CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Grenfell: A lengthy process of government failure

31 October, 2019

WHO’S to blame for Grenfell?

National newspapers have reacted, alarmingly, to initial findings from the Grenfell Inquiry by pointing a finger at the London Fire Brigade and its “stay put” advice.

Can tower block residents ever feel safe in buildings that have been shoddily maintained, poorly-designed with cramped single staircase emergency exits and clad in flammable materials?

Central government – that has overseen years of deregulation and watered-down fire safety laws – must take ultimate responsibility for the disaster.

Conservative governments of the 1980s and 1990s openly attacked laws designed to improve fire safety.

The Building Act 1984, which became law in the Thatcher era, created a system that put the interests of profit-making developers above the safety of residents in high rise buildings.

Over the past 30 years, key building regulations have been whittled away. Fire risk management has been taken away from firefighter union reps and placed in the hands of management consultants and industry lobbyists.

Central government has consistently failed to provide the resources to prevent tragedies such as Grenfell, Lakanal House in 2009 and Ronan Point in 1968.

Boris Johnson, when Mayor of London, shut down Belsize and Clerkenwell fire stations and culled hundreds of firefighters as part of austerity-driven cuts.

The Grenfell Inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s report this week questioned: “With all the cuts, do they have enough equipment to evacuate a block?”

Exclusions

THE letter from Ofsted to the council’s deputy chief executive could be viewed as a warning shot across the bows.

It warns of the “high” incidence of exclusions from schools and deficiencies in assisting children who need special help. We have highlighted the problem of school exclusions for the past year – but the response of the children’s department has been cumbersome.

The children’s committee decided eight months ago to set up a panel to investigate the problem – but, so far, nothing has been done. What’s going wrong? Either officials and committee members do not understand the grave nature of their alarmingly high incidence of exclusions – or they are afraid of what an investi­gation may turn up.

A similar inertia seems to affect whoever is thought to be respon­sible for assisting troubled chil­dren. We have exposed how volun­tary bodies trying to give after-school help for disadvantaged children have to go cap in hand, effectively begging for financial help.

The magnificent 24/7 help provided for troubled youngsters by St Mary’s Church, Primrose Hill, set up 13 years ago, struggles annually to gain funds. No assistance, apparently, is offered by the council. At what point does the council realise there is a crisis?

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