Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/995/27362

From The Socialist newspaper, 16 May 2018

Ronan Point disaster 50 years on - fighting for safe, affordable housing then and now

Ronan Point after the explosion and collapse, photo by Derek Voller/CC

Ronan Point after the explosion and collapse, photo by Derek Voller/CC   (Click to enlarge)

Bill Mullins, Lewisham and Southwark Socialist Party

On 16 May 1968, 50 years ago, Ronan Point, a high-rise tower block in Newham, east London, collapsed killing four people and injuring 17.

The reason was, as the constructors knew only too well, that the system used to build the 25-storey block was fundamentally flawed.

It was built as part of what was called the 'large panel system' where walls and floor where made off-site and then reassembled into the building itself.

Cause

The cause of the collapse was a gas explosion (a relatively small one) in the kitchen of a pensioner. When gas leaked from her cooker and exploded Mrs Hodge the pensioner along with her oven were relatively unharmed.

But the side walls of her kitchen blew off and because they were supporting walls, the above four flats collapsed into her kitchen, the combined weight of the collapse went on to collapse all the floors below right down to the ground floor and like a house of cards the whole of one side of the block was demolished.

An inquiry later concluded that the building regulations were totally inadequate and should be strengthened, including the supporting joints between the walls.

But later on, after the block was rebuilt, with the stronger joints, the council was forced to demolish the block in 1986, and an independent architect concluded, after a forensic brick-by-brick examination of the demolished block that there were shocking defects in many parts of the building including that mains gas should never have been connected to such a block in the first place.

Ronan Point is part of a sorry list of building disasters including Lakenhall House in Camberwell in 2009 where six people were killed and of course Grenfell Tower.

What runs through all this is the cold cruelty of the ruling class when it comes to the safety and security of the working class in our society. The right to adequate safe shelter is a basic human need. The inability of the present capitalist system to meet this need would by itself justify its removal from the scene of history.

But the story gets worse when we take into account the lack of organised national political opposition to the shenanigans of the bosses. Though there are many successful local campaigns by residents.

Recently in my own borough of Southwark the exposure of past crimes of negligence by the Blairite Labour leaders of the council was starkly revealed by the scandal of the Ledbury estate where four blocks were deemed unsafe because they were built using the same large panel system as Ronan Point.

The tenants had been complaining for over 20 years that huge cracks had appeared on the blocks and when they were forced to bring in their own independent expert advisors it was revealed that the blocks should never have been connected to the mains gas.

New measures

But it was not always like this and need not be so today either. The Labour government in 1947 introduced new measures to ensure that a mass council house building programme could get off the round.

For example they ruled that land that was needed to build these homes could be compulsory purchased at their present value - not at what the value would be once planning permission was given.

At the time an acre of agricultural land was worth only one hundredth of what an acre of urban land would cost.

They did this to ensure that when compulsory purchase orders where made of privately owned land then the owners could not make a huge profit. In other words the bulk of spending could go into the cost of the actual building material and labour costs to build the homes themselves.

This is what lies behind the unwillingness of Labour councils to borrow money to build council housing even if they were allowed to borrow money from the finance sector.

Under the post-war rules even the Tory government of Harold Macmillan in 1963 built more council homes than any government before or since.

The Tories later reversed the rules on land values so their mates in the property business could once again cash in on the higher land values.

Thatcher's policies in particular in housing opened up a rich vein of property speculation for profiteering developers with the introduction of right to buy. As a result 40% of homes bought under 'right to buy' are now owned by private landlords and developers.

This was a seismic shift from building homes to meet a human need to instead where homes are only built to enhance the potential profits for developers. So it is no wonder that we have seen continually the private developers seek to cut corners in the actual buildings themselves.

Successive governments, including Labour ones, have made a 'bonfire of regulations' allowing the get-rich-quick developers to cut corners.

In the North East under the 1960s Labour government the scandal hit new heights when corrupt local councils collaborated with shady developers to build council high-rise blocks with, as soon became apparent, many inbuilt problems. This was featured in the BBC drama 'Our friends in the north'.

Council estates have been deliberately allowed to deteriorate so that the media can label them 'sink estates' but there is nothing fundamentally wrong with putting homes into high rise blocks as long as they have the due care and attention to make them safe and secure.

