The Grenfell Tower Atrocity by Gordon MacLeod

The Grenfell Tower Atrocity: Exposing urban worlds of inequality, injustice, and an impaired democracy

The fire that erupted in Grenfell Tower in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in west London on 14 June 2017 is widely acknowledged to be the worst experienced during UK peacetime since the nineteenth century. It is confirmed to have resulted in 72 casualties and 70 physically injured. It has also left a community physically and emotionally scarred. That the catastrophe occurred in the country’s wealthiest borough added to the shock while the circumstances surrounding it also begged questions relating to political and corporate responsibility. The UK Prime Minister swiftly established a public inquiry which is ongoing and anticipated to stretch well into 2019. This paper offers a preliminary analysis of what some are interpreting to be a national atrocity. It begins by describing the events at the time of the fire while also identifying the key controversies that began to surface. It then examines the local geography of Grenfell Tower and the surrounding Lancaster West Estate revealing an astonishing landscape of inequality across the borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The paper then uncovers how such inequality was combined with a malevolent geography of injustice whereby for several years residents raised regular warnings about the building’s safety only to be disregarded by the very organisations which were there ostensibly to protect and safeguard their livelihoods: the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea municipal authority and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation. The paper then deepens the analysis identifying how these organisations disavowed the local democratic process, in doing so dishonouring so tragically the Grenfell residents. It then finds this democratic disavowal to be multiscalar: for amid an incremental neoliberal political assault on the national welfare state, public housing across the country has become wretchedly devalued, stigmatised, and the subject of scandalous maladministration. A final section offers some preliminary analysis of the early stages of the Grenfell Inquiry, while also revealing the dignified resistance of the Grenfell community in the face of London’s increasingly plutocratic governance.

Dr Gordon MacLeod
Associate Professor (Reader)
Department of Geography
Durham University

MacLeod 2018 CITY Grenfell Tower atrocity

GRENFELL ACTION GROUP COMMENT:

A must read, this is everything that O’Hagan’s travesty was not. Beautifully written, with empathy and compassion for all who inhabit the working class ghettos of the UK, it deftly exposes the politics of greed, indifference and austerity administered by those who enjoy the entitlement and privilege of wealth and power and who enabled the badly botched refurbishment of Grenfell Tower that led directly to the tragedy of the Grenfell Fire.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

THE FIREFIGHTER

Posted in Uncategorized

FLAMMABLE CLADDING – NO UNIVERSAL BAN

Flammable cladding will not be banned from existing buildings, Tory Housing Secretary James Brokenshire announced at the Conservative Party conference this week. This is despite the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), survivors from the Grenfell Tower fire and the Royal Institute of British Architects all demanding that it is immediately banned and stripped.

Brokenshire announced that combustible cladding is only to be banned from newly built schools, hospitals, care homes, student accommodation and residential buildings in England and only if the building is above 18m (60ft) tall.

The ban will not be applied retrospectively to materials already fitted.

In his keynote address to the Conservative Conference, Brokenshire was expected to say:

“It’s been over a year since the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire.

“This unimaginable horror has rightly shocked us all and underlined the need to do all that we can to see that such a disaster cannot happen again.

“My work with Grenfell United and the wider community has been hugely helpful in keeping this issue right at the top of the Government’s agenda.

“And that is why today I can confirm that I will change the building regulations to ban the use of combustible cladding for all high-rise residential buildings, hospitals, care homes and student accommodation and bring about a change in culture on building safety.”

However, the ban he announced to conference fell short of what he had promised and will cover only combustible materials, including cladding, on new buildings, but will not be applied retrospectively to buildings where such materials have already been fitted.

After the horror of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, where flammable cladding rapidly spread the fire, buildings were tested around the country. It was discovered that there were 468 high-rise buildings in England which tests subsequently identified as being covered in similar flammable cladding to that which had caused the Grenfell inferno.

Firefighters union the FBU has called for a complete ban on combustible cladding and the immediate removal of flammable cladding from all buildings in the UK.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said :

“This is not the outright ban on combustible cladding that firefighters have been calling for. The Westminster government continues to allow cladding of limited combustibility for any building work in the future. The FBU called for a universal ban on these flammable materials.

“These measures do not deal with the existing cladding on nearly 500 buildings across England where people live and work every day. The government’s proposals only apply to buildings over 18 metres high, plus hospitals, care homes and student accommodation – when they should apply to all buildings, whatever their height or use.”

