Behind the Brexit chaos, Boris Johnson puts 200,000 UK people at risk of death

Boris Johnson on The Andrew Marr Show

Behind the Brexit chaos, Boris Johnson’s administration is putting almost 200,000 people at risk of death. Over two years since the tragic Grenfell Tower fire killed 72 people on 14 June 2017, and 1,700 buildings could still fail fire safety tests.

Dangerous construction materials were a key factor in the spread of fire at Grenfell, according to the public inquiry.

Death trap

Fire safety experts warned back in 1999 about the risks of combustible cladding. Nonetheless, in 2012, the Conservative / Lib Dem coalition removed important fire regulations from the London Building Act. For the government, capital savings for landowners appeared to trump sprinklers and smoke extractors for tenants in tall buildings.

Now, at long last, Johnson’s administration has moved to remove aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding from housing. Grenfell Tower was clad with ACM.

But other flammable material such as high pressure laminate (HPL) cladding still covers buildings across the UK, putting an estimated 196,000 residents at risk. The government has pushed back the deadline for merely inspecting almost 2,000 buildings until 2021.

In a press release The Canary has seen, Labour’s shadow housing minister Sarah Jones said:

Time and time again Conservative ministers have delayed acting on fire safety failures and tens of thousands of people are still living in unsafe buildings as a result. Today they have shifted the deadline for essential cladding inspections from 2020 to 2021 – almost four years after Grenfell.

The government confirmed months ago that HPL cladding was deadly and must be removed from buildings. Yet today’s delay means residents may not even know they are in danger for another year. And 10 months after tests on other suspect cladding were due to complete, the government has still not published the results.

Labour has demanded the government remove such cladding immediately.

It gets worse

An investigation from Labour also found that 95% of council blocks in England still do not have sprinkler systems. Only 112 out of 2,107 blocks have the safety measure.

Jones also said:

Sprinklers save lives, yet Ministers continue to ignore Labour’s calls to retrofit sprinklers in the 95% of tall council blocks which still don’t have them. Today’s announcement risks worsening the two-tier system where social housing tenants get a worse standard of safety…

The Conservatives simply cannot be trusted to keep people safe in their homes.

The Canary contacted the government’s housing department for comment but it did not respond by the time of going to publication.

Meanwhile, Labour has committed a £1bn fund to install sprinklers in all council and housing association buildings. Jeremy Corbyn said:

Retrofitting of sprinklers in all high-rise social housing is something that could make a vital difference to people’s safety.

Johnson’s administration is playing fast and loose with peoples’ lives while the UK’s richest 1,000 families have increased their wealth by almost £500bn since the financial crash. This level of inequality is utterly grotesque.

Featured image via BBC iPlayer

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