A public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire began on Thursday of last week. It saw more insults for the survivors.
The inquiry’s chair, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, admitted that local residents would not be represented on the inquiry panel. “To appoint as assessor someone who had direct involvement would undermine my impartiality,” he said.
Moyra Samuels from the Justice4Grenfell campaign group told Socialist Worker, “The state of social housing in general was excluded from the terms of reference for the inquiry.”
A silent march was held through north Kensington later that day. March organiser Zeyad Cred told Socialist Worker, “What happened at Grenfell Tower could have happened at any tower block”.
Various councils have revealed that the Tories are effectively forcing them to pay for fire safety measures from their existing budgets.
That means that some councils are suspending maintenance work on tower blocks to fund this safety work.
Camden council is considering “reprioritising” its repairs programme. Newham and Lambeth councils have reported similar problems.
Labour councils should demand funding from the Tories for fire safety, not make cuts in other areas.
One of the underlying problems that led to the Grenfell fire was historic disrepair. Instead of fixing the problem the Tories want to compound it, making another Grenfell more likely.
Some 40 people marched in Southwark, south London, last Sunday to demand decent housing. Tenants on the Ledbury estate have been left without heating after the council cut off gas supplies.
Electricity systems can’t deal with the extra power needed to run electric heaters and cookers.
“People have had to take small children to hospital because of the cold,” one tenant told Socialist Worker.
An independent fire safety inspection requested by tenants revealed holes between flats had compromised compartmentalisation designed to stop the spread of fires.
Now the council is dragging its feet over either fixing the problem or finding replacement accommodation for people.
Danielle from the Ledbury Action Group told Socialist Worker, “The situation is getting worse, not better. The council is effectively telling us, ‘Put up with dangerous homes or be evicted.’”
The council has bought 80 homes which people affected can move into but there are 224 households on the estate.
And the problems that Grenfell has exposed in the social housing sector are even worse for people in the private rental sector.
Eighty five of 89 privately owned blocks have failed tests on their cladding, raising wider questions about the safety of private blocks.
Campaign will fight Haringey demolition plans
Campaigners in Haringey, north London, are gearing up for a protest against the Labour council’s plans to redevelop vast swathes of the borough.
The council has set up the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) in a 50-50 partnership with property developer Lendlease.
The right wing council leadership is under pressure.
While the membership of the Constituency Labour Party largely opposes the HDV proposals, the council leadership has pushed them through.
They have overstepped themselves, drawing fire from Labour figures. Tulip Siddiq, MP for neighbouring Hampstead and Kilburn, has criticised Haringey council’s “hugely problematic disconnect from local people”.
A judicial review against the council’s plans is set to be held on 25 and 26 October.
The council leadership has launched a campaign of misinformation about the HDV.
Jacob from the estate told Socialist Worker, “The majority of people on Broadwater Farm don’t want demolition.
“The estate has been neglected by the council for over 20 years and they use that to attack us.”
Demo delays vote on housing association merger
Some 50 people demonstrated to stop the merger of the Genesis and Notting Hill housing associations. The protest took place on Wednesday of last week outside a meeting due to vote on the merger.
The merger would mean selloffs and rising rents. Genesis tenant Molly Ayton told Socialist Worker, “We haven’t been given any information, they’re telling us everything is going to be fine.
“My rent’s already gone up by £50 a week. I can’t afford any more increases.”
The vote on the merger was suspended thanks to the protest. The first “consultation meeting” between the housing associations and tenants was also suspended because only two people had signed up to attend it.
Tory policies have made housing increasingly unaffordable for ordinary people.
Housing associations increasingly behave like private firms. Labour must promise mass building of council homes.