Fire safety issues with Orchard Village

We’ve written before about the problems afflicting the Orchard Village development in South Hornchurch which was built to replace most of the Mar Dyke estate: Building the slums of the futurehttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/building-the-slums-of-the-future/ It has come as no surprise to us that given the shoddy construction at the development and what can only be described as a lack of oversight during its construction, residents are quite rightly raising concerns about fire safety: Orchard Village Rainham residents demand more action over fire safety concernshttp://www.romfordrecorder.co.uk/news/orchard-village-rainham-residents-demand-more-action-over-fire-safety-concerns-1-5065312

Colin Nickless, chair of the Orchard Village Residents Association raised concerns about fire safety issues late last year. He provided photographic evidence showing breaches in building regulations and failures in fire protection which would counter the Stay Put policy in the event of a fire breaking out. Stay Put depends upon the building being fire resistant to the extent that any fire that does break out is confined within its point of origin and does not spread to neighbouring homes. A resident who knew a retired fire officer invited him to look at the development. The retired fire officer made a list which was submitted to the London Fire Brigade’s fire safety department. The upshot of this is that an additional engine will be submitted to any fire calls at Orchard Village.

Let’s just take a step back here… Superficially, Orchard Village might look fresh and modern but once you take a closer look at the development and the numerous flaws in construction are revealed, as we wrote back in March, it’s set to become a slum of the future if serious remedial work isn’t undertaken soon. Residents, regardless of what form of tenure they hold, should not have to be fighting to have shoddy construction remedied and most definitely should not have to be highlighting serious issues with fire safety. In the 21st century in a supposedly advanced country, it ought to be a matter of routine to get any housing development built to a high standard shouldn’t it?

Reality check… We live in an age where money talks loud and if cutting corners means more dosh in the bank for developers, builders and suppliers, cutting corners is what will happen. If you want a textbook example of cutting corners on a development, pop down to Orchard Village and take a look. This is an object lesson of what happens when the provision of decent, safe and truly affordable housing is not seen as a basic duty but as a source of profit in a dysfunctional, parasitic economy that is over-dependent on the property market. The problem is that when housing is being built for maximum profit, decent, safe and truly affordable are all too often pushed down the priority list…

Grenfell Tower residents evicted from hotel accommodation with hours notice

PRESS RELEASE: Radical Housing Network – http://radicalhousingnetwork.org/

Today residents of Grenfell Tower were given eviction notices from their temporary accommodation in Kensington, in a move described as ‘barbaric’ by Radical Housing Network.

Residents of Grenfell Tower who had been staying at the Holiday Inn, Kensington, were told today that they were to be separated and moved by 4pm to other temporary hotel accommodation across London, in places such as in Heathrow, Lambeth, Southwark and north London. Following intervention by legal observers, most of the residents have been moved together to a hotel in Westminster.

Pilgrim Tucker, a community organiser working with the Grenfell Action Group and liaising with residents at the hotel, said:
“It’s beyond disgusting that after all these people have been through – losing their neighbours and watching their homes burn to the ground – authorities are prepared to tell them that they have hours to pick up their bags and move to some unknown destination, separated from their friends and neighbours. It makes you wonder if anything’s been learned from the Grenfell catastrophe.”

Radical Housing Network, an alliance of which Grenfell Action Group is a member, said:
“Today Grenfell residents staying together in a Kensington hotel were told they were going to be split up and scattered across London at a moment’s notice. Moving people around who have been through horror and trauma from one temporary accommodation to another is barbaric and unnecessary, and speaks of a degree of callousness by the authorities.

“Only yesterday Sajid Javid was promising that all those made homeless by the Grenfell fire would be rehoused in the borough within a matter of weeks. The government needs to move fast to make good on this commitment to rehouse all those made homeless by this catastrophe, according their wishes and needs.

