|The News Line: Editorial
Saturday, 19 January 2019
There was no fire safety report before refurbishing Grenfell – Build Council of Action now!
GRENFELL Tower was safe until the refurbishment took place, when it was wrapped in highly flammable insulation and cladding, described by fire safety experts at the inquiry into the fire as the equivalent of dousing the tower in petrol.
Now we find out that no fire safety report was commissioned for the final Grenfell cladding refurbishment plans. Inside Housing obtained the previously unreleased ‘Outline Fire Safety Strategy’ for the refurbishment of the tower, which was written by fire safety firm Exova Warringtonfire in October 2013.
The 10-page document into earlier refurbishment plans for Grenfell Tower determined that the refurbishment would have ‘no adverse effect on the building in relation to external fire spread’. The plans were for a simple conversion of the lower floors to residential use and did not include the addition of external combustible cladding, or other major changes such as new windows.
Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union (FBU) general secretary said: ‘This concerning development sheds further light on the complacent attitude towards resident safety shown by the council, the Westminster government, and the businesses involved in Grenfell.
‘The FBU has repeatedly highlighted the dangers of the cosy relationship between councils, the construction industry, and fire safety regulators. ‘This new evidence provides further proof that corners were cut, exposing the endemic cost-cutting mentality surrounding social housing, and which placed profit before the lives of residents.
‘This is rightly a matter for the inquiry and potentially for police investigation.
‘We need to know why Rydon (the construction company that refurbished Grenfell Tower) failed to commission a fire safety report into the final plans; whether the council overlooked its responsibilities; whether cost-cutting measures drove this decision; and why the requests of residents for fire retardant cladding were ignored.
‘We are disappointed that, due to the delay to the next phase of the inquiry, the corporate and government interests complicit in the fire safety regime at Grenfell will continue to evade justice for another year.’
In the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, you would assume that fire safety checks would have increased. However, over the last seven years, fire safety checks across England have actually plummeted by 42%.
Due to Tory cuts since 2010 when they took power, the number of fire safety inspectors has fallen by 28%. Meanwhile, nearly 50 councils have used unregistered fire risk assessors to check if their buildings are safe.
One hundred and twenty-eight councils responded to Freedom of Information requests about their fire risk assessors, with 46 saying they had used at least one unregistered assessor since 2010. Of these, 23 said that none of the assessors they had used since 2010 were registered.
And there are hundreds of council towers across the country with the same Grenfell-style flammable cladding, which still, even 19 months after the fire, have not been stripped and re-clad safely.
We can’t wait a year for the Grenfell Inquiry to resume. The criminals must be made to stand trial now. It is the Tory Kensington and Chelsea Council, and the Tenants Management Organisation who put the cladding up, Rydon the company that did the refurbishment, and the Tory government that has closed ten fire stations in London, axed 552 firefighters’ jobs and got rid of 14 fire engines in the capital that are responsible for the deaths of 72 people in the Grenfell Tower fire. This is a Tory government that boasted of a ‘bonfire of the regulations’.
Last Thursday evening, there was a successful public meeting called by the Workers Revolutionary Party and Young Socialists. Local residents voted to set up a Council of Action in the North Kensington area. The resolution stated: ‘We have no confidence in the local Council so we believe we must set up our own Council of Action consisting of representatives from local people, trade unions, youth and pensioners and all members of the community to run this area.’ We urge workers to take control of their areas in every part of the country.
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