The government has announced a new regulator for construction products following evidence at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry—but campaigners say it’s not nearly enough.
The regulator will be able to ban dangerous materials like those used on Grenfell. And the companies who make them could be prosecuted and face fines or imprisonment of up to three months.
But Grenfell Community Campaign organiser Leearna told Socialist Worker that those affected by the fire are “not impressed”.
“The first thing is that it is too late for our 72 and too late for all the new builds around the country now covered in the same types of flammable materials,” she explained.
“We see the announcement as a political quieting of the masses—nothing more than a public relations exercise. They were under pressure and had to show they were doing something.
“Ultimately, we cannot trust this Tory government. We are not blind to the fact that many of the guilty construction industry corporates are major financial contributors to the Tory party.
“They provide a money stream that our corrupt political leaders are not going to put at risk.”
Other groups agree. The UK Cladding Action Group called the measures “too little too late”. This is especially true for the estimated 175,000 leaseholders trapped in high-rise homes that are covered in hazardous products.
“The firms Kingspan, Celotex and Arconic have faced no consequences—they are still making profits,” campaigners Grenfell United added.
“Consequences for companies involved in Grenfell would be the best way for the government to send a message it was serious about cracking down. This is not an industry that deserves a clean slate.”
Leearna said, “We continue to fight for the thousands of people stuck in homes that they threw their life savings into but that are now worthless.
“They are trapped and this government continues to fail them. Legislation we want to see includes forcing those who made these materials, and the contractors who put them onto buildings, into paying to make them safe.
“Real change needs to be much broader than what has now been announced.”
News that the inquiry into the devastating fire will recommence remotely via Zoom on 8 February has caused further anger.
The Grenfell Tower Inquiry paused over the Christmas break, and delayed restarting due to the lockdown.
Leearna said that “conducting the Inquiry in a remote forum merely allows space for the guilty to protect themselves even further”.
“It’s a travesty,” she said.“The majority of our group feel that there is doubt about where the directive to go remote has come from.
“The Inquiry used Covid-19 to keep the bereaved, survivors and the public out. Now this shuts down the protest outside the Inquiry, so again community voices are quieted.”
Weekly protesting began after survivors and the bereaved were denied entry after the first lockdown in March.
Leearna said that concerns have been raised “about the lack of any one-to-one personal scrutiny witnesses will be under via a remote forum”.
“We all agree that this is contrary to achieving either truth or justice. The only parties this serves are those responsible for causing the fire,” she said.
“We will continue to fight, with eyes fully open, for truth, justice and change.”