The Grenfell Tower Fire: a Crime Caused by Profit and Deregulation

The Grenfell Tower Fire: a Crime Caused by Profit and Deregulation

More than two years after the fire, the official enquiry is still dragging on.  Meanwhile the Fire Brigades Union has produced this devastating account of the underlying causes of the tragedy. Chapters include:

 ·         How Thatcher deregulated the law on building safety

·         How Thatcher attacked fire safety in the UK

·         How Blair continued the deregulation agenda

·         How Cameron, May and Johnson extended deregulation and imposed austerity  

All in all, this downloadable pamphlet is an authoritative analysis of how 72 people died because of the drive for profit and deregulation. Matt Wrack’s Foreword gives a taste of the FBU’s indictment of who is to blame and how we can try to make sure such a disaster never happens again.


Foreword by Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary 

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is appalled that more than two years since the

Grenfell Tower fire, there is still no justice for the bereaved, survivors and residents.

Firefighters share the community’s anger that those immediately responsible for

putting combustible cladding on the exterior of this high rise residential building – the

architects and designers, the tenant management organisation, the councillors and

construction firms – have not been held to account. Our union is also concerned

that the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, set up by the Westminster government, has so far

failed to produce a report and urgent recommendations to ensure such a fire never

happens again.


High rise residential buildings across the UK are still clad with flammable materials,

but still the fire and rescue service has yet to research and seek to develop an

evacuation strategy, let alone implement such a strategy with training and equipment

and embed it into firefighting practice.


The FBU believes that the terrible loss of life at Grenfell Tower was ultimately caused

by political decisions made at the highest level. For at least 40 years, policies relating

to housing, local government, the fire and rescue service, research and other areas

have been driven by the agenda of cuts, deregulation and privatisation.



Deregulation has been the dominant political ideology of most politicians in central

government for decades. But it has also been fostered by the direct lobbying of

private business interests. Ultimately this agenda has been driven by the profit needs

of private businesses. Corporate interests have been prioritised over and above

the needs of citizens; in this case, especially the needs of people living in council or

other social housing.


This process has seen the replacement of regulations laid down and enforced

by the state with systems of self-regulation where business interests have taken

priority. This can be seen across all areas of policy relevant to the fire at Grenfell

Tower: research and testing of construction materials, risk assessment, inspection,

enforcement, the setting of standards and systems of decision making.


Mechanisms (however limited) of political and democratic accountability have

been systematically undermined and removed wherever possible. The subsequent

decisions of individuals within such a system are inevitably shaped by this broader

regime. This includes the decisions of local government, landlords and fire and

rescue services, among others.


Culture of Complacency

In this pamphlet, the FBU shows how this political approach has weakened and

undermined fire policy and the fire and rescue service. We believe a deep seated

culture of complacency has developed with regard to fire policy and fire safety.

Ultimately, politicians at ministerial level must bear responsibility for the creation of

this complacency and its consequences.


The FBU believes the fire and rescue service has been weakened in its ability to

plan and prepare for the range of risks that it might need to address. In particular,

there has been a reduction in the importance attached to planning and preparation

for emergency incidents. Since 2003-04 the fire and rescue service has become

increasingly fragmented. This has weakened the ability to identify, plan for and train

for the variety of risks that might be faced at emergency incidents.


In particular, we draw attention to the scrapping of the Central Fire Brigades

Advisory Council (CFBAC) and the abolition of most national standards within the

fire and rescue service that previously informed strategic decision making in the

service. This includes decisions about standards, the inspection and enforcement of

fire safety, planning for operational