CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Look for the real Chalcots culprits, not the fire services

29 June, 2018

The Chalcots estate

IN the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell disaster there were bound to be hurried decisions – often badly thought out – by the various authorities.

This can be seen in the detailed analysis of what happened the night of the evacuation of the Chalcots estate.

Were the London fire brigade officers over-hasty in their demand that the council immediately evacuate the towers on June 23? Probably. Hadn’t they thought through the complex nature of the exercise, taking into account, for instance, the problems facing handicapped and other vulnerable tenants? Probably.

But the LFB didn’t want to take any chances. And who can blame them following the scale of the deaths at Grenfell. Though the report wasn’t intended to do anything else than investigate what happened on June 23, it reveals the LFB had discovered that, essentially, the “fire proofing” of the towers, particularly Taplow, had been “compromised”, presumably during the rerfurbishment of the estate nearly 10 years earlier, and this, surely, was enough to justify an evaucation of the buildings.

Bear in mind the towers were mummified by flammable cladding.

Here, by and large, the council acted fairly efficiently, despite the extraordinary cost of the exercise of £15million. Awakened to the dangers, the council put lives first.

Inevitably, political opponents of Labour will seek to make capital of any errors on June 23 by the council.

But they are ignoring the real villains in the piece – the various governments since the early 90s which “de-regulated” the building industry allowing, in effect, the privatisation of the state-controlled inspectorate system that used to govern the construction of homes, offices and public buildings.

This is why Grenfell – and Taplow – ended up clad with inflammable walls of death.

Criticisms have been made of the LFB at Grenfell about their “stay-put” policy. Again, there is some justification for this, though, it is difficult, given human nature, for senior decision-makers to break through the rigors of red tape.

But again, the real villain was the cladding at Grenfell. How was it allowed to cover the tower?

Who signed it off? Let us trace the real culprits – not simply, the fire services or, even, for that matter the manufacturers of the flammable material, but the government ministers who didn’t think through the consequences of de-regulation.

Again, we seek the most thorough examination of the original refurbishment scheme of the Chalcots estate – who drew up its specifications, who signed them off? From there we will see the pernicious effect of the de-regulation of the building industry – hopefully, to put an end to it.

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