British Conservative broken promises to Grenfell disaster survivors

Jeremy Corbyn comforts a local resident last June at St Clement's Church in west London where volunteers provided shelter and support for people affected by the fire at Grenfell Tower

By Will Stone in Brighton, England:

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Corbyn: Broken promises to Grenfell survivors show the Tories’ ‘heartless contempt for working-class people’

BROKEN government promises to Grenfell tower survivors are a “national scandal” that show “a heartless contempt for working-class people”, Jeremy Corbyn said yesterday.

Addressing the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) annual conference, the Labour leader launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Theresa May for presiding over a litany of failures to Grenfell families.

He reminded delegates of Ms May‘s pledge to rehouse “everyone within a year.”

Yet a week before the anniversary of the “horrendous and heart-breaking tragedy”, which left 72 dead, well over half of the survivors are still waiting for a home.

“All the while Kensington and Chelsea suffers from a plague of empty homes“, Mr Corbyn said. “Luxury property used as investments for the super-rich, instead of as homes for local residents who are stuck in hotels and B&Bs.

“There can be no clearer sign of the total disregard this government has for those that were made homeless by the terrible fire nearly a year ago.

The people living in the tower were failed before the fire … and they are being failed again now.

“Because austerity has always had a class bias.

“At the same time as they have been cutting the fire service, axing police and taking money out of schools, they have found billions in tax cuts for the super-rich and big business.

Tax breaks for the rich and austerity for everyone else.

“There can be no more insulting excuses for inaction.”

Instead of the Grenfell tragedy forcing the government to value public and emergency services, Tory MPs continued to vote to keep firefighters‘ pay down.

“If that doesn’t highlight the gap between this government’s rhetoric and its actions, then I don’t know what does”, he said.

People are still angry, and rightly so, about the government’s failure to act.

“Where is the necessary overhaul of fire safety regulations that is so clearly needed?

Where is extra funding for the Fire and Rescue Service?

“Where is the action on dangerous cladding on other buildings?

“After the Lakanal House fire [in 2009], the 2013 coroners’ report recommended sprinklers be installed in tower blocks and this government failed to act.

“But even now, in the wake of 72 dead at Grenfell, it still ignores the advice of the Fire Brigades Union, the National Council of Fire Chiefs and the Royal Institute of British Architects.

“The Houses of Parliament are about to be renovated. The current plans include sprinklers being fitted. If it’s good enough for MPs, it’s good enough for the people we represent.”

Addressing fire service cuts, he vowed a Labour government would recruit 3,000 new firefighter jobs with a full review of staffing levels.

A statutory duty for firefighters to respond to flooding in Britain would also be implemented by Labour.

Praising Mr Corbyn‘s leadership, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “There are not many Labour MPs who have got such a consistent support for firefighters.

“We have never seen the level of engagement [with] trade unions from other Labour party leaders than we’ve seen from Jeremy Corbyn during his time as leader.”

He added that it was always a “no-brainer” that the FBU should get behind Mr Corbyn, with the union reaffiliating to Labour after he became party leader in 2015.

FBU Conference ’18: Firefighters launch anti-cuts campaign to ‘stop the rot’ in the fire service: here.

8 thoughts on “British Conservative broken promises to Grenfell disaster survivors

  1. THE refurbishment of Grenfell Tower turned the block into a “death trap,” the inquiry into the fire heard today.

    Danny Friedman QC, representing some of the bereaved and survivors of Grenfell, criticised the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) tenant management organisation (TMO) for having “fobbed off” residents who raised concerns over the refurbishment.

    He said: “In the second decade of 21st century London, governed by a regulatory framework designed to ensure fire safety, a local authority instigated and oversaw the refurbishment of a social housing high-rise tower block in such a way as to render it a death trap.

    “RBKC and the TMO did this and they did so using public funds, paid to an array of professionals, contractors and subcontractors, none of whom have yet accepted any responsibility for their part in what happened.”

    Mr Friedman said the tragedy was “a story of disempowerment through withholding knowledge, including technical knowledge, and not enough people in society being included in conversations about what risks this country should be prepared to tolerate.

    His colleague Stephanie Barwise QC said that the combination of “highly combustible materials and omissions of cavity barriers amounts to a collection of catastrophic failures in construction safety.”

    Ms Barwise pointed out that “fires involving external cladding systems have become almost the archetypal form of mass fire disaster” since the turn of the century, saying that “this fact put construction and fire engineering professionals on notice” of the dangers.

    She also criticised the “corporate silence” of companies involvement in the refurbishment, which “deprives the families of the degree of resolution and understanding to which they are entitled and has only served to increase their pain and uncertainty.”

    She added that main contractor Rydon had been “disingenuous” in its statement to the inquiry suggesting that it was not responsible for critical decisions related to the cladding.

    Evidence published by the inquiry also revealed that a proposal to fix the smoke ventilation system in Grenfell Tower, which failed eight days before the fire, was ignored.

    Martin Booth, managing director of system makers PSB, said the firm had offered to repair the ventilation for £1,800 plus VAT but received no response.


