A fire-gutted flat: The result of Tory investment in Grenfell Tower.

The Metropolitan Police have released images of the interior of Grenfell Tower. Take a look (video from RT as the tweet I tried to use took you to a different website):

That is the physical effect of what happened to that housing block last week. The effect on the survivors – and the effect on British politics – will continue for some time to come.

Of course the latest Jonathan Pie video clip had to be about Grenfell – and asks hard questions. Here it is:

“I’d be amazed if cuts and the ideology of austerity hasn’t in some way contributed to this.”

Let’s have a look, shall we?

For a start, it has emerged that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the council responsible for Grenfell Tower, had stockpiled more than £274 million of usable reserves after years of what The Independent describes as “chronic underspending”. Austerity?

This Writer understands that £10 million was made available to refurbish Grenfell Tower, but only £8.6 million of it was used. The difference between the cost of flame-proof cladding and the highly-flammable cladding that was used instead was just £5,000 in total. Cuts?

That would have left £1,395,000 – and I am sure a sprinkler system would not have cost that much. Austerity?

But the decision was made not to buy and install those things and now we are being told 58 people are believed to have died. How many have actually died?

I suggested a couple of days ago that someone should add up the number of people who got out safely and the number in hospital, subtract that from the number of residents and use the answer as a ballpark figure. Evolve Politics has done that – and you’re not going to like the answer:

It means 461 residents – out of 600 – may have died.

Oh, but wait – we may never see the correct figure recorded, for the following reasons:

The relevant part states: “The government have made a report system to make [it] look like deaths by fire have dropped. So, if people jumped out the window because of the fire and died, they did not die becayuse of the ‘fire’ but from self-inflicted causes… In laymen’s terms, if 10 people were in a fire, and nine jumped and died and one died in the building, then the news will report one death by fire.”

We have already heard that anybody who dies in hospital from injuries suffered during a fire will not be listed as having died because of that blaze.

Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, appeared on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday (June 18), when he said expert advice had been sought on whether a sprinkler system would have been effective – to scornful laughter from the Twitterati, and rightly so:

That would make him one of the 70+ Tory landlords who voted against Jeremy Corbyn’s proposals to make all rented accommodation fit for human habitation, then.

As is Nick Hurd, Theresa May’s new Police and Fire minister.

Here’s the most pertinent comment, from Mr Morgan’s co-host on ITV breakfast television, Susanna Reid:

Would that be from the report that housing ministers including Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s new chief of staff, hushed up for four years? (Yes, it would.) Mr Barwell has refused to apologise for his inaction.

This is also interesting:

‘Boris’ is Boris Johnson, of course, London Mayor at the time of this attempt (2013). He is now Tory foreign secretary. While we’re discussing him…

Mr Johnson is being suggested as a possible future Tory leader/prime minister – but his image may be tarnished by his connection with this disaster, which is why – it seems – David Davis is being touted as a ‘caretaker’ if Theresa May gets the push.

In the same interview, Mr Hammond said: “I think we should be proud of the way we cleared out a lot of the unnecessary regulation to make life easier, particularly for small businesses.”

Yes indeed. But it seems it may have been the clearing of those regulations may have resulted in the disaster – which was entirely avoidable, according to architect Deon Lombard, writing in The Guardian. He states:

Building control departments in many local authorities have been eviscerated. They are invariably under-resourced with no teeth. Often a subset of planning departments, they lack the authority to carry out what is arguably the most important part of a local authority’s remit – to ensure the safety of its residents. Furthermore this function has been partly privatised, with a range of companies competing for the business. It is often those companies with a reputation for gaining “easy” approvals that increasingly dominate the market, further undercutting the council building control.

Second, fire officers play a crucial role in ensuring that all fire regulations are met, and devising a fire strategy for a project [but] a new form of self-certification was … introduced, with the onus on the developer/owner to ensure a project met all fire regulations. This took no cognisance of the fact that different buildings could have very different fire requirements.