“We still need answers as to what will happen to private renters, subtenants and homeowners of Grenfell Tower. We strongly suggest that given the scale of the disaster – and the trauma, mismanagement and negligence surrounding this case – all tenants of Grenfell, not just council tenants, are prioritised for permanent social housing in the local borough. If no so such social housing is available, we suggest Kensington & Chelsea council dip into their £274 million cash reserves to buy up property and turn it into social housing.

“Grenfell Tower is an indictment of a broken housing system – one where council housing is systematically run down and tenants are treated with contempt.

“It’s about time we had housing for people not for profit – and public investment in secure, decent, genuinely affordable housing for everyone.”

Thurrock Council taking the p**s with flytipping letters

Here’s a classic case of Thurrock Council not being able to tell the difference between their arse and their elbow: Council apologises after sending letters demanding cash to clean up fly-tippinghttp://www.thurrockgazette.co.uk/news/15359229.Council_apologises_after_sending_letters_demanding_cash_to_clean_up_fly_tipping/ Okay, we know that the council have since claimed that the letters sent to residents in the London Road area of Grays were sent out in error but, when you look into the issue, they’re still taking the p**s…

The older areas of Grays have a fair few alleyways that will act as a magnet for fly-tippers. Taking rubbish to a site such as Buckingham Hill for disposal can be an expensive business and that leads the more unscrupulous elements in the area to conclude that fly-tipping is the best option for them. You only have to take a cursory tour around the back streets of rays or the country lanes to the east of Tilbury to see that fly-tipping is a big problem in Thurrock.

In the news item linked to above the leader of Thurrock Council, Cllr. Rob Gledhill (Con) stated: “However land owners are responsible for clearing their own land, and unadopted areas – such as some alleyways – are in general the responsibility of surrounding land owners”.

There are a few things that Gledhill needs to be made aware of… Firstly, it’s not always the case that the person residing at the address the letters were sent to would be the owner of the property. In the London Road area, a fair number of properties are rented so it’s the landlord that needs to be targeted. Even when the resident owns the property, the scale of the fly-tipping is beyond the capacity of most people to clear without professional help and equipment. Sure they could organise a community clean up but when it comes to convincing the orange hi-vis clad jobsworth at the tip that they’re not a commercial operation, they might just experience a few problems!

The point is that Thurrock Council have been made aware of the flytipping in the London Road area and should have had enough awareness of the problem to not send out the letters to residents in the first place. Actually getting down to the area and talking face to face to the residents whose lives have been blighted by this fly-tipping would give the council a fuller, more accurate picture of the issue. It can be the local councillor and / or council officials doing this – the point is that face to face contact is more likely to lead to a solution than sending out arsey letters. However, this would require a massive change in the culture of the council so they become more open, transparent and accountable. Somehow, we don’t think that’s going to happen this side of a major political and social transformation…

Last but by no means least, there are the scumbag fly-tippers themselves who have no concept of, and responsibility to, the community they operate in. Sadly, they are a reflection of the atomised society we have to endure where individualism is ranked higher than community solidarity and having any sense of responsibility to the neighbourhood you live in…

Criminal…

The horrific fire at Grenfell Tower and the tragic and needless loss of life, with the number of fatalities rising, is too much to fully comprehend at the moment. What we’re going to try and do with this post is comment on what we know so far…

Firstly, there are some people saying that the Grenfell Tower fire should not be ‘politicised’…seriously… We think this piece on Huck from Aaron Bastani is the perfect response that that assertion: Don’t you dare say the fatal Grenfell Tower fire is not ‘political’http://www.huckmagazine.com/perspectives/opinion-perspectives/greenfell-tower-fire-political-aron-bastani/

There’s the issue of why the fire spread so quickly. According to a number of reports we read, the materials used in the cladding and the cavity created after it was installed on the exterior of the tower which acted as a wind tunnel played a major part in the rapid spread of the blaze. The worst part about this is that one of the main reasons the cladding was put on the tower was to ‘improve view for nearby luxury flats’: Cladding added to Grenfell Tower to ‘improve view for nearby luxury flats’http://metro.co.uk/2017/06/14/cladding-added-to-grenfell-tower-to-improve-view-for-nearby-luxury-flats-6709369/ Words fail us…

