the people in these homes, because they are not unsafe. Many millions of these homes are not unsafe and he should have the courage to say so.”
The remarks were made following the Government’s budget and spending review which repeats a pre-existing announcement of £5 billion to support the removal of dangerous cladding.
Following the exchange, Paul Blomfield MP said: “The Prime Minister’s casual dismissal of Jenni’s concerns was insulting. So I’m disappointed, though honestly not surprised, that he rejected my request to meet with her; it’s characteristic of his attitude towards leaseholders affected by the cladding and fire safety crisis. He continues to break his promise from February, that ‘no leaseholder should have to pay for the unaffordable costs of fixing safety defects that they did not cause and are no fault of their own’.
“Government must now act on his commitment, and announce sufficient funding to remediate all fire safety issues now, at no cost to leaseholders who are not responsible for the problems, and follow up with developers to recoup the costs where possible.”
Ms Garratt said: “It’s really disappointing that, given the opportunity to readdress my case, the Prime Minister still isn’t interested in truly understanding the problem, or fixing the crisis that I and thousands of other leaseholders find ourselves in. I feel let down by the Government who promised to ensure we weren’t left with huge costs which aren’t our fault.”