Socialist Worker

Probe into the Grenfell Tower fire will start by looking at possible manslaughter

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2562

The Grenfell Tower blaze showed up the authorities contempt for working class people

The Grenfell Tower blaze showed up the authorities' contempt for working class people (Pic: Guy Smallman)


A senior Met police officer has said the starting point of the criminal investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire would be that “around 80” deaths resulted from manslaughter.

Grim details were released of “deeply distressing” 999 calls from trapped residents, including one lasting 55 minutes.

Police now say 255 people survived the fire, based on a figure of 350 people living there. Many locals believe this to underestimate the true number affected by the inferno.

The Tories made it less likely that a true figure will ever be known. They have left the threat of deportation hanging over any undocumented migrants who come forward with any information.

They offered an amnesty of just one year, presenting people with a cruel choice—keep quiet or come forward and get deported. There should be nothing less than an indefinite amnesty.

The Tories need to be held to account for the deaths in Grenfell Tower. A protest has been called outside Kensington and Chelsea council on 19 July to keep the pressure up.

“Lots of local people are backing the demo,” Joe Delaney from the Grenfell Action Group told Socialist Worker. “It’s also a few days after Bastille Day we can storm the council—with our opinions, of course.”

The pressure on Tories in the council and Westminster must continue if justice is going to be won.

At a residents’ meeting last Thursday, public inquiry head Sir Martin Moore-Bick was slammed for previously saying residents would be “disappointed” with the scope of the inquiry. Residents demanded the inquiry be politically more far-reaching.

Misremembering

“He accused us of ‘misremembering’ what he said,” Joe said. “It’s outrageous, I quoted back what he said to us. It’s a matter of public record!”

Fire safety expert Trevor told Socialist Worker, “It can’t be allowed to be a cover up.” The strength of the justice campaign can make a key difference in stopping that happen.

“There will probably be three inquiries,” said Trevor. “There’ll also be one by the fire investigators to find out how the fire started.

“Fire engineers from London Fire Brigade will test the cladding and other materials and look at the structure of the building and how that allowed the fire to spread.

“The London Fire Brigade enforcement team will be looking for whoever’s ultimately responsible.

“That will be whoever the chief executive was of the organisation that managed the property at the time of the fire.”

The chief executive of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) at the time of the fire was Robert Black.

He has resigned his position which saw him take a share of a £760,000 annual pay pot for “key management figures”, according to the latest financial report.

The people in the council and KCTMO who signed off on the refurbishment are responsible for the Grenfell Tower fire.

And so are the Tories who created the conditions for the fire to happen.

Trevor’s name has been changed to protect his identity

Tower block residents take action

by Sheila McGregor

Around 150 residents from three tower blocks on the Ranwell West estate in Tower Hamlets, east London, met last Tuesday to discuss safety after the Grenfell Tower fire.

They insisted on access to the fire safety assessment in progress since Grenfell.

The housing director for the Clarion group, which now runs the estate, pledged to implement any of the recommendations from the inquiry into the Grenfell fire.

Pellings was not able to say anything about the fire safety status of the new cladding being put on the roofs of the blocks. It is the contractor responsible for the current refurbishment works.

Eileen Short from Defend Council Housing said, “Housing has become about making profits, not providing safe homes for working class people.”

Residents are determined to get organised and take back control.

Over 30 people left details for a contact group and residents agreed to meet again to hold the landlord to account.

In Southwark, south London, Ledbury estate tenants and residents have been complaining to the council about fire safety issues for years. Last week they lost patience and called in the fire service to inspect their flats.

They are set to take their case to the council this Wednesday.

Tenants everywhere need to insist on fire reviews, updates and maintenance.


Are fire cuts still undermining safety?

Fire service minister Nick Hurd told the annual fire safety conference last week that “actually we are maybe looking at a system failure, built up over many years”.

He said the problem of unsafe cladding is “not unique to social housing or residential buildings”.

The government has asked other owners, landlords and managers of private sector residential blocks to “consider” their own buildings.

They should be ordered to do new fire safety audits.

Hurd said, “In London, over 2,500 fire safety audits were carried out in 2015-16 in purpose-built flats 4 storeys or more, compared to over 1,300 in 2009-10.”

Yet for Tony Phillips, the Unison union branch secretary at the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, Tory cuts may well be undermining the quality.

He told Socialist Worker, “Since 2008 the number of support staff in the London Fire Brigade, including fire safety workers, has been reduced from 1300 to 800.”

Tony added, “Fire Safety Inspecting Officers have been asked to increase the numbers of fire safety audits they carry out with no additional resources.”


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