IT HAS been three years since the horrific Grenfell fire which killed 72 men, women and children. Three years and there are still seven Grenfell families who remain homeless. Three years and there are still 2,000 blocks across the country wrapped in flammable cladding for years ahead.
Tens of thousands of people have been living in fire deathtraps, living in fear, living with the knowledge that every night when they go to sleep they may not live to see the morning.
Grenfell Tower was covered in Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) which rapidly spread the fire up the side of the building.
A new shocking report released yesterday confirmed that ACM flammable cladding will not be removed from all high-rise buildings in the UK for at least another two years. The report, produced by the National Audit Office (NAO), shows that of the 456 high-rise buildings identified with unsafe ACM cladding in the UK, 307 are yet to be remediated, with more than half of those yet to begin work.
The report states: ‘The forecast for full remediation of all buildings by mid-2022 goes beyond the then Secretary of State’s expectation set out in July 2019, that “other than in exceptional circumstances, building owners should complete remediation … by June 2020”.’
The NAO report also found that the government has spent less than a quarter of what it promised to replace ACM cladding. Tory ministers pledged £400m in May 2018, but only £133m has been spent.
And this report is dealing with just a fraction of the buildings around the country which are at risk.
Last November, students were forced to flee as flames tore through The Cube, a tower block of student accommodation for the University of Bolton. The block was wrapped in high-pressure laminate (HPL), cladding different from ACM but used on thousands of buildings around the UK.
Last week, the House of Commons all-party housing, communities and local government committee of MPs warned of ‘a further 11,300 buildings with other forms of combustible cladding’.
On the NAO report, firefighters’ union FBU general secretary, Matt Wrack said: ‘This report should shame this government that they are now not expected to remove the same cladding that was on Grenfell from high-rise homes until a full two years after their own deadline and five years since the tragedy itself.
‘Attempts to make building owners pay for remediation have clearly failed. The government should now requisition any building that the owner will not make safe.’
Statements like this expose the inherent weakness of the trade union leadership. Their belief that the Tory government can be ‘shamed’ into action is pathetic. The FBU union leadership further calls on the Tories to ‘requisition’ private blocks.
The Tory record is plain for all to see. Tory PM Boris Johnson, when he was Mayor of London, closed 10 fire stations, axed 552 firefighters’ jobs and took 14 fire engines out of service.
In East Sussex alone, the Tories are cutting 10 fire engines across the county, cutting crews for high-reaching aerial fire appliances, cutting wholetime staffing levels and reducing night time fire cover.
The trade union leaders have relinquished their responsibility of fighting for their own members and the interests of the working class as a whole and instead make ridiculous calls for the Tories to do the fighting, ‘shaming’ them when they don’t.
This is a life and death issue! It is blindingly obvious that the trade unions need a new leadership to stop the pleading and start fighting for their members’ interests and the interests of the working class as a whole!
This means calling an all-out strike over the issue of flammable cladding, to nationalise the tower blocks, immediately strip all flammable cladding from them to make them safe and then have a massive building programme to build houses that are safe and secure for working class families to live in.
It has never been so clear as it is today that all capitalism cares about is profits.
Safe housing for workers means the trade unions acting together to bring the Johnson government down to bring in a workers government to nationalise the banks and the major industries, bringing in a planned socialist economy based on satisfying people’s needs, including their housing needs, and not making gigantic profits for a handful of plutocrats.
This is the only way forward for the working class and the youth.