Opinion – High-rise blocks like Grenfell Tower can be safe. The key issue is management | Anna Minton | Opinion | The Guardian – John Gelmini

English: Social housing on approach to London ...

English: Social housing on approach to London Bridge Station SE1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I share Dr Alf’s concerns and some of what is outlined in this Guardian article but there is much more to consider.

The old tower blocks put up in the 1950s and 1960s were eyesores but they did the job of housing poor people who had been bombed out by Hitler’s Luftwaffe. They were, however, very cold in winter to the point where every winter pensioners would be discovered weeks later dead from hypothermia because the choice between eating or paying electricity bills presented too stark a choice.

Cladding to make the buildings less of an eyesore and more energy efficient was the response but much of this cladding contained inflammable materials and all this was happening at the same time as fire regulations were being relaxed. The “Fire Futures” report was one example of this but in this building and others like it there were no sprinkler systems and the Fire Brigade lacks appliances that can deliver water or firefighting chemicals above the 10th floor. The approach to proper risk management is a typically British one of write a report, do nothing and hope for the best. The outsourcing company responsible for looking after these buildings has had no trouble in paying its directors very well but seems loathe to spend on social housing of this kind.

Then there is the unwritten policy of decanting the poor, the dispossessed and Housing Benefit recipients out of London and into places like Luton and the far North. Part of that policy is gentrification of areas to encourage wealthy inward investors but part of it is spending as little as possible on the housing needs of the poor in the hope that they leave the area or die off.

In a normal household where people have jobs houses are frequently empty all day long or throughout school hours if young offspring live there.

This fire, the causes of which are as yet unknown grew, with unseemly haste to engulf its inhabitants.

One might expect higher fire safety standards because of the risks but no, the same low standards of fire safety were applied to these people that were worse than those applied to skyscrapers in Docklands where yuppies live.

Social justice would see the guilty to to jail and have their wealth and inflated pensions confiscated. Doubtless there will be an inquiry; we will hear about lessons learned and “robust”processes and then no-one will be held accountable and the whole matter quietly forgotten.

John Gelmini

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