After all, look at any of the blocks were the well-off live, such as the Barbican flats in the City of London. They are well cared for and look entirely presentable to passers-by and no doubt have all the modern safety systems, such as sprinklers, built in.

The issue of safe, affordable housing can only be resolved completely under a socialist society. But we should demand and campaign now for the policies espoused by Jeremy Corbyn, such as a mass programme of council house building. But also, as Corbyn recently indicated, compulsory purchases of land at existing value as a precursor to the nationalisation of all land.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 16 May 2018:


Middle East

Middle East in crisis

Exclusive interview with Gazan activist: "The more they kill us, the more the anger increases"


France '68

May 1968: Revolutionary explosion as two thirds of workforce join strike


PCS

PCS conference 2018: building on the union's militant record

PCS elections - Left sweeps the board


Socialist Party news and analysis

Tories' continuing EU quagmire is Corbyn's opportunity

Royal wedding opulence... during longest pay squeeze in 200 years

Richest worth 724bn... as 100,000 kids fall into poverty


Socialist Party workplace news

Strike at Tesco Dagenham for better pay

Belgium Lidl strike victory

Lively Hull demo against college cuts

Harrogate College strike against cuts

Leeds Acas conciliators walkout

Workplace news in brief


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Thousands march on TUC demo

'When we fight, we can win' - campaign halts hospital closure

Chesterfield May Day: march turnout great

Save Our Square takes fight to developers

Save Southall Town Hall legal hearing success


Ronan Point

Ronan Point disaster 50 years on


International socialist news and analysis

Spain: Student general strike against sexist, capitalist 'justice' system

Sweden: Socialist elected leader of 77,000-strong tenants' union


Opinion

The Socialist Inbox


 

Home   |   The Socialist 16 May 2018   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Housing:

triangleTax Amazon movement wins in Seattle

triangle40 attend Socialist Party housing campaign launch in Windsor

triangleHomeless charity colluding to deport homeless!

triangleCapitalism's Grenfell shame - Tories must go

triangleYoung people trapped in private rental

Council:

triangleAction demanded from new council

triangleCollege staff caught between the devil and the deep blue sea

triangleVictory: how school strike beat 'academy' privatisers

triangleSave Southall Town Hall legal hearing success

Homes:

triangleLondon tenants and workers protest against social housing auction

triangleWalthamstow Save Our Square protesters thrown out of city hall for demanding a say

triangleGrenfell: survivors not rehoused, inquiry not independent, blocks not safe

Labour:

triangleTories prepare for possible snap election

triangleStudent leaders claim one million on the streets against Brexit - fight for a workers' exit

Gas:

triangleBristol South Socialist Party: How can workers' jobs be protected?

London:

triangleEast London Socialist Party: Cuba after the Castros

Tenants:

triangleSweden: Socialist elected leader of 77,000-strong tenants' union

Newham:

triangleVictory against academisation

East London:

triangleEast London Socialist Party: 'Made in Dagenham' Ford women workers' pay strike 50 years on

Grenfell Tower:

triangleStormzy is right to slam Tories for Grenfell

Historic events

Historic events

23/5/18

Section 28

30 years on from Section 28: the legacy of fighting LGBT+ attacks must continue

23/5/18

France 1968

May 1968: 'Communist' leaders hand power back to defeated bosses

16/5/18

Housing

Ronan Point disaster 50 years on

16/5/18

France

May 1968: Revolutionary explosion as two thirds of workforce join strike

9/5/18

France 1968

France '68: History's greatest general strike erupts

2/5/18

France

May 1968: Police attacks on students spark mass revolt

25/4/18

France 1968

France 1968: when workers were on the brink of taking power

28/3/18

Martin Luther King

The life and legacy of Martin Luther King

14/3/18

Iraq

15 years since the invasion of Iraq: what we said

14/2/18

Stalinism

Czechoslovakia 1968: 'Prague Spring' challenges Stalinism

24/1/18

Vietnam war

Vietnam War: 50 years since the Tet Offensive

13/12/17

Chile

110 years ago: massacre at Santa Maria school in Chile - commemorate 21 December 1907

18/10/17

Russian revolution

Russia, October 1917: When workers took power

4/10/17

Che Guevara

Che Guevara 50 years on - revolutionary socialist and fighter

23/8/17

Review

Mutinies and strikes: when Bolshevism threatened British bosses

triangleMore Historic events articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


May 2018

April 2018

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999