The Guardian’s Dawn Foster is rightly incensed about last week’s budget. Philip Hammond provided no extra funds to councils for sprinkler systems and fire safety measures so that the thousands and their children who live in blocks like Grenfell Tower can sleep at night.
When even the rich Tory City of Westminster has seen 60% government grant cuts since 2010, it’s no wonder that councils nationally aren’t dealing with the situation. Instead they’re carrying on off loading council housing onto private developers and housing associations for ‘regeneration’, with the subsequent lack of government oversight – although Grenfell has proved that both local and central government are, as Foster says, callously incapable of providing people with the resources and help they need in the face of crisis and horror, let alone permanent, safe, cheap and comfortable housing.
According to Justice4Grenfell, only 36% of Grenfell survivors, residents of the country’s richest borough, Kensington and Chelsea, have been permanently rehoused, while up to 80 people were burned to death after residents repeatedly begged the council’s Tenant Management Organisation to install fire safety measures.
According to the Local Government Association, which has a Tory majority, between 2015 and 2020 the central government Revenue Support Grant to local councils will have been cut by 70%.
According to the FBU, the fire fighters’ trade union, 11,000 fire fighters have been lost nationally since 2010, 1000 of those in London. The latest fire fatality was in Hampstead, London, on 21st Nov, which the FBU puts down to Boris Johnson’s closure of the nearest fire station, Belsize Park. Fire safety assessments are mired in a mass of government red tape.
According to Phillip Hammond, concerned tenants should call the council and concerned councilors, of whom there are many, should call the Treasury, who are offering no extra cash.
In September, the Metropolitan Police upped the ante by declaring that charges of manslaughter may be brought against individuals. In June they were talking about charges of corporate manslaughter. Either way, it’s now nearly December and the tiny minority whom austerity has enriched (in Africa they used to call it economic structural readjustment) will be dreaming of a white and cuddly Christmas, not of burning to death in a council block.