While it’s encouraging to hear the chancellor commit to investment for raising housing supply in his spring statement (Report, 14 March), the question should be asked why an allocation of this budget is not being diverted to fund the vital safety works that are needed on existing buildings. Fire safety concerns have been building up for a number of years, as a result of ineffective maintenance or of fundamental design, specification and installation problems. Grenfell has shone a spotlight on this, yet still financial and political barriers are preventing essential works from taking place and leaving vulnerable people sleeping in buildings that are potentially unsafe. As the collateral costs of Grenfell become more apparent – and with reports that only three council-owned high-rises out of the 160 that failed the government’s fire safety tests have yet been reclad – it is imperative that the Treasury makes an allocation for such potentially life-critical work.
We believe that the solution is a building safety fund, similar to the Pension Protection Fund. The fund would allow housing associations and local authorities to focus on what needs to be done while applying to the scheme to fund the works.
The fund could also manage litigation should it be deemed a third party is liable. The fund would help to speed up work on existing buildings and would centralise legal matters through controlled precedence. We would recommend looking at insurance premium tax as a way to pay for it.
Chief executive, British Woodworking Federation
• Philip Hammond has guaranteed another year of deprivation that will inevitably result in more debt, hunger, ill health and deaths. He inherited from George Osborne the Welfare Reform Acts 2012 and 2016 in which he and his fellow ministers presumed to bring about behavioural change among their poorest working-age fellow citizens.
That was to be achieved by applying the principle of the rational pursuit of self-interest to the unemployed. At its rawest that means: “Cut their benefits, increase their rent, make them hungry – then rational self interest will make them look for work.”
That ignorant and grossly unfair presumption has been used to justify the punishment, with ever-deeper cuts in social security payments, of working-aged unemployed people for the crimes of a few that cost 1.2% of the welfare budget. There is a desperate need for the immediate relief of UK poverty by the government.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
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