A Grenfell Tower campaign group has unveiled a series of billboards. These come amid widespread criticism of the inquiry into the disaster which killed 72 people in London on 14 June 2017.
“Grenfell was a microcosm of everything that is wrong with this country today”
Justice 4 Grenfell unveiled three billboards which bore the words: “Cover up 72 dead, never again”, “Grenfell Inquiry Report Recommendations: Government does not have to implement…” and “How come…???”. And referring to the inquiry, which is chaired by Sir Martin Moore-Bick, Justice 4 Grenfell campaigner Judy Bolton said:
I feel that the inquiry is actually back to front, the inquiry should have started with challenging what led up to Grenfell.
We need to find out what led up to Grenfell and why that fire started in the first place.
Deregulation and cuts within the fire service, within social housing, all of those things, it should have been able to start there.
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For us, justice for Grenfell is about leaving a legacy for Grenfell and that means challenging social change.
Grenfell was a microcosm of everything that is wrong with this country today, about social housing, about deregulation, about cuts, about austerity, about simple people wanting to be able to work and live in decent housing.
Bolton, who lost family in the blaze, praised individual firefighters, saying: “Those firefighters went into that building and not one of them gave up.” But she also highlighted that, according to the report, stronger guidance from higher levels could have been better.
Phase1 of the official Grenfell inquiry released today. Let’s hope that the government takes the recommendations made and implement them with some URGENCY 💚 pic.twitter.com/g3T60mXru3
— Justice4Grenfell (@officialJ4G) October 30, 2019
Firefighters’ union criticises report and slams “true culprits”
In a press release, Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack said:
Warning after warning from previous fires were ignored; central government must now take responsibility for ensuring that recommendations are applied nationwide …
we have said from the start that the order of issues to be investigated has been entirely wrong. The Inquiry’s structure prioritises scrutiny of firefighters, who did everything that they could to save lives, over investigating the critical issues of public safety that led to the fire and caused it to spread in such a disastrous manner.
Before any firefighter arrived that night, Grenfell Tower was a death trap.
It is clear that no one had planned or prepared for an incident like Grenfell. The planning by fire service policy makers did not take account of a fire where compartmentation failed on such a scale. …
Concerns about stay put policy were raised with central government years before Grenfell, the government must stop dragging its heels and recognise the urgent need to act. …
We strongly refute the report’s assertion that it would have been possible or safe to evacuate more than 150 people via a narrow smoke-logged stairwell with just 30 firefighters. There is no evidence to suggest that this was possible. It is particularly alarming that the Inquiry failed on this issue to seek the advice of its own expert advisor on firefighting matters. There is therefore currently no way of knowing if evacuation could have saved more lives.
And he concluded:
It’s time for government to provide national leadership, to properly fund and coordinate fire and rescue services and ensure these urgent matters of public safety are addressed.
The true culprits of the fire are those who wrapped the building in flammable cladding, who gutted the UK’s fire safety regime, who ignored the warnings from previous fires, and who did not hear the pleas of a community worried for their safety. … Change is needed now.
GMB union highlights “years of savage cuts”
Emergency service staff union GMB said:
The second phase of the inquiry, which is due to begin next year, is to focus on the refurbishment project that many believe was the real cause of the disaster, a point underlined by Moore-Bick’s comments that there is compelling evidence that the external walls of the building failed to comply with the requirements of building regulations governing fire safety.
Senior organiser Andy Prendergast stressed:
No one would deny the need to examine every action taken on that fateful night. But the reality is that by starting with the individual actions of staff within a Fire Brigade hampered by years of savage cuts lets the originators of this disaster off the hook.
It wasn’t staff members who decided to prioritise company profits over residents’ safety. It wasn’t staff members who cut the funding to the service, closing stations and cutting jobs. It wasn’t the staff members who decided to pay council tax rebates instead of protecting those living within its borders.
Stressing that “hard working members of staff did everything they could with the resources they had to save as many lives as they could”, he added:
We question the wisdom of starting the investigation by looking at the actions of the responders to what happened on 14th June 2017. The roots of this disaster lay not with the events of that night but on the years leading up to it.
We need to know why concerns from residents and fire staff were ignored, why councillors were deaf to protests, and why materials that were clearly not fit for purpose were used. We need to understand how the impact of massive cuts on the fire service impacted on their ability to respond.
He also stressed:
we will not rest until the full story has been told, one that names and shames those most responsible instead of this selective document that deals only with the result of the disaster and not the cause.
Reform the “broken system”
Finally, the Local Government Association (LGA) – which represents over 350 councils across England and Wales, along with all fire and rescue authorities – shared its position on the report. LGA building safety spokesman Lord Porter said:
the inquiry has made a fundamental error by examining the response to the fire before examining its causes. The consequence of this is to scapegoat the fire service while those responsible for the fire have yet to be exposed or held to account.
It is clear that the fire was caused by a catastrophic failure of the building safety system in England. This has been proven by the number of public and private buildings with flammable material and the number of modern buildings which are behaving in unexpectedly dangerous ways when they catch fire. Reform of this broken system cannot come soon enough.
Featured image via Twitter, with additional content via Press Association
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