Following the leaked extracts of the report after the first phase of the Grenfell inquiry, the media has highlighted alleged “shortcomings” of London Fire Brigade in responding to the fire. The Greater Manchester Law Centre (GMLC) strongly supports the response of the General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, Matt Wrack, who stated that the ordering of the inquiry is “back to front” for focussing on the fire service in this way, rather than the blatant failings which caused the fire.
GMLC agrees with Wrack’s statement that “the truth is that the fire spread the way it did because it was wrapped in flammable cladding. The firefighters turned up after that had happened, after the building had already been turned, in reality, into a death trap.” As such, GMLC hopes that the rest of the report and the inquiry places the emphasis where it belongs: at the feet of those who have fuelled a sustained attack on the standards of social and affordable housing, those who have ignored the voices of concerned residents and those who have devised and implemented devastating cuts to emergency services.
Wrack told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that decisions were made on the night “in the context of a building that [had] completely failed”.
Andrew Dismore, chairman of the London assembly fire, resilience and emergency planning committee, said: “Criticism of any individual firefighter’s actions on the night risks losing the focus on the fact that they should never have been faced with that situation. The brigade’s areas of improvement are well documented.”
GMLC calls for robust safety regulations and testing for building materials to be made a priority, giving tenants and the emergency services the assurance that the real lessons of the Grenfell Tower tragedy have been learnt and that such events will never be allowed to be repeated. Tenants must be empowered to have their concerns heard and unsafe cladding should be removed immediately. The argument over who bears the cost should be had after the buildings have been made safe, with the government and local authorities ultimately seeking financial recovery from the manufacturers and construction companies.
We fight for everyone’s right to a home – and that includes safe, secure housing for all.