Earlier this year, the Royal Institute of British Architects called for a total ban on flammable cladding, as well as a requirement for sprinklers to be fitted, and a second means of escape for high-rise residential buildings. Of 295 blocks of private flats across England with combustible cladding, including 28 high-rise hotels, only two have been been made safe by removing these deadly cladding systems.

Of 159 social housing blocks that have cladding that failed fire tests in the wake of the Grenfell disaster, only 15% have had the cladding removed. The government has refused to say which buildings are clad in flammable material. They claim this information could ‘endanger the mental and physical health of people living in the buildings and could compromise their safety.’

Meanwhile, in a number of councils the truth has already emerged. For instance, in the London borough of Hackney in east London, three blocks at Lincoln Court, in Bethune Road, Stamford Hill and at Hugh Gaitskell House in Stoke Newington unsafe flammable cladding is present.

Wardens are also patrolling seven-storey Burbage House in Poole Road, Hoxton, from 8pm to 8am to ‘keep an eye on the building’ because of its aluminium composite material with unmodified polyethylene filler which tests have shown do not adequately resist fire.

Alarmingly plans to re-clad Landmark Heights, in Daubeney Road Lower Clapton ‘are to be shelved’. Landmark Heights is privately owned but was originally built by the council.

The Conseratives are responsible for killing more in the Grenfell Tower fire than all the terrorist deaths in the UK since the 90’s. So if they can fund wars on terror (claiming it’s for our safety), surely they can afford sprinklers and the replacement of these deadly flammable cladding systems. Or do they not care at all about the low waged, and are happy to let them burn? Or does the war on error not matter, assuming it was a catalogue of errors that caused the Grenfell fire? Perhaps paying attention to something other than Brexit would help. But they have no shame, and there’s no one calling them out. They gift wrapped almost 500 buildings in flammable cladding and charged the residents. Now, they keep those residents in death traps and have offloaded the ownership of many of these buildings onto private companies, so that when they burn the government can’t be sued. That’s the conservatives way. Protect and serve… themselves, and no others.

Reposted (with some minor edits) by kind permission of Dear Kitty Blog;

https://dearkitty1.wordpress.com/2018/10/02/grenfell-flammable-cladding-continue-british-conservatives-say/

Please share this.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Housing Associations Versus Freedom of Information Act

CLICK ANYWHERE ON THE GRAPHIC ABOVE TO OPEN THE PETITION SITE.

ALTERNATIVELY;

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/221577

Posted in Uncategorized

URGENT KCTMO EGM BRIEFING

Kensington & Chelsea’s Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) – which managed all council-owned properties before the Grenfell Fire – recently told its resident members that it will face closure as a company unless they agree to radical changes to its current constitution and management structure that would allow the current Board complete and permanent control of the organisation, including how it responds to any criminal investigation, the public inquiry, or civil action it may face.

Currently, a majority of seats on the KCTMO Board are reserved for resident members and any changes to its operation or management structure can only be implemented if they receive a majority vote from resident members.

At last year’s AGM, held after the Grenfell Fire, residents used their voting power to block an attempt by RBKC, backed by the KCTMO Board, to seize control of the organisation. Despite concerns that the police investigation and public inquiry would be hindered if one organisation under investigation, RBKC, gained complete control of another organisation under investigation, the KCTMO, this proposal would have succeeded had resident members not turned out in force to vote against the controversial proposal.

Under the new KCTMO proposals, such action would no longer be possible because the voting power of resident members would be removed and the Board would be reduced to five members. Three members of this new Board would be chosen by the existing KCTMO Board, which has been in power since before the Grenfell Tower disaster. Residents would no longer be permitted to serve on the Board and would also lose the right to vote on rule changes or other major decisions. The three Board members selected by the current Board would then select the final two Board members and these five would then have the sole power to make any rule changes or other decisions they see fit without any scrutiny, oversight, or fear of veto from residents.

A coalition of resident members from council homes across the borough has worked to create alternative proposals that recognise changes are necessary to KCTMO’s constitution but that maintain the need for member voting on changes to the constitution and resident representation on the board, but which ban residents involved in legal disputes against KCTMO and anyone with a direct or indirect relationship to RBKC from serving. These proposals, submitted as a motion for debate at next week’s KCTMO Emergency General Meeting, and within the required 14 days advance notice, have been rejected by KCTMO.

