The Grenfell Tower fire is a tragedy that should never have happened.
The government has three overriding responsibilities: first, to ensure that everyone from Grenfell affected has the help and the rehousing they need; secondly, to reassure everyone living in other tower blocks across the country that their homes are safe, or that work will be done to make them safe; and thirdly, to learn the lessons from Grenfell Tower in full.
The government should set out a plan to act immediately on the recommendations from the Coroners’ reports after the Lakanal House and Shirley Towers fires – which it has had since 2013 – by retrofitting high-rise blocks with sprinklers. Residents need to have up-to-date advice about what to do in the event of a fire in their block; and full safety checks should be undertaken for all high-rise blocks.
The government announced a period of ‘limited leave to remain’ for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire and claimed that the Home Office will not conduct immigration checks on survivors. This does not go far enough. To access all the support they need without fear of deportation, any survivors concerned about their status must be given indefinite leave to remain.
While I welcome the announcement of a public inquiry I am concerned that the terms of reference does not include a commitment to look at the wider implications of social housing policy. I believe the government should set out a clear, independent and thorough process for identifying and addressing the broader failings that led to the Grenfell fire.
In July, the government announced an independent review of building regulations and fire safety. This long-awaited review is welcome but long overdue, as Ministers promised this four years ago after the last fatal high-rise fires. The government must now expand its testing programme, publish results in full so that residents and landlords know whether or not their buildings are safe, and stand by their earlier promise to help fund the costs of any necessary work.
There are thousands of tower blocks around our country and every person living in one deserves answers about why this happened and what will be done. The tragic fire that occurred at Grenfell Tower must never be allowed to happen again.
It is clear that a wider re-think of housing policy is now needed, including the resources and powers available to local government to build and maintain homes.
At the General Election I stood on a manifesto that pledged the biggest council house building programme for over 30 years. The manifesto committed to prioritising homes for social rent and building new homes for living rent, with rents capped at a third of local incomes to give private renters the time needed to save for a deposit on a first home.