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Minister criticises Westminster’s ‘lack of engagement’ on cladding

Housing minister Julie James has written to her counterpart in England criticising a ‘disappointing’ lack of engagement between Westminster and Cardiff Bay over a major announcement on dangerous cladding.

England’s housing secretary Robert Jenrick revealed details on Wednesday of £3.5 billion in extra funding for cladding removal in buildings over 18m, a £2 billion tax on developers and low-cost loans for leaseholders in buildings under 18m.

Mr James tells him in a letter released this morning:

‘I would have expected that an announcement of this significance on a topic of shared interest, where there are elements of joint work and some matters are not devolved, would have been subject to a meaningful level of prior engagement between our governments or at least between officials. It is disappointing that this was not the case.’

She is urgently requesting more details including on the level and timing of consequentials for Wales.

The minister welcomes the proposed House Builders’ Tax but calls for engagement between officials who are already working together on related aspects of the UK Government’s Building Safety Bill and Welsh Government’s new regime for building safety.

She says:

‘The Welsh Government is fully committed to supporting leaseholders and ensuring that buildings are made safe. I think it is important our officials work together to understand your proposals with regards to the finance scheme for cladding on buildings that are 11-18m and how we might apply similar principles in Wales, particularly where they seek to protect leaseholders from the financial impacts.’

Mr Jenrick’s announcement takes total funding for cladding replacement in England to £5 billion but that does not include other fire safety costs that an all-party committee estimates at £15 billion for high-risk residential buildings. Loans for cladding removal in buildings under 18m will be capped at £50 a month but could last for decades.

During a debate in the House of Commons, he ducked questions on the consequentials for devolved nations and said it was a matter for the governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland whether they wanted to set up a similar scheme.

Campaigning leaseholders and rebel Tory backbenchers have accused his department of ‘incompetence’ and ‘betrayal’

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