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  3. Wednesday, 6 June 2018 Grenfell cladding ‘more flammable than petrol!’

    THE REFURBISHMENT of Grenfell Tower ‘rendered it a death trap’ through the installation of cladding ‘more flammable than petrol,’ Stephanie Barwise QC told the inquiry yesterday.

    She said: ‘As it stood before the refurbishment, Grenfell was constructed of virtually incombustible concrete. ‘It was however covered by the polyethylene cladding now openly described by some in the industry as petrol. ‘Our understanding is that the ignition of the polyethylene within the cladding panel produces a flaming reaction more quickly than dropping a match into a barrel of petrol.’

    • The FBU firefighters union annual conference began yesterday in Brighton. Speaking outside, Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: ‘It is clear that from the earliest accounts of the night, that firefighters faced an unprecedented catastrophe and they responded by going above and beyond the call of duty.

    ‘The Fire Brigades Union hopes the Grenfell Tower inquiry, of which we are a core participant, investigates the “stay put” policy forensically. There are difficult and complex issues to be addressed.

    ‘Tower blocks are designed so if a fire breaks out in a property, the blaze can be held there for a length of time, allowing fire crews to respond. This is called compartmentation. It clearly failed at Grenfell Tower. The “stay put” policy may well have to be changed, particularly after this failure of compartmentation at Grenfell, but we will not prejudge the inquiry.

    ‘I am entirely confident that those taking emergency calls, the firefighters and fire officers attending the incident did their utmost on the night and at the incident to save as many lives as they could.

    ‘Regrettably, they operated in an impossible situation because the fire was on such an unprecedented scale.

    ‘We wrote to the Prime Minister in the aftermath of the fire, and called for an immediate review of the fire services response to all tower block fires, that has not been addressed. ‘We have called for all flammable cladding to be removed from those buildings. It seems that very little progress has been made on that and we have called for the government to pay for that, which hasn’t happened.’

    National FBU officer Dave Green said: ‘This is the first FBU conference since the Grenfell Tower fire so it will be a major part of the conference.

    ‘To be frank, there will be discussions about how it happened, why it happened and our response to it as a fire service. Clearly, we are expressing concerns about cuts to the fire service over the past decade and also about the deregulation of the fire safety industry. ‘So all of that are issues that we have discussed before, we have been making warnings before, and now we will be saying “this has resulted in this tragedy”.’


  4. Pingback: “British Conservative broken promises to Grenfell disaster survivors” | Dear Kitty. Some log | COMRADE BOYCIE

  5. Friday, 8 June 2018

    Grenfell Tower ‘a highly combustible deathtrap’ – –Seaward representing FBU tells inquiry

    Grenfell firefighters form a Guard of Honour for the silent march – the community supports them 100 per cent

    THE LONDON Fire Brigade (LFB) and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) gave evidence on Day 11 of the Grenfell Inquiry, answering media slurs at their response to the fire.

    The Metropolitan Police announced yesterday that it has launched a criminal investigation into the use of the ‘stay put’ policy by the London Fire Brigade during the Grenfell Tower fire.
    Martin Seaward, representing the FBU, addressing the Grenfell Inquiry yesterday, said that firefighters were put in an ‘impossible situation’.
    He said: ‘Grenfell Tower was a highly combustible deathtrap. People were guilty of serial non-compliance with building regulations and there was a complete failure at every stage of the building regime in terms of fire safety.’
    Addressing the stay-put controversy, Seaward asked: ‘What alternative strategy might have been implemented in the fast-moving situation?’ He said: ‘There remains no obvious and safe alternative strategy nor detailed plan.’

    The legal counsel for the London Fire Brigade (LFB) Stephen Walsh QC said that it is a ‘fundamental misunderstanding’ of the events of the fire and of fire service capability to assume the building’s stay-put policy can be changed to a simultaneous evacuation at the stroke of a fire incident commander at whatever time.

    ‘If there is no policy applied by the building owner which provides for a policy of simultaneous evacuation and there are no evacuation plans and there are no general fire alarms, what is an incident commander on the fire ground to do?’ Walsh asked.

    Walsh added that firefighters responding to the blaze that night would have been ‘wholly unaware of the defects in the fabric on the building’. He echoed concerns that criticisms have been made of their strategy with the ‘benefit of hindsight’.

    He stated that firefighters were working in ‘intolerable conditions with stark choices with serious consequences with whatever they chose to do.’ He said that it is not called a ‘stay put’ policy but a ‘stay put unless’ policy.

    The ‘unless’ refers to the part of the policy which states ‘unless your flat is affected by smoke or fire and it is safe for you to evacuate’. The crucial part of any design process – any buildings like Grenfell were expressly designed to contain the fire in any one flat. The building design is not intended to do the opposite, such as to facilitate the simultaneous evacuation,’ Walsh argued.

    ‘Buildings like Grenfell Tower are just not designed and built in a way that you could suddenly decide to get everyone out all at once: the stairwell isn’t good enough; there isn’t a common alarm system through the building. “Stay put” is not the creation of the fire service, but a principle of building design.’


  6. Pingback: London Grenfell disaster, film by survivors | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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