LONDON Mayor Sadiq Khan says Londoners have been let down after the Tory government rejected his request for new firefighting equipment.
Tory Home Secretary Amber Rudd turned down the Labour mayor’s £6 million bid for aerial ladders, drones and 1,200 breathing apparatus kits for firefighters following the Grenfell Tower inferno.
He has asked for £6 million every year from the government to run the fire service and pay for staff, but was told the budget was his responsibility. When Boris Johnson was London mayor, he implemented savage cuts to the fire service in 2014. Ten fire stations were shut down, 552 firefighters’ jobs axed and 14 fire engines removed from service.
The Fire Brigades Union has called for an investigation into the fire cuts, and whether lives were lost as their direct consequence to be part of the inquiry into the Grenfell fire disaster. Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: ‘We want those at the very top – in central government – held to account. Their actions and decisions over recent years need to be thoroughly scrutinised.’
Khan said he is now having to plunder City Hall reserves to pay for the equipment requested by the fire brigade’s chief, Dany Cotton. Meanwhile, Southwark Council has turned off the gas supply to tower blocks on the Ledbury Housing Estate in Peckham. Residents had called Southwark Council because they were concerned about large cracks in the walls. Engineers from Arup were dispatched to investigate, but during their visit, they discovered a separate historic problem with the gas supply.
224 homes have now had their gas switched off. Residents have been told they will be provided with hot plates for cooking, but they may need to use showers at local leisure centres while the gas is switched off. The council says it is not yet sure how long it will be until the supply is restored.
Southwark Council said: ‘Records showed that a gas supply was installed when the blocks were built around 1968/1970, soon after a gas explosion at the similarly constructed Ronan Point block in Newham caused a partial collapse of that block.’ The Ronan Point disaster was one of the the most notorious of the era. Four people died and 17 were injured when a blast from a gas stove in an 18th-storey flat caused a series of floors to collapse onto each other like a house of cards.
Southwark Council admitted that although their records showed that the design of the Ledbury blocks had been strengthened following Ronan Point ‘that the information we have regarding the history of the blocks may not be correct’.
The truth is struggling to emerge. First of all, it was admitted that exactly the same lethal combination of flammable cladding and insulation which made the fire at Grenfell Tower so lethal has been installed in 219 tower blocks around the country. Now, we find out that residents have been unwittingly living in another form of death trap: tower blocks which are built like gas bombs, where an explosion will cause the entire block to collapse in on itself.
What has emerged is that, since these blocks were built in the 1960s, the ruling class of this country have been playing Russian roulette with the lives of millions of workers and their families.
It was just a matter of time before a disaster like Grenfell happened. However, all of the warnings were ignored.
The lives of the workers and their families are expendable as far as the ruling class is concerned.
Workers are living in tower blocks built with flammable cladding, flammable insulation, built so that the entire block will collapse in the event of a gas explosion, with a fire service which has been stripped to the bone so that it cannot respond adequately to such an emergency.
These are the symptoms of a capitalist system which operates only to make profits for the ruling elite through the super-exploitation of the working class. It is becoming more and more obvious that this barbaric capitalist system deserves to perish.
The Grenfell Tower disaster was a turning point for the working class. What is essential is that the revolutionary leadership of the WRP is built to lead the working class to take the power and put an end to capitalism once and for all!