Up to 1,500 people marched through North Kensington in west London on Saturday night to demand justice for the people who died in the Grenfell Tower fire.
It marked four months since the fire, which killed at least 80 people. Justice seems as distant a prospect for survivors as it’s ever been.
An inquiry into the fire, headed by former Court of Appeals judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, is set to submit an initial report by Easter.
Marchers told Socialist Worker they have little faith in the official process. “I don’t trust Moore-Bick,” said school student Johera. “We need answers and the government hasn’t done anything to help us.”
The same Tory neglect of housing and safety regulations that led to the disaster could yet see it repeated unless there is urgent action.
“The entire regime of housing and fire safety needs to be addressed,” Fire Brigade Union general secretary Matt Wrack told Socialist Worker. “The fundamental question is why people were allowed to apply flammable cladding to buildings in the first place.”
Across Britain cladding needs to come down and sprinkler systems must be fitted. Over £400 million is needed to carry out fire safety work across London, councils revealed this week.
But the Tory government refuses to pay. Housing minister Alok Sharma has already turned down Nottingham council’s request for funds to retro-fit sprinklers.
Shadow fire minister Chris Williamson told Socialist Worker, “The Tories are dragging their feet. They initially said money would be made available for retro-fitting sprinkler systems but now councils’ requests are being turned down.
“Local authorities should use reserves. They need to make very strong cases to the Tory government,” he added. “If the government is to retain any shred of credibility then it needs to make funds available.”
Massive investment is needed, though the onus is on Labour-run councils too. It’s no good for them councils to simply say that they can’t carry out work because of Tory austerity.
The Tories have shown they won’t act on demands for justice unless they’re forced to – but they can be pushed.
On Wednesday in response to campaigners’ demands they extended their limited, temporary amnesty from deportation for undocumented migrants who survived the fire.
They can be forced to do more, and the anger hasn’t subsided.
“The numbers have gone up since the last march,” said march organiser Zeyad Cred. “We’re not going anywhere, but we can’t fight alone.”
Fire safety inspector numbers have been slashed by 28 percent since 2010, the FBU union has said.
Fire safety inspectors are responsible for ensuring that communal buildings and public spaces meet fire safety standards.
The real figure could be much higher as some fire and rescue services don’t know how many inspectors they employed in 2010.
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue service has lost 70 percent of its inspectors.
Gloucestershire, Durham, Cumbria, Norfolk and Avon all lost more than half of their fire safety specialists.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said, “Grenfell Tower has underlined the importance of fire safety in buildings.
“The drastic cut in fire safety inspectors makes it much more difficult for those remaining to do their job effectively.
“The government needs to wake up to what endless budget cuts have done to the lifesaving fire service.”
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