BEN WILKINSON: The cladding scandal has seen homeowners bitterly betrayed… ministers must act now to end their misery

Home ownership is a dream that takes a lot of hard work and sacrificial saving for many of us to realise.

It is supposed to mean security, and it is meant to be one of the first big steps towards a bright financial future.

The Government’s Help To Buy scheme sold us this dream, too, and gave many of us a step up on to the property ladder.

Blame game: Workers remove potentially flammable cladding material from a residential tower block in Manchester in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy

Blame game: Workers remove potentially flammable cladding material from a residential tower block in Manchester in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy

Blame game: Workers remove potentially flammable cladding material from a residential tower block in Manchester in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy

But the home ownership dream has become a dreadful nightmare for millions of diligent Britons – many of whom used the Help To Buy scheme.

The cladding scandal has seen them bitterly betrayed, abandoned and left with the multi-billion-pound bill, while their properties have been rendered worthless.

This newspaper’s campaign to end the chaos comes as affected homeowners are having to fork out more than £2 billion a year for insurance and safety patrols – and that is before they are hit with six-figure bills to pay for repairs.

But it is not as if these homes were built or developed decades ago. Most are relatively new homes that apparently met industry standards when they were constructed.

I am reminded of the leasehold scandal which, again, saw big developers sell new-build homes tied to spiralling ground rent and charges – leaving new owners unable to afford or sell them.

The Government’s drive to help more of us buy our own homes has, once again, proved to have principally lined the developers’ pockets, while trusting buyers have paid over the odds for their shoddy properties.

Our report today on the multi-billion-pound profits scooped up by these developers sits in stark contrast with the tales of immense hardship and distress caused by the fire-safety scandal.

The cladding fiasco has been bubbling away for months, while building firms and the Government squabbled over who should foot the bill.

All the while, struggling homeowners trapped in this nightmare have had to pay out during a pandemic, when many of them can least afford to.

There is simply no longer an excuse for ministers not to act. The blame game has gone on far too long. 

Ultra-rich developers and construction giants need to pay their fair share but, first, the Government needs to put a stop to this crisis, which ruins more lives by the day. These homes cannot be fixed until it does.

NS&I exodus

News that NS&I haemorrhaged a record £6.2 billion in November is perhaps not surprising given the brutal cuts its loyal savers faced that month.

But what is perhaps more surprising is that the bank managed to release that much money in the first place, given the appalling customer service issues its savers had to put up with last year.

Hopefully the savings giant has turned over a new leaf this year and is now listening to its customers. 

We are still waiting to hear from chief executive Ian Ackerley in response to your letters of protest against the decision to stop sending prize cheques in the post.

There are better deals out there with firms willing to pay you what you deserve for your money.

Bitcoin bother

The very mention of Bitcoin makes me nervous. Cryptocurrency is a concept that is still totally alien to me.

The soaring profits simply seem too good to be true. I’ve heard a lot about savvy investors getting rich as the value rises, but have heard little about savers actually cashing in on their new-found wealth.

The one thing that is clear is that Bitcoin is extremely volatile. You could just as easily lose everything as you could double your money.

As the experts will tell you, if you do not understand something, then don’t stake your money on it. I certainly won’t.

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