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5 July 2017

Fight establishment's Grenfell insults: no to cover-up, safety for all!

Paul Kershaw, Socialist Party London and chair of Unite the Union housing workers' branch LE/1111

Every day seems to bring a new insult to the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire.

They are still seeking assurances of local rehousing. Their landlord has charged them rent for burnt-out homes in error.

A local therapy group was locked out of a community centre when locks were changed without notice. And when the council's attempt to hold a meeting on Grenfell behind closed doors - excluding press and residents - was overturned by a court order, the meeting was halted.

There have now been some belated resignations - the leader and deputy leader of Kensington and Chelsea council. But London's Blairite mayor Sadiq Khan has called for the government to send in unelected commissioners to take over operations.

The Socialist Party disagrees with this call. Local residents and workers need councillors who fight for them. Councillors not willing to do so should stand aside for candidates who are. And top of the list of demands: use the borough's 300 million reserves!

In any case, responsibility goes higher up than just councillors - and we have seen no moves towards prosecutions.

The establishment is in full cover-up mode. The planned 'inquiry' looks designed to put a lid on the affair.

Not only does the judge appointed have a record of judgments in favour of social cleansing - his technical advisor, Sir Ken Knight, recommended against retrofitting sprinklers as "not considered practical or economically viable." Will he be investigating if his own advice makes him in any way responsible?

Jeremy Corbyn was right to challenge Theresa May, calling alongside Grenfell campaigners for the inquiry's terms to be widened and survivors to have a central role.

A serious inquiry will need to look at reductions in regulation and the interlocking links between semi-public quangos and businesses that obscure accountability.

Sajid Javid, now overseeing the Grenfell response as the government's communities secretary, was in charge of getting rid of "red tape" to save 10 billion. The Homes and Communities Authority had its regulatory remit cut back.

Ex-property developer Anthony Preiskel was on the board of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation which ran Grenfell Tower. He is also on the regulator's board.

The Fire Brigades Union and general union Unite have applied for core participant status which would help put a working class voice in the official inquiry. But the need for a truly independent inquiry is becoming increasingly clear.

Stop testing cladding and take it down - this is the message from David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, the umbrella body for housing associations.

"We are calling on government to halt the testing on cladding and shift its focus to making people safe... This process has powerfully demonstrated a systemic failure in construction, manufacturing and the way that regulation has been applied."

But the government is refusing to give assurances about funding.

Some will see Orr's statement as an attempt to shift responsibility away from landlords. But tenants and residents of tower blocks will agree that action cannot wait.

All council and social landlords must take down cladding and publish full safety reports, and the government must make private landlords do the same.




http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/25784




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