The third part of the triple lock is to ensure that all materials used in a building are fit for purpose – obviously particularly important in the case of fire safety… With architects now seldom having the authority to insist on specific products being used, there is a tendency to go for cheaper materials, without necessarily understanding the impact or potential knock-on effect.

Cuts and austerity?

According to the Mirror, tower block safety checks have been cut by a quarter since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.

It seems 30,000 buildings in the UK have been fitted with the flammable cladding, according to Metro – but the company responsible, Harley Facades, says it is “not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding”.

Perhaps this is the reason:

At least Harley Facades was still admitting it had been involved. It seems other firms have been stripping any such evidence from their websites. Labour MP David Lammy, who lost a friend to the fire, asked very important questions about whether other information was being quietly deleted before the police could seize it. He got a hostile response from a Sky News presenter but just watch his reaction:

Residents of Grenfell Tower had been complaining about fire safety – or the lack of it – in the building for many months, and had made it clear they considered “only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO [Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation – a private company running social housing in the borough on behalf of the council], and bring to an end the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders… It is our conviction that a serious fire in a tower block… is the most likely reason those who wield power at the KCTMO will be found out and brought to justice”.

Their complaints fell on deaf ears. In fact, the council wrote to two of those concerned, threatening them with legal action if they didn’t stop.

The response of the RBKC to the disaster has been haphazard at best – although a better description would be chaotic, although you’d never know if you believed council leader Nick Pagett-Brown. Here’s his response to the original cladding work (carried out, according to this, by a company called Rydon):

And here he is discussing the disaster:

We’ll get back to the meaning of that ‘social cleansing’ comment presently. First, we should note that co-ordination of relief efforts was taken away from Tory-run RBKC and handed to officers from Labour-run Ealing Council, who are reportedly doing a much better job.

The way the council has treated the survivors of Grenfell Tower is abominable.

It seems Mr Pagett-Brown has been caught out in a lie:

What have they been doing with their money? Watch:

Watch:

So the press has been putting forward a misleading impression of what’s been happening, a government task force to help victims was nowhere in sight, and people were still sleeping on floors. So much for Theresa May’s contribution:

Mrs May’s lack of interest has provoked angry disagreement between high-profile commentators:

They’re getting something anyway. An emergency fund has been announced by the government, totalling £5 million. Let’s put that in context:

We’re told that every survivor will get £5,500 from this fund. That is just £357,500. Who gets the rest?

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn made an important point about the fact that people are still sleeping on the floor of the local leisure centre:

Presumably the prime minister is on the side of RBKC, which is apparently forcing the Grenfell Tower survivors to move as far away as Preston – or be re-categorised as “intentionally homeless”:

Interestingly:

With the residents out of the way, RBKC may consider what to do with the burnt-out shell of Grenfell Tower itself – and should consider it very carefully. Remember, in the immediate aftermath of the fire, there were recriminations against the council for wanting to ‘gentrify’ this part of London, pushing out the poor to make way for luxury apartments for the very rich. Any move in that direction now could be seen as an admission of guilt.

Paul Lewis has made this suggestion:

This Writer cannot support the idea because the building is in a dangerous condition.

But it would serve the council right if it were forced to turn the site into a memorial – a garden of remembrance, perhaps – ensuring that no greedy businesses profit from the deaths of hundreds of innocent people.

Looking at all the evidence, you can see where the finger of blame is pointing:

At the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

At Philip Hammond.

At Nick Hurd.

At Gavin Barwell.

At Boris Johnson.

At the other Tory MPs who are landlords.

At the Conservative government in general, including all its members since 2010.

At the companies hired to carry out substandard improvement work on Grenfell House, using substandard materials.

At the mainstream news media.

And at Theresa May, the prime minister.

Do you think any of them will face justice over it?

If not, who will?

This will not go away; more information is certain to become available soon.

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