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From The Socialist newspaper, 20 November 2019

Bolton university fire: government inaction puts safety at risk

Firefighters marching for fire safety, photo Paul Mattsson

Firefighters marching for fire safety, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

North London Socialist Party member

Fire ripped through a six-storey student accommodation block, with what eyewitnesses described as terrifying speed, on the evening of Friday 15 November.

The fire started on the fourth floor of the Cube, a six-storey University of Bolton building. Within 90 seconds it had spread to the top level, and reached the roof 40 seconds, later leaping across floors spread by cladding. 211 students have been left in temporary accommodation.

Two and a half years after the catastrophic fire at Grenfell Tower the government is still failing to act on fire safety.

Firefighters' union (FBU) leader Matt Wrack rightly commented, "It's deeply troubling to see fire spread rapidly up a building's exterior again - a shocking indictment of the government's shameful inaction after Grenfell."

Unsafe cladding

It is reported that the cladding is not the same as the ACM (aluminium composite material) used at Grenfell - this points to the scale of the safety problem.

The government has failed to act on warnings about HPL (high pressure laminate) cladding, apparently used in Bolton.

Attention has focused on Grenfell-style cladding, but progress has been slow in social housing and worse in the private sector.

At the current rate of progress it would take until October 2033 for the buildings to be made safe.

Government targets are inadequate and are being missed. But this was another terrifying fire, like the recent Barking Reach fire, in a building under 18 metres high, and therefore outside the scope of the government ban on combustibles.

The position is made worse by cuts to the fire service. Boris Johnson made deep cuts when London mayor and the cuts continue.

Fire service Cuts

Les Skarratts, FBU North West executive council member said, "Greater Manchester has lost more than 600 firefighters since 2010 alone and, alarmingly, Andy Burnham is trying to cut another six fire engines, including one in Bolton.

"We need to stop the senseless cuts to our fire and rescue service before we see another awful incident like this."

Student unions and tenant groups should demand to see fire risk assessments. Ultimately, if they don't get satisfactory answers they could organise to withhold rent - 'no safety, no rent.'

Trade union safety reps in workplaces with buildings covered in cladding should ask employers about the type, the risks and what they have done and are doing to make it safe.

Labour shadow housing minister John Healey said the fire should be a "wake-up call" for cladding to be removed.

This is a chance for Labour to campaign on reversing fire service cuts and a programme of housing investment to make buildings safe. It should pledge to reimburse local councils that start the work immediately.

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In The Socialist 20 November 2019:


What we think

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Climate change

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NHS

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Frimley NHS Trust: Strikers remain determined to defeat privatisation


Violence against women

What policies are needed to end domestic violence and abuse?


Socialist Party news and analysis

Broadband: privatisation has failed to deliver, time for a socialist plan

Bolton university fire: government inaction puts safety at risk

Wages flatline, while shareholders profit


Workplace news and analysis

UCU pay and pension strike: university staff have had enough

West Midlands Trains: guards strike to defend safety-critical role

PCS union: elect Marion Lloyd!

Cleaners strike over low pay at Haringey secondary school

Bradford library and museum strikers enter third round of strike action

Long hours in the world of security

NEU members' sixth-form walkouts


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

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150 protest against Leicester hospital downgrading attack

Carmarthenshire union demands no-cuts budget

Swansea: students protest against Hillary Clinton hypocrisy

Keep the National Poetry Library free

Selling the Socialist


Readers' opinion

The Socialist Inbox


International socialist news and analysis

Amazon bosses defeated in Seattle - Kshama Sawant reelected

Chile revolt continues: read eyewitness report


 

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