Tag: Grenfell Tower disaster

EVERYTHING TO GAIN (and everything to lose)

We’re entering a period of instability – all that’s solid seems to be melting into air. With an indecisive election and Brexit negotiations descending to the level of farce, our so called rulers look weaker and more divided than ever before. The faction ridden ruling elite of this country have embarked on the first stages of Brexit negotiations with no clear idea of what they want or how they’re going to get it. A fractured so called party of government seems to be more fixated on who’s going to replace the hapless Theresa May as prime minister and leader rather than getting it’s head around understanding exactly what Brexit entails.

A breakdown of trust

At local council level, councillors and council officers all too often are found to be self serving and incompetent. The Grenfell Tower disaster showed up the so called ruling elite at the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea as arrogant, out of touch and uncaring – it was ordinary people on the ground who took over the initial relief and recovery effort while the authorities floundered around.

Across the south of Essex, we struggle to find anyone who has a good word to say about their local authorities. Southend Council are obsessed with pointless vanity projects such as the museum on the cliff top instead of addressing the homelessness crisis in the town. Basildon Council can’t even organise a weekly rubbish collection on estates such as the ¾ in Vange without leaving bags of uncollected rubbish strewn all over the place. Thurrock Council are in full control freak mode attempting to dictate which media outlets can and can’t report on their proceedings and refusing members of campaign groups the right to ask questions at council meetings. People are losing what little faith they had in local councils to do the job of serving the public…

Whether, it’s at national or local level, trust in governance is declining, yet nothing appears to be happening to bring about real change. Much of the left has been subsumed into the bizarre cult of Jeremy Corbyn, buying into the deluded notion that should he manage to form a government, everything will be all right. The Corbynistas need to take a look at the dismal record of London Labour councils when it comes to socially cleansing the working class from London in the name of ‘regeneration’ – maybe that would give them the reality check they need. Everyone else appears to be just hunkering down and getting on with things as best they can…

There has to be a challenge

While the powers that be are divided and appear to be blundering from one crisis to another without a clue as to where they’re going or what they’re doing, they’ll continue to get away with it until there’s a serious challenge from below. At the moment there appears to be no sense of an opposition that can pose a real threat to the status quo, let alone a desire to move beyond the dysfunctional world we have to endure and build a more just, equitable and sustainable one. While this state of affairs continues, the ruling class can stagger from one crisis to the next safe in the knowledge that in the form of the state, they have the monopoly on the force that’s needed to keep their grip on power, regardless of how tenuous that may seem to be.

While the majority of people are under the illusion that things will be all right and thinks that the third of society that’s suffering needs to get its act together, there will never be a serious challenge to the system. Should things go seriously wrong as a result of another financial crisis or the Brexit process leading to a black swan event, then a large proportion of the population will be screwed. If there’s no significant radical movement in place by that point, we’re in serious trouble.

With the ruling class as divided as it is now, we have the best opportunity there’s been for a long while to build a movement that will bring about fundamental change through collective struggle. That movement can only be built from the grassroots upwards – waiting for the messiah in the form of Jeremy Corbyn will not bring about the change that’s needed. As the title of this piece says, there’s everything to gain if we can get our act together and build that movement. If we can’t, then as the bracketed subtitle suggests, there’s everything to lose…

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.”

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…