By Isabel Ringrose
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Grenfell disaster caused by greed and corruption

Seven years on from the Grenfell disaster, victims remain unheard and the guilty are yet to be charged
Issue 2809
Demonstrators march silently for Grenfell (Photo: Guy Smallman)

Demonstrators march silently for Grenfell in 2023, six years after the fire (Photo: Guy Smallman)

It’s seven years this week since at least 72 people were killed in a tower block fire in west London. What killed them? Greed—and a hatred of working class people.

But how many companies, politicians and council bosses have been found guilty? None. Instead, some victims of the fire are being prosecuted.

The Met police said last month that criminal trials won’t begin until at least 2027—ten years after the Grenfell Tower fire.

Cops say they have 150 million documents and 12,000 witness state­ments. “How many do you need?” asks Moyra Samuels, a local activist and campaigner for justice.

“We know who the villains are. In the meantime, the police are arrest­ing members of our community on charges of fraud for making claims they thought they were entitled to,” she told Socialist Worker. “The individuals, companies and corporations just continue to profit.”

One woman who lived near the tower was jailed for eight months.

“She was put in a hotel after the fire. Her son, who was on the tenancy, was in hospital on the night of the fire,” Moyra explained. “He joined her in the hotel, and the police said she had no right to claim for him.”

The council also had no proper plan after the fire. “At the time of the fire families were visiting each other for Ramadan.

“But because the tenant management organisation (TMO) was so chaotic and had no system in place it doesn’t know who was living where,” Moyra added.

But some people have profited from those that were in need of help. “One survivor was in a hotel for five months,” Moyra said.

“He accidentally saw his bill—which was £52,000.” For some firms, the fire and the aftermath was “an opportunity to fleece”.

Moyra explained that the ques­tion of compensation has also led to “divisions and bitterness”. “Some residents only got paltry amounts. Bereaved and survivors had condi­tions attached to their compensation. And the contracts stopped them suing those responsible.

“It’s just another way to divide people,” she said.

The long-delayed report from Phase Two of a public inquiry, which began in September 2017, is due to be released at the beginning of September this year.

“This raises questions on the significance of inquiries, and how they can kick things into the long grass,” Moyra added. “Why can’t prosecutions happen at the same time as the inquiry?

“We need to come together and fight for a better standard of living—and put greater demands on the local authority. People need more control over how they live.

“Going forward we need a loud campaign. When the report comes out we need something big.”

 “The Grenfell community has been left traumatised. Seven year later and we’re triggered by what happened again,” Moyra said.

“People’s mental health is left in such a poor state, and they continue to struggle under the cost of living crisis. People lost their homes in such a violent way. Now, if they’re not going to die from mould or unsafe housing, there’s the issue of fire safety or insecure housing.”

Moyra thinks that housing has to be a key demand in the election. “The impact of poor housing is life changing. There’s no point fighting for better pay if it’s just siphoned off to landlords,” she said.

“We have to fight for fair rent controls. And we need to challenge the service charges that people in social housing and shared ownership are forced to pay.”

The Tories are also yet to implement the fire and safety recommendations from Phase One of the inquiry.

“There’s thousands of blocks waiting for cladding to be removed,” Moyra added.

“In a climate of cuts everyone realises change is needed as a consequence of Grenfell. But housing associations, councils and developers want to make savings.

“That’s how we got here in the first place.

“There’s people left in temporary accommodation for over 15 years, the impact of the right to buy and developers running rampant.”

To win justice we have to demand the corporations and politicians responsible get jail time and people see change.

 The seven deadly sinners
  1. Arconic

Made and sold the flammable ACM cladding because a fire-proof version was more expensive.

It supplied fake test reports for a fire-resistance cladding to gain certification.

Debbie French, Britain’s sales manager, knew the cladding “was and is flammable”.

  1. Celotex

Rebranded its flammable insulation foam boards to use them on buildings taller than 18 metres.

The product failed a first test, but passed a second with thinner and fire-resistant boards to rig the test.

Some officials on the Building Research Establishment advised Celotex to do this.

  1. Kingspan

Celebrated that its flammable K15 insulation—previously described as “a raging inferno”—passed tests by using a different trial product.

The newer product’s test ended after minutes because it nearly set the test room on fire. Bosses said to “let the files” that told them to update the product’s safety certificate “gather dust”.

  1. Harley Facades and Rydon

Harley Facades bought Celotex’s deadly panels at a 47.5 percent discount from advertised—saving £45,803.

The inquiry found that the contractors “critically” lacked experience and were “completely ignorant” of basic safety checks.

  1. Kensington and Chelsea council

The Tory council cut costs at every stage. Deputy leader Rock Feilding-Mellen only cared about the cladding’s “champagne colour”.

Before the refurbishment in 2015 he called the tower a “blight”. The council switched from safer zinc cladding to ACM to save around £500,000.

  1. Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO)

The TMO ignored residents’ concerns about the refurbishment and labelled them “troublemakers”. It failed to replace the broken fire alarms and doors in the block and didn’t put in a sprinkler system.

It also ignored the London Fire Brigade’s notices about fixing the smoke ventilation system and had no evacuation plan for disabled residents.

Leaders binned their notebooks relevant to the refurbishment before the inquiry.

  1. The Tory government

David Cameron made £10 billion of cuts as it deregulated the building industry.

Ministers dismissed concerns about Class 0 rated materials—the lowest ranking for building materials. And they ignored warnings about sprinkler systems and fire risk assessments after the Lakanal House fire in 2009 that killed six.

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