Talk for Grenfell

By 14th June 2018 No Comments

We are gathered today to remember Britain’s deadliest fire in living memory.

Justice for Grenfell is hugely important.

72 people died in a fire that should never have happened.

A year on only 82 of the 203 households are in permanent new homes

It was a horrendous wake up call for many that our housing system puts profits above people.

Scotland Yard has already identified two organisations, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, as suspects in relation to potential charges of corporate manslaughter.

This is because warnings about fire safety from residents had been ignored. Grenfell Tower Residents Association, that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea was told about the fire risks, and were warned of specific risks on multiple occasions. Yet apparently there was no adequate fire safety assessment.

Residents knew the building was unsafe, they knew they were at risk from a fire and yet nothing was done.

The shock of the nation afterwards was that the fire could and should have been avoided.

Later we heard about the safety failures at national and local level, and companies hawking unsafe building materials unchecked.

After Grenfell, I think many people including myself hoped this atrocity that should never have happened should signal a turning point in housing policy.

We have yet to see this turning point.

Last month we heard that cladding like that used at Grenfell will not even be banned.

Indeed, it took 11 months for Theresa May to commit £400m to remove existing cladding from tower blocks.

Even this modest and long overdue announcement was revealed as a sham: the £400m was to be pinched from affordable housing budgets.

It is scandalous that a year on from this tragedy, politicians are whittling down public housing budgets and failing to take action to keep residents safe.

In January was one of 72 signatories, which included academics, MPs, and other campaigning organisations that signed an open letter to stop Theresa May from allowing KPMG to be involved with the Grenfell inquiry.

KPMG audits Celotex, the parent company that produced the insulation on the building, alongside its role as auditor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC), and Rydon Group, the contractor that refurbished Grenfell Tower.

This is yet another symptom of how corporate culture is rotten, conflict of interest is everywhere and profit is put over people.

Today we marching and remember the victims, the survivors that are still homeless, and we will be marching for justice for Grenfell, as well as just housing for all.

Our broken housing system also affects Gloucester we have 15 rough sleepers, over 100 homeless cases and nearly 4,000 people awaiting social housing. We need to make sure as we remember Grenfell we question how housing must be improved for people across the country.

This political disregard for social tenants is rooted in state disinvestment from public housing, and unaccountable private interests taking over the building and management of social housing. Our estates are being run down and demolished while public assets are sold off. Meanwhile 80% of new homes built in London are affordable only to the richest 8% of the city.

A tragedy like Grenfell must never happen again. We need public investment in safe, decent public housing that is affordable for everyone. We want a housing system where tenants are listened to. And we need housing policy driven by public interest, not by the market.

I’m incredibly proud that Gloucester has organised this march, led by Steve Gower. And so many people are here today, because we care.

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