Socialist Worker

More flammable cladding and fewer firefighters—Tory Britain after Grenfell

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2578

Grenfell Tower was covered in flammable cladding

Grenfell Tower was covered in flammable cladding (Pic: Guy Smallman)


“It’s like cladding your home in solid petrol,” fire expert and surveyor Arnold Tarling told the BBC last week.

He was talking about the aluminium composite cladding that covered Grenfell Tower, and specifically that type of cladding’s polyethylene core.

“When it becomes liquid it melts, burns and sets fire to polyethylene at higher levels,” said Tarling.

Rather than regulating building materials more strictly the Tories are letting business continue as usual.

Sales of polyethylene for construction are increasing.

Some 170 metric tons were sold for use in construction in Britain in 2013. And 190 tons will be sold next year if current trends continue.

The legacy of Grenfell could easily be another inferno if the Tories and their allies across the construction and property industries aren’t stopped.

The Tories have repeatedly ignored councils’ requests for funding for fire safety work.

Theresa May backtracked last month on her promise that the Tories would fund fire safety work on tower blocks. It is “up to the council to make decisions,” she said.

“It is not the case that sprinklers are the only issue that needs to be looked at or addressed—nor is it the only solution to ensuring their safety,” May added.

Fallen

This comes after figures released last week show that the number of firefighters has fallen by nearly a quarter over the past ten years.

Local fire authorities across Britain have axed firefighter jobs in response to Tory spending cuts.

A Home Office report revealed that the number of firefighters has fallen from 42,300 in 2007 to just over 33,000 this year. That’s a decrease of 22 percent.

In another shocking example of Tory ineptitude local government minister Sajid Javid was slammed last week for failing to have appointed a chief scientific adviser for his department.

The current acting scientific adviser for the Department for Communities and Local Government, which is responsible for housing policy, is an economist.

The ability of the department to understand the technical problems raised by Grenfell has been called into question.

And this week mental health professionals estimated that some 11,000 people have been affected by the fire and may need counselling.

Dr John Green, lead psychologist for the response to the fire, said that Central and North West London NHS Trust (CNWL) is now the “largest trauma service in Britain”.

CNWL and local GPs have treated more than 1,300 people so far for conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder related to the fire.

The Grenfell Recovery Taskforce was set to make its initial report into the fire and the council’s response as Socialist Worker went to press on Tuesday.

Activists have questioned the Taskforce’s ability to hold the council to account effectively—its offices are in the council buildings.

And survivors remain cramped in overcrowded hotel rooms as the Tories delay rehousing people, further compounding the likelihood of mental health problems.

Mahad Egal lived on the fourth floor of Grenfell Tower. “We’re still in the same boat as we were four months ago,” he told Socialist Worker.

“No one I know has been permanently accommodated. It’s a mess. There’s a lot of empty promises and broken promises still—no one really knows what’s going on.”


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