Socialist Worker

Anger and trauma two years after Grenfell fire

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2652

Many tower blocks - such as this one - needed combustible cladding to be replaced

Many tower blocks - such as this one - needed combustible cladding to be replaced (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Almost two years after the Grenfell Tower fire, people across Britain are suffering the “trauma” of living in tower blocks with similar flammable cladding.

Some 176 privately-owned residential blocks have been found to have similar cladding to that on Grenfell Tower and only ten have had it removed and replaced.

In many cases private ­developers or owners are asking residents to foot the bill or else continue to live in unsafe buildings.

And a survey by the UK Cladding Action Group released last week revealed that residents are facing “stress,” “anxiety” and “depression” as a result.

Some 196 leaseholders and ­tenants in 21 affected blocks across ten councils responded to the survey.

Some 28 percent of them say they have experienced anxiety as a direct result of the crisis.

Depression

And 23 percent have experienced depression, while 66 percent have had difficulty sleeping.

Some 158 social housing blocks also have similar cladding. Of these just 29 have had it removed.

Fears over safety go far deeper than unsafe cladding.

Decades of safety deregulation and fire service cuts mean that fire safety checks are carried out by the lowest bidder rather than the fire brigade. At least 72 people died as a result of the fire in June 2016.

Justice for the people who died and their families feels further away, not closer.

Campaigners are gearing up for a national protest on Saturday 15 June (see below).

This is the day after the monthly commemorative Silent Walk on the anniversary of the fire.

It comes as campaigners are increasingly frustrated with the lack of action from the Tories.

Indifferent

Last week the Grenfell United campaign group attacked Theresa May and her ministers as “indifferent and incompetent” who mistook their “kindness as weakness”.

More tension with the state is needed. Without it the Tories will be able to evade responsibility and justice will become an increasingly remote prospect.

A nasty reminder of what that looked like came earlier this month. Grenfell Tower survivor Mahad Egal was told that he and his family were to be placed on to the general council house waiting list.

He was also told that a ­programme to acquire permanent homes for survivors “has finished”.

“It’s shameful. There’s a lack of understanding, lack of communication and lack of humanity,” he said.


System’s failings to blame

The public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire has warned fire chiefs that they are in for a rough time when the inquiry’s initial report is released.

The London Fire Brigade has been told it will receive letters detailing some of the criticisms of it within weeks.

A report by the inquiry will follow shortly afterwards.

Hearings for the first part of the inquiry—concerned with the immediate events surrounding the fire—have finished. A report is due by the end of the year.

Whatever mistakes may have been made by the fire service, they should not deflect from the fact the fire was the result of systematic failures.

By focusing on the role of firefighters and the fire service the inquiry is seeking to divert attention from those at the top who are responsible.

Protest to demand justice for Grenfell—Saturday 15 June, 12 noon, BBC Portland Place, W1A 1AA

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