The Grenfell Tower blaze killed many and destroyed the homes of many more, photo @Natalie_Oxford (Twitter) (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)
Stoke Socialist Party
In the early hours of Sunday 1 October a fire broke out on the ground floor of a three storey block of flats in Ringland Close, Hanley. A mother and two daughters were rescued from their flat above and rushed to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation – others were moved out of their homes for safety reasons.
Local people were shocked by this horrific event but quickly rallied round with donations, etc, for all the families affected. Stoke-on-Trent city council provided accommodation for all those who had to move out of the block.
Tragically, less than two days later, 36 year-old mother Zainab Adam lost her fight to recover and days later her six year old daughter Tafaoul Fadoul also passed away. Zainab’s six-month old daughter, Tamunni, remains in a critical condition.
Just days after that fire, a near miss for residents in a fire in a six storey block in Burslem makes even clearer the urgency of measures to ensure fire safety. If neighbours had not alerted residents in the block by banging on their doors then more lives could have been lost.
In response to the horrific Grenfell disaster, Stoke-on-Trent council said they would install sprinklers in all tower blocks across the city. Stoke Socialist Party has been campaigning for this work to be started immediately – 1,500 people have signed our petition so far.
Some will say we can’t afford to install sprinklers. But on 11 July 2017 the city council voted to find money to increase the pay of assistant directors and senior managers by around £5,000 taking them up to £69,000 and £96,304 respectively a year.
Our last Labour council borrowed over £50 million to build a new council HQ which was not needed. Now the current council is spending many thousands of pounds to promote a so-called ‘City of Culture’.
If necessary, the council should demand government money to pay for installation of sprinklers. When banks were going bust in 2008, billions of pounds were ‘found’ to bail them out. If they can bail out rich bankers, then why not protect ordinary working class people?
Ringland Close resident and Stoke Socialist Party organiser Andy Bentley speaking on Midlands Today about the fire deaths said: “It makes me angry because sprinklers could save any number of lives. So why isn’t it being done?”
There should be no delay. Sprinklers must be fitted in all tower blocks, whether council owned or privately owned, before any more lives are lost.
It is also vital that the council works with Stoke-on-Trent Housing Society and other owners of blocks of flats to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety of all residents, whether high rise or low rise.
Tories renege on tower block safety funding
‘Money is no object’ said Tory communities secretary Sajid Javid addressing councils’ fire safety concerns over high rise tower blocks in the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell disaster.
Now it seems the government is backtracking by refusing to stump up the cash for councils to retrofit tower blocks with sprinkler systems – including Kensington and Chelsea council where Grenfell Tower was located.
The Tories were already exposed in the wake of the Grenfell disaster for reducing fire safety inspections and encouraging the relaxation of building regulations to exclude sprinklers in order to benefit property developers, as part of its ‘cutting red tape’ policies.
Since 2007 residential buildings above 30 metres in England obliged to have fire retarding sprinkler systems (which prevent 97% of fires spreading). But only 2% of social housing tower blocks have a full sprinkler system and there is no obligation to retrofit them.
London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said: “The tragic fire at Grenfell has thrown fire safety into the spotlight and while we are not pre-empting the findings of the [Grenfell] Inquiry, now is the time to remind government of life-saving recommendations we have been making for years. We are calling for residential tower blocks to be retrofitted with sprinklers…”.
Residents will be demanding that landlords carry out this work without delay and bill the government. If landlords fail to provide safe homes tenants should discuss withholding rent in protest.