The fact that proposals submitted by the Borough Wide Alliance of Council Residents Associations (BWRA), which was highly influential in bringing about the Council’s decision to end its management contract with the KCTMO, proposals which had been vetted by independent legal experts, were rejected by KCTMO is highly controversial. The KCTMO has instead opted to create proposals that would remove external scrutiny and grant power to a Board whose decisions are currently under criminal investigation and opened the company to civil liabilities, clearly shows that KCTMO’s aim is to insulate itself and its employees from proper scrutiny whilst also frustrating police and public inquiries.

The KCTMO has called an Emergency General Meeting (EGM) for Thursday the 27th September, at the Town Hall.

Survivors of Grenfell Tower, residents of the wider Lancaster West Estate, and council residents from the rest of the Borough will again be forced to attend a meeting simply to vote against proposals which serve selfish interests, when all we want is openness and honesty from an organisation which has serious questions to answer about issues that could have implications for the future of social housing across the country

KCTMO EGM : An Explanation for Residents

 What is the problem?

KCTMO is a limited company; this means that it must have published rules that govern its operation and administration. These rules are in KCTMO’s Articles of Association and Constitution but these were designed for a company that would manage residential properties on behalf of RBKC. As it no longer fulfils this role but needs to remain in existence to respond to the criminal investigations, public inquiry, and civil litigation it will face for its role in the Grenfell Tower fire, there is a need for changes to be made to the rules to reflect its new purpose.

KCTMO have said their changes will address this issue, so what is the problem?

KCTMO’s proposals do FAR MORE than address this problem; they are seeking to remove resident members from the board and the power that resident members currently have to vote on proposed rule changes of any kind. The current board may have questions to answer related to decisions they made during their tenure and may even face criminal charges if they are judged to have any responsibility for decisions that led to the fire; KCTMO’s proposals would grant these people power to select future board members and this is clearly a worrying development that could hinder or completely derail Grenfell investigations.

OK, but KCTMO’s proposals require 75% of members at the EGM to vote in favour – they will NEVER get this – so what’s the problem?

KCTMO have a significant amount of proxy votes, delegated to them by existing members, with broad discretion on how to use these. In previous years, they have used the proxy votes to push through decisions which were widely opposed by residents and it is feared they will try to do this again unless we attend the EGM and vote against them.

I am willing to attend on Thursday 27  September and vote against them, so will many other residents, so what’s the problem?

KCTMO are demanding pre-registration, by postal application, if a member wishes to attend. This is clearly designed to prevent access to the EGM by residents who care enough to attend and ensure that KCTMO acts in an open and honest manner – with proper accountability and oversight.

What is the solution?

We urgently need resident members to either attend on Thursday, or appoint a trusted fellow resident to act as their proxy. There is no limit to the number of proxy votes a person may cast, but the form MUST be completed and returned, by post, using the pre-paid envelope with the pack, to the Southampton company KCTMO has chosen to administer the process.

 

The above is the text of a Press Release from the Kensington & Chelsea Borough Wide Alliance of council Residents’ Associations (BWRA)

For further information and comment contact:

Cllr Monica Press  – Tavistock Crescent RA and RBKC Councillor – 07503 568263 or Cllr.Monica.Press@rbkc.gov.uk

Tom Fitch – Swinbrook Estate RA – Tom@cash-online.org.uk

Gordon Futter  – Campden House Residents’ Compact – 07540 845365

Joe Delaney – Lancaster West RA – 07985 196199

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged

Film released ahead of Fire Door Safety Week

To coincide with Fire Door Safety Week (FDSW), The British Woodworking Federation has commissioned five powerful films. The week aims to raise awareness of the critical role that fire doors play in protecting occupants, buildings and fire fighters in the event of a fire and draw attention to a legacy of neglect when it comes to fire door inspection and maintenance. While some headway has been made over the last six years since FDSW began, there is still so much more to do to ensure fire safety is kept at the forefront of people’s minds and standards within the industry are raised.

The first film “We’ve been here before” released ahead of the awareness week, which starts on Monday 24 September, is presented by Hannah Mansell, spokesperson for FDSW, as well as British Woodworking Federation Head of Technical Research and Insight, Chair of the Passive Fire Protection Forum and a Trustee of the Children’s Burns Trust.

The Grenfell Tower tragedy claimed the lives of 72 people and created untold trauma in the lives of many thousands more. Such an atrocity can never be allowed to happen again. The Grenfell fire must finally be the catalyst for government, building owners, landlords and those involved in the fire and construction industries to come together and make buildings safe now.

You can view the film below:

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,