The Grenfell Action Group have made numerous warnings about fire safety issues in the tower over recent years to the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea who own the block and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation who supposedly manage all of the social housing in the borough: Grenfell Tower Firehttps://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/grenfell-tower-fire/ It’s the same old story – arrogant local authorities who repeatedly refuse to listen to the genuine concerns of residents living in social housing.

What’s heartening is the way the local community and people from across London and beyond have rallied round to offer whatever help and solidarity they can: How London came to the rescue during the Grenfell Tower firehttp://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/how-london-came-to-the-rescue-during-the-grenfell-tower-fire-a3564956.html We saw this quote on Facebook which pretty much sums it up for us: The people spring into action way quicker than any government or bureaucracy. The people helping those affected by the Grenfell fire are practicing anarchism. Without them people would be going hungry tonight and not have clothes. People often ask how would anarchism work? It already does, every day and whenever you don’t have anyone on your back dictating what you do or how you do it.

Emergency accommodation has been provided by the Westway Trusthttp://www.westway.org/ It’s groups and organisations like this springing into action when tragedy strikes who make a real difference. However, a comrade checked hotel vacancies in Kensington and Chelsea today and there were a fair few rooms available. It would be nice to think that these hotels would be rallying round and offering their rooms for free to those made homeless by this disaster – we won’t be holding our breath though…

Not only that, Kensington and Chelsea has the highest number of empty homes in Greater London: Map reveals shocking number of empty homes across Londonhttp://metro.co.uk/2017/05/11/map-reveals-shocking-number-of-empty-homes-across-london-6630121/ A fair number of these are owned as ‘investment vehicles’ to be flipped at a point when the property market is swiftly rising. In theory, everyone displaced by this disaster could be re-housed, temporarily and permanently in Kensington and Chelsea if the council had the political will to seize these empty, unused properties. But we know that’s not going to happen… In all likelihood, temporary accommodation will be outside of the borough and quite possibly outside of London. Somehow, we think that when Kensington and Chelsea feel the time is right to re-build the tower, they won’t be re-building it as social housing – eventually it’s going to be seen by the borough as another money spinning development opportunity. That’s if the people let them…

The extent of this disaster has yet to fully reveal itself: Grenfell Tower fire: Police open criminal investigation into blaze that killed 17 as fears grow death toll could reach 100http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/grenfell-tower-fire-criminal-investigation-manslaughter-police-latest-a7792446.html To be honest, it’s too hard to write about this at the moment as our feelings are swinging between immense sadness on the one hand and barely controllable rage on the other. Suffice to say that the authorities would rather drip feed the number of fatalities over the next few weeks rather than admit the scale of this tragedy…

The level of anger at the scale of this utterly needless disaster is visceral and goes way beyond the so called ‘usual suspects’. Needless to say that the authorities will be doing their level best to stifle and control that anger – given the inconclusive general election result and the already ongoing political and constitutional crisis, they may struggle in this objective. How all of this will eventually play itself out is anyone’s guess…

Statement from Architects for Social Housing on the Grenfell fire

GRENFELL TOWER FIRE

It cannot be a coincidence that the same cladding and insulation used in the 2016 renovation of Grenfell Tower was also used on Lakanal House in Camberwell, which in 2009 similarly went up in flames. But whatever the causes of this fire, what we do know is that the Grenfell Action Group residents organisation has issued repeated warnings about the risk of fire in the tower since at least 2013, and that all these warnings have been ignored by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation.

