URGENT ACTION NEEDED! – to prevent another Grenfell says the FBU

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The head of the first anniversary march commemorating the Grenfell Tower fire

THE Fire Brigades Union (FBU) called today for urgent action on a range of fire and building safety issues to prevent another Grenfell.

On the second anniversary of the tragedy, action to prevent a similar fire has been wholly insufficient, with little to nothing being done to tackle the structural issues that led to the tragedy.

The ‘Grenfell: Never Again’ campaign aims to pressure government to take decisive action to tackle the underlying risks which caused the catastrophic fire at Grenfell Tower.

It demands:

  • Remove flammable cladding from all tower blocks and public buildings. There are still 338 residential and public buildings using the same cladding as that on the Grenfell Tower, and at least 1,700 with other potentially combustible claddings, including hospitals, care homes and schools as well as high rises.
  • Retrofit sprinklers in high rises and schools, wherever a risk assessment deems them necessary. Coroners’ reports have called for sprinkler systems to be fitted, but so far only 32 out of 837 council tower blocks over 30m tall have sprinklers.
  • Ensure tenants are given a real voice in the running and upkeep of their buildings. Grenfell tenants say their concerns about materials used in the refurbishment were ignored by Kensington and Chelsea council. Tenants’ right should be strengthened and democratically-elected groups given a direct say.
  • Reverse the cuts to firefighter numbers and Fire Safety Officers. In 2016-17, the government spent £1,013m on fire services. But in 2019-20, it will only spend £858m. Every single fire authority has seen the amount it receives in central government funding cut in the last three years.
  • Create a new independent national body to oversee standards and best practices in fire and rescue services across the country.

There is no national body to oversee fire and rescue service and fire policy. This means standards vary across authorities and lessons are not being learned. Minimum standards should be set for response times and crewing levels.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: ‘The second anniversary of Grenfell must be a moment of both heartfelt reflection and determined action.

‘We have seen 72 lives tragically lost, in a wholly preventable blaze, all while desperately under-resourced firefighters risked their own lives to save others. Firefighters and control room staff never want to see a fire like that again, and are calling on the government to take immediate action.

‘In the time since the fire, the government’s facile approach has utterly failed all those involved that night and the thousands of people who are at risk across the country.

‘After two years, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has delivered no answers and we are no closer to tackling any of the underlying causes of the tragedy.

‘As things stand, we risk sleepwalking into another catastrophic loss of life. We demand urgent action from government to ensure that the events of Grenfell Tower can never happen again.’

Firefighters were due to join Friday’s monthly Grenfell Silent Walk and are marching alongside community activists in the solidarity march today. The FBU is a core participant in the ongoing Grenfell inquiry.