The gulf between the English government’s approach to the cladding and build defects crisis and that of Australia were made starkly clear yesterday evening by Ted Baillieu, former prime minister of Victoria. The key points he made were the absolute importance of identifying the most at risk buildings first – which the English government has not done – and to ensure that efforts to sort the crisis are bi-partisan (ditto).
Mr Baillieu, the co-chair of the Victorian Government’s Cladding Task Force (2017-2019, emphasised that the failings that led to the buildings safety crisis in Australia, as here, followed years of regulatory failure by successive governments.
Housing minister Chris Pincher said the McPartland-Smith amendment to the Fire Safety Bill would have ‘unintended consequences’ … one of which might be that freeholders – generally private equity punters these days (and often offshore) not pension funds, would ‘walk away’ if leaseholders cannot be made to pay for build safety defects. This line has had some lobbying success – it was repeated by Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake. But are freeholders seriously going to walk away from billions of public money poured into cladding remediation and supervised by them (leaving aside the delicate issue of mass forfeitures from defaulting leaseholders, which presents such attractive possibilities?