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Much will be written of the government and the local authority’s responsibility for this crime. We know already that recommendations from various inquests and inquiries were ignored, or laid aside and given scant attention.
All the hedge fund operators, the financiers and lawyers will arrive at their high rise offices on Monday with total assurity that they are safe, working in buildings that are scrupulous in their adherence to the latest health and safety design and technology. In stark contrast, no such assurance can now be given for those who live in high-rise blocks, housing a huge section of the population.
We know cuts in local authority budgets have ensured corners are cut in all areas and that responsibility in this case was sloughed off to a managing company. We know that all the budgets are scrutinised for the least costly options – that presented with alternatives that may require increases in expenditure, it is always the lowest options that are chosen.
In the case of Grenfell Tower, the decisions on the refurbishment will rightly be scrutinised. What were the reasons for the cladding itself? Was this merely ‘tarting up’, as one of those watching in horror early on Tuesday morning told Five Live? Was it to ensure greater energy efficiency, or just to ensure that aesthetically the block was more pleasing to look at from the private towers being erected in the plum areas with high land values, Chelsea and South Kensington?
The Financial Times reported that new flats were carved out of existing spaces in the refurbishment, and as we know building regulations have largely been abandoned and spatial requirements have been severely eroded. The density of people in the flats has increased.
There were no sprinklers fitted. No central fire warnings. People relied on one staircase to provide the only fire exit. This is unimaginable in one of the swanky blocks in that forest of towers that now litter the landscape around the City, Battersea and Chelsea.
But the response of Kensington council and the government was disgusting. The fears are evident. Fears that no one will be found responsible. Certainly the way the Tories have procrastinated on previous reports as part of their ideology of cutting back on all questions of regulation and safety. Even in the FT, the editorial on Saturday 17 June said: ‘Finally this should serve as a warning to anyone in government who still believes in deregulation, measured on an absurd “one in three out” numerical basis, as an ideological goal.’
There are real fears too that families will be dispersed and the community broken up. If they wish to be rehoused in the area it is essential this is provided for, as it is where they have friends and families. It is obvious that for children who go to nurseries and schools in the area, it will be there that they will be able to gradually pick up their lives amongst their friends and their teachers. Schools must play a major role in permitting them to reestablish some form of normality and this will require extra funding and resources from increased social support to counsellors. This will be needed not just for those who lived in the tower but for all those who live in the area and who will be suffering from the most severe shocks and traumas.
We know that the Tories will rightly be battered for their ‘handling’ of the events, as it is they who are both locally and as a government directly responsible for the terrible state of the fire regulations and standards in public buildings.
There are many spin offs from the cuts in the fire services. One which will have affected community services is that before the cuts, fire crews would do ‘drop in’ assessments of the premises of buildings that were used by community groups. A woman who has a responsibility for a series of community groups in North Islington said that these visits were very useful. They would not be punitive but would be face-to-face discussions between fire crews and staff about what was required and how they may be able to implement any changes, all being aware that for many community organisations there was so little money.
Such discussions were supportive. However since the swingeing cuts to the fire services all such drop-in visits finished and fire assessments have to be done by private contractors – at a cost.
Coming only four days after the results of the elections were announced, the aftermath will bring focus on the Tories’ policies only more sharply. Under their policy of austerity there has been the sacrifice of public services of all types whilst their support for the wealthy is clear. Private housing, private education or private health is welcomed yet there is a lack of any concern or determination to provide for the many the decent housing, schools or hospitals required. All such services are provided without any democratically elected control.
In response to this horrendous fire, Theresa May offers a measly £5 million hand out. A totally inadequate sum when faced with the impact of this fire not only on the residents but also anyone living in the area or in a tower block anywhere in Britain.
What about these who are living in similar towers? Is central government going to legislate for immediate housing regulations that will ensure all public housing is refurbished to the highest possible standards? Will they be prepared to fund instant works? Will they legislate for the highest standards of building regulations?
Last year the May government removed the requirement to build sprinklers into new school buildings, which had been law since 2007. Will this be reinstated?
From all that we know of the Tories determination to remove any regulatory systems, our lives are not safe in their hands. They have to go. We must build the anti-austerity demonstration on 1 July.
The collapse of Carillion is only one small part of a larger story of decades of economic mismanagement, writes Jane Lethbridge
Laura McDonald writes that universities should not just be finishing schools for the wealthy or disciplinary institutions churning out docile workers.
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Marienna Pope-Weidemann explains why decades of occupation and oppression have led some people to call Israel an apartheid state.
International Women's Day is set to be marked by strikes from "paid work in offices and factories, or unpaid domestic work in homes, communities and bedrooms."
Laurie Laybourn-Langton writes that measuring the economy is political - and economic measurement dominates politics.
David Scott argues that our prison system represents a human rights disaster, and reformist solutions can't tackle the root problems.
A deeper engagement with culture can strengthen our democracy, taking political projects beyond electoral impact and festival memes into a whole new world of radical, lasting change.
Ruth Tanner writes that revelations about Oxfam's behaviour in Haiti are shocking, but not surprising.
The actions of Oxfam officials are horrendous - but gutting foreign aid funding just puts more people at risk, writes Daniel Gibson.
Stormzy, Grenfell and what it means to be a ‘threat’
The artist is giving a vital platform to a new generation of voices pointing out the deep hypocrisy in which crimes get punished and which get rewarded, write Remi Joseph-Salisbury and Laura Connelly
For All, By All
The latest issue of Red Pepper asks - how do we invite, support and nurture greater public participation so that our cultural capabilities are empowered beyond the crushing logic of market fundamentalism?
‘We are hungry in three languages’: The forgotten promise of the Bosnian Spring
Ruth Tanner looks back at a wave of protests which swept through Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2014.
It’s time for a cultural renewal of the left
Andrew Dolan writes that we need to integrate art, music, films and poetry into our movement, creating spaces where political ideas are given further room to breathe.
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes