Socialist Worker

Grenfell Inquiry—firms ‘pass buck and blame each other’

Issue No. 2690

Protesting as Phase Two of the Grenfell Inquiry opened last month

Protesting as Phase Two of the Grenfell Inquiry opened last month (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire heard last week that corporations had killed residents “in the pursuit of money”.

Sam Stein, the lawyer for some of the survivors and victims’ families, said that, “They killed those 72 people as sure as if they had taken careful aim with a gun and pulled the trigger.”

Corporations due to give evidence this week in phase two of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry have been accused of trying to “sabotage” proceedings.

The companies involved in the refurbishment are facing charges of corporate manslaughter and gross negligence.

The inquiry heard an application for “privilege against incrimination” on Thursday last week. The firms threatened to hold back evidence if their request was not granted.

Rydon was the main contractor for the refurbishment.

It said in its opening statement that it could not take responsibility for the fire because it delegated the refurbishment to other

contractors. But the companies Rydon used are also dodging blame. Phase one of the inquiry found that the cladding was responsible for the spread of the fire that killed 72 people in 2017.

Arconic—the makers of the combustible cladding–have defended their role.

They said it “should have been obvious to anybody involved in construction that its product was not of limited combustibility”. And emails from Arconic in 2013 said that the cladding material “should have been discontinued ten years ago”. It provided the cladding to be installed.

Harley Facades claimed that Arconic’s brochure “gave no indication” that the cladding was not suitable.

Karim Mussilhy from Grenfell United said, “It’s incredibly difficult and frustrating to sit here and hear these organisations passing the buck and blaming each other. It’s clear that all of them had a role to play in the disaster.

“People are still unsafe in their homes. We know how dangerous the cladding was.”

The inquiry was expected to rule on whether to grant immunity after Socialist Worker went to press.

Councils fail exploited children

Authorities are failing parents of children who are being sexually exploited, according to a new report.

The study, by Parents Against Child Exploitation (Pace), was launched in parliament last week.

It interviewed parents about their experiences of children’s social care services.

The report found that attitudes and lack of resources stopped vulnerable children getting the support they need.

Social care staff “often minimised or dismissed the risks and harms a child was facing” or blamed parents for the abuse.

One parent said, “The approach from Children’s Social Care was that I was being over protective.”

Another said, “They just had this approach that everything was happening because of me.”

“I wasn’t listened to,” added another. “I was the enemy. They’d implement these badly thought out decisions and I’d be left to pick up the pieces.”

Some parents faced threats from those supposedly there to help them. “They held this threat over me of removing all of my children,” said one parent. “It didn’t keep my daughters safer.”

Several felt the authorities didn’t value their children. And a number referred to services being over-stretched and under-resourced.

Deluge of Tory lies over flood compensation

An “obscene postcode lottery” will stop hundreds of flooded households from receiving any compensation.

Boris Johnson promised grants of up to £5,000 for flood victims last November, after visiting flood-hit Fishlake in Yorkshire.

Yet the government will only give the money to people flooded between 8 and 18 November, and only in areas where more than 25 homes were affected.

More than 2,000 homes and businesses were affected last autumn.

Polly Ernest was forced to evacuate her B&B in Hereford when it flooded on 25 October.

She still can’t move back in, and is losing her income as a result.

“We flooded a week too early and we are in a safe Tory seat,” she said. “We keep being told we are not eligible.

“It’s disgusting.”

It’s no yolk—200 feral chickens overrun town

Cruel Tories in Norfolk are worrying about chickens coming home to roost.

The Tory-run South Norfolk council is clamping down on feral chickens

Up to 200 have been living in Diss, Norfolk, for more than two years after cocks and hens were abandoned by their owners.

Now the local authority has threatened locals with £80 fines if they keep feeding them.

Some reactionaires are cock-a-hoop at the crackdown. But animal lovers have cried fowl play and are spitting feathers, saying they are doing nothing wrong.

Carol Morris, who regularly feeds the chickens, said, “There’s one or two people that don’t like them but they’re in the minority. I feed them every day and there’s no way I am going to stop.”

Margaret Chapman added, “It’s a sorry road to be threatening people with fines. Who do they think they are?

“It’s heavy-handed and draconian.”

British law used against Indian school

Indian police have launched a sedition investigation against a primary school over a play that criticised a citizenship law.

There have been widespread demonstrations against the law introduced by the Hindu-nationalist government that grants citizenship to religious groups from three neighbouring countries, but excludes Muslims.

Police said they were laying initial charges under the British colonial-era law against the principal of the school in the southern state of Karnataka.

The five-minute play saw pupils talking about how they feared the government would ask Muslims to prove their nationality or be expelled from India.

Johnson celebrates Brexit

Boris Johnson celebrated getting Brexit done with a £350 bottle of posh red wine. The prime minister toasted exit from the EU with a 1994 vintage Chateau Margaux—left to him by a Tory in their will.

He marked the historic moment by striking a Chinese ornamental gong but had to do the countdown himself when his televison broke down.

Energy firms rip off customers

The Ofgem energy regulator has helped firms grab hundreds of millions of pounds more from customers.

A National Audit Office report last week found that customers have paid at least £800 million too much for their energy bills over the past seven years.

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