10:56 AM, 15th June 2017, About 5 years ago 26
Once again our great capital was struck by tragedy last night. At the time of writing there are 12 confirmed fatalities, 79 in hospital and 18 critical in this horrific tragedy. There are still residents unaccounted for, and this death toll may well rise.
These deaths and injuries resulted from a catastrophic fire which engulfed the Grenfell tower. This tower housed 120 flats over 24 stories.
In due Course the Fire service will complete their investigation, and we will learn why and how this calamity unfolded.
In the mean time it would appear that residents warned in 2014 of a disaster waiting to happen. There are questions around the external cladding which may have accelerated the blaze.
It must be established if smoke and fire alarms were operable, and regularly serviced. Did this building have a sprinkler system. What barriers existed between the floors etc.
What is paramount however is that such a tragedy must never again be allowed to happen. Platitudes form the council such as “lessons have been learnt etc” are simply not good enough.
It is absolutely unacceptable that tenants of Council owned properties and properties owned by housing associations are being forced to accept accommodation which is inferior and does not meet standards in the private sector.
Grenfell Tower, although managed by a separate company , was actually owned by Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council.
We hear the term “criminal landlords ” being spouted on an almost daily basis by Councils when referring to Landlords in the private sector, but no private sector Landlord would be allowed to escape punishment in the event that serious failings are found, when this investigation is concluded.
For this reason, I call upon the housing minister to immediately pass legislation changing the provisions of the Housing act 2004 to remove the exemptions which allow Councils and Housing associations to escape Licensing. Their properties must be licensed immediately and subjected to the same checks as the PRS.
It is now obvious that Properties owned by Local authorities could pose a serious danger to their occupants and while strict regs apply to private sector housing , the public sector is exempt.
Local authorities will be horrified by my demand for licensing, as they will claim they cannot afford to bring their properties up to standard.
In the mean time no excuses. Local authority housing must be subject to licensing immediately. Grenfell shows us what complacency can cost in terms of human life. The exemptions from licensing for these bodies must be removed immediately.