Socialist Worker

Residents are told to pay up or burn

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2589

Firefighters lined the route of the last Grenfell silent walk

Firefighters lined the route of the last Grenfell silent walk (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Landlords and building managers are still dragging their feet over essential fire safety work in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Only three social housing tower blocks have had their cladding removed after 160 were identified as having the same flammable cladding as Grenfell.

And however bad the situation is in the social housing sector, it is invariably worse in the private sector.

Residents in a privately-owned Salford tower block, which is clad with similar material to Grenfell, have been told they must fund the cost of fire wardens.

Charges

The cost could run as high as £100,000, meaning service charges for some will triple.

Resident Matthew Crisp told the Manchester Evening News, “I’m worried this now sets a precedent for us to foot the bill for the cladding too.

“That’s devastating as I don’t know if I’ll be able to continue living in my home.” At a block in Croydon, south London, with the same cladding as Grenfell, residents have been told to foot the £2 million bill for its removal.

Some 95 households will have to pay between £13,300 and £31,300 each.

The residents’ building management firm First Property Services said, “We know that this work and the costs are unwelcome. “However, as your property manager, our first priority has to be your safety.”

People could be made homeless from attempts to pass on the costs of safety work to residents. Jeremy Corbyn pledged on Sunday to house every homeless person in Britain if Labour won the next election.

“We would give local authorities the power to take over deliberately kept empty properties,” he said.

“There is something grossly insulting about the idea you would build some luxury block and deliberately keep it empty,” he said.

On top of the number of homes left intentionally empty, half of the 1,900 luxury apartments built in London last year failed to sell at all.

Beacon

Corbyn’s promises should be a beacon for people fighting for better housing.

But it will take united action to make them a reality.

Survivors, activists and trade unionists were set to come together at a Justice4Grenfell meeting this Thursday.

The meeting can be an important part of building a campaign that’s strong enough to challenge the message being pumped out by the mainstream media. The monthly Silent Walk is set to march from the town hall in South Kensington on 14 February.

On the same day there is set to be a solidarity march in Manchester, called by Greater Manchester TUC with the backing of the Justice4Grenfell campaign.

Greater Manchester TUC president Stephen Hall said the march would “raise the possibility of similar solidarity events being organised across the country” on the first anniversary.

Activists and residents in North Kensington have called for a national justice demonstration on the anniversary on 14 June.

It can be a rallying point for all those fighting for decent housing across Britain.

Grenfell: how can we get justice? Thursday 1 Feb, 7pm Maxilla Social Club, 2 Maxilla Walk, London W10 6NQ.
Go to Facebook events Grenfell Tower—Silent Walk 14 February and Greater Manchester Solidarity with Grenfell—March & Rally for details of the marches

The Elephant campaigners won’t forget housing threats

Campaigners were set to protest outside Southwark council’s offices in south London on Tuesday 30 January as Socialist Worker went to press.

The council’s planning committee was to vote on the proposed redevelopment of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre. This would see private developer Delancey build unaffordable luxury flats on the site.

The committee already voted the proposal down on 16 January.

Campaigners believe the new vote has been called to persuade councillors to vote for the redevelopment.

Students are in occupation at the London College of Communication, part of University of the Arts London (UAL) which is opposite the shopping centre. UAL student and occupier Matthew Lee told Socialist Worker, “We’re fighting against UAL’s complicity in gentrification and social cleansing.

“We want UAL to pull out from this deal and say that social cleansing is not ok.”

Video of the occupation at bit.ly/2GtjxDE
Campaigners are also building for a meeting to stop demolitions on the Aylesbury estate in Southwark Public meeting, Refurbishment Not Demolition, Tuesday 6 February, 7pm, Draper Hall, Hampton Street. Full details and speakers at bit.ly/2EmNLXW

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