For housing association tenants and leaseholders, the horrific Grenfell Tower fire is a reminder of what happens when governments gift social housing to private companies.
KCTMO, which is still Kensington and Chelsea Council’s (reserves worth £274m) housing management contractor, in turn contracts out maintenance to other private companies. Between Rydon Construction, the ‘lead’ company’ in the 2015-16 Grenfell Tower regeneration, and Omnis Exteriors, who manufactured and supplied the deadly cladding, there were at least two other private contractors, all turning a fat profit. So who made the decision to ‘save’ £2 a square metre? Furthermore, UK governments have never made fire resistant cladding on tower blocks and schools a legal requirement. Let us ask again, who is responsible for Grenfell’s 120 estimated deaths? While the Metropolitan Police are considering corporate manslaughter charges, there are concerns that the the government’s Inquiry will be a stitch up. Nationally, all 181 samples of tower block cladding have failed fire safety tests.
If you visit KCTMO’s web site, and if your landlord is one of the big housing associations, you’ll notice similarities. KCTMO may be ‘not-for-profit’ but its income in March 2016 was £4.4 million. ‘Key management personnel’ were on £650k at the end of last year, when Kensington and Chelsea council paid KCTMO £11m. One large housing association will soon be pocketing a £90m central government grant. Sounds familiar?
Ex-housing minister Gavin Barlow, now Theresa May’s chief of staff, last year ignored fire risk recommendations in a 2013 report on a fatal London tower block fire in 2009. Housing associations are already in control of more social housing than ‘couldn’t care less contract-out’ councils. With the government’s current Housing and Planning Act partially implemented, giving housing associations even more power, it’s not only our rents and tenancies that are at risk.