To blame “Evil Tories” is to miss the point spectacularly…

Yes, the Grenfell Tower disaster happened in Kensington & Chelsea London Borough Council’s area, and the building was owned and run by their housing wallahs (KCTMO), and this council has been Tory ever since it was first convened in 1965.

Amid the protests about the incident – which were hijacked by ghastly anti-Tory protestors with no stake in the issue at hand –  there have been lots of claims that the disaster is due to cuts imposed by the evil Tories, and that the refurbishment of the building was done on the cheap.

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They’re the real victims here….

What, then, explains the similar fire that happened at Lakanal House in Camberwell in 2009 in which 6 people died and many more were injured? This happened under a Labour government, in a London Borough that is as red as Kensington and Chelsea is blue. By the very nature of demographics and politics, many of the other similar tower blocks are in Labour controlled council areas, and there but for the grace of God go they.

Remarkably, K&CLBC has at time of writing not updated the webpage associated with the building, which tells of the refurbishments being undertaken.

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It still proudly states

Grenfell Tower, on the Lancaster West Estate in North Kensington, has been undergoing major refurbishment.

The large scale works included the installation of insulated exterior cladding, new double glazed windows and a new communal heating system. A new communal entrance has been created and there are new facilities for returning tenants, Grenfell Under 3s Nursery and Dale Youth Amateur Boxing Club. Nine much needed new homes have been created from unused spaces.

 

.. and carries a link to a page about “living in healthy homes”. That page, in turn, leads to a page about fire safety, which states:

The Royal Borough has some of the largest Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in the country, with properties often comprising five or more storeys, and containing up to thirty dwellings. Tackling fire safety protects residents from unsafe conditions.

Compulsory licensing of HMOs was introduced by the Housing Act 2004. It applies to all privately rented HMOs that are three or more storeys high, occupied by five or more people who form more than one household, and where there is some sharing of amenities.

A programme of inspections takes place to tackle high-risk HMOs to ensure that means of escape and adequate fire safety measures are in place and to identify unlicensed HMOs.

There is an overlapping fire safety responsibility between the Council and the London Fire Brigade (LFB). Owners are required to carry out a fire risk assessment and make an emergency plan. The fire risk assessment is a systematic examination of the premises to identify the hazards from fire which must be recorded.

The Council enforces the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) in the private sector under the Housing Act 2004. The HHSRS is a ‘risk based’ assessment of the risks to safety from fire and other hazards. The Council has a range of enforcement powers to ensure that premises are made safe. Management Regulations in HMOs also impose requirements that fire safety measures are maintained.

See my emphases? The legislation (brought in by a Labour government) only applies to private sector accommodation. Not to these death-trap buildings owned by the state.

There can be little doubt that the Tory/LibDem coalition, and subsequently the Tory government, failed to heed and act upon the lessons that came out of the 2009 incident. But what reason does anyone have to believe that – whatever their noble intentions, and given their 13 year record in power – a Labour government would have responded any more competently or effectively?

Which leads me to my conclusion: state control and ownership are. A. VERY. BAD. THING. Whoever is in charge. Doesn’t matter if it’s Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, Greens or the flying carpet merchants of the Natural Law Party. The state sucks at managing things, and they always cause misery, suffering and death.

There are so many angles from which to come at this and arrive at the same conclusion, but they always come back to one thing: Incentives.

As above, 6 people died in Camberwell in 2009. Only weeks ago, in 2017, Southwark Council was fined £270,000 – a mere peppercorn – for their part in the disaster. No-one went to prison for corporate manslaughter, no-one lost their sinecure or their gold-plated pension. The fine that was paid was the public’s money, not the council’s, being transferred from one arm of the state to another, with the middlemen taking their cut. That’s to say nothing of the £300,000 of court costs and the doubtless huge sum of public money that the council will have spent in legal fees to defend itself and deflect legal liability from its officeholders.

What incentive does anyone in any council have to do anything differently? If that had been a privately owned and run building, do you honestly believe the outcome would have been the same? Would there have been no company director dragged through the courts, no prison sentence, no personal financial losses?

Let’s face it, neither public nor private sector landlords care about the people who inhabit their properties, so long as they pay the rent. In the private sector, however, the “fat cats” have to watch their own backs.

The public sector demonstrably doesn’t have to play by the same rules as the private sector where there is more stringent law and regulation that means that standards are enforced, and people are held accountable when things go wrong. The public sector doesn’t have to deal with the market forces that  would see a private company that was culpable for such a disaster collapsing and their stakeholders being ruined.

Does anyone want to take my £50 bet that says no-one in the employ of the state will go to prison for this latest failing of the state? I’ll also bet £25 that no state employee will be defenestrated either.

It’s sad that it takes a tragedy such as this to illustrate my point, but when will people learn that the state is not their friend or protector, no matter who is in charge?

AJ

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About Al Jahom
Anti-social malcontent, misanthrope and miserable git.

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