Like every London council, Kensington and Chelsea are implementing a programme of estate regeneration that involves the managed decline of the housing prior to its demolition and redevelopment – as is in fact happening on the neighbouring Silchester estate. The lack of accountability of the council-led TMO that led to this disaster is being replicated across London, where housing policy is to treat council estates as assets to be managed for profit, not as housing to be used as homes.

A tragedy is something that befalls someone as a consequence of their arrogance and greed. The Grenfell fire is not a tragedy but a man-made disaster that could and should have been avoided. The victims of this fire are entirely innocent of the disaster they foresaw. It remains to be seen whether those whose arrogance and greed caused it will be held to account.

Architects for Social Housing

Welcome to the ‘coalition’ of shite

It looks as though Theresa Mayhem is going to try and prop up the battered Tory government by an ‘arrangement’ with the Democratic Unionist Party: DUP leader Arlene Foster vows to bring stability to UK with Conservativeshttps://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/09/theresa-may-reaches-deal-with-dup-to-form-government-after-shock-election-result-northern-ireland It’s common knowledge that the DUP has had links with Loyalist paramilitaries: DUP has been criticised for loyalist linkshttp://www.irishnews.com/news/2015/10/09/news/dup-has-also-been-criticised-for-loyalist-links-288278/

This is a flavour of the reactionary policies the DUP espouse: So, who are the DUP?https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/so-who-are-dup Creationists, climate change deniers, anti-gay, anti-abortion…what a lovely bunch of people NOT! Let’s just get this straight – May wants to enter a coalition with a party that has links to organisations such as the Orange Order that are happy to tolerate the kind of scum shown above turning up at their events. If this isn’t an act of utter desperation from a prime minister whose reputation has been trashed in a disastrous election campaign, we honestly don’t know what is. However, we should not be surprised at the depths the Tories will sink to in order to stay in power…

Obviously as anarchists, we do not recognise the right of government to impose itself upon us. That’s a formal position that informs our politics and analysis. What we are now experiencing is a raging visceral gut reaction that we will never, ever kowtow to a government that gets into bed with the likes of the DUP. As far as we’re concerned, the administration that May wants to cobble together with the DUP has zero legitimacy in our eyes.

Somehow, we don’t think this coalition of shite is going to enjoy a long life. A period of uncertainty and instability awaits us. It’s a period that will bring danger and pain but if we as anarchists and radicals can get our act together, it’s one that could provide the best opportunity we’ve ever had…

The sweet taste of victory

Breaking news: VICTORY TO LSE CLEANERS!

UVW is proud to announce that the LSE cleaners will be BROUGHT IN-HOUSE and become employees of the LSE from Spring 2018! This will ensure they get, among other things, 41 days annual leave, 6 months full pay sick pay and 6 months half pay sick pay, plus proper employer pension contributions of up to 13% of their salary.

This is the most significant victory for any group of workers in UK higher education today, and will hopefully set a precedent to follow for other degraded outsourced workers across the country.

This announcement comes on the back of an awe-inspiring 10 month battle for dignity and equality waged by the cleaners, through their union UVW which represents the near entirety of the unionised cleaners on the LSE campus.

This dispute saw the largest number of cleaners – all of whom are migrant and BAME workers and most of whom had never been unionised before – in UK history strike from a single workplace, and saw the the cleaners take 7 days of strike action in total, with 3 more pledged for the LSE’s student graduation days in July. There were also several protests and two occupations through the course of this dispute.

The cleaners were heavily supported by the student led Justice for LSE Cleaners Campaign and the wider trade union movement. Support from people such as Owen Jones, who refused to cross the cleaners’ picket line, was also crucial in bringing pressure to bear in support of the cleaners actions.

We are particularly gratified that the new UNISON branch secretary wrote to UVW to congratulate us and the cleaners on the success of our campaign.

This victory is yet another vindication of the power of organised workers and the importance of collective action, including strike action, in winning dignity and equality at work.

Our members will be meeting in the near future to vote on the details of the deal and, in particular, the transitory offer of enhanced T&Cs until the move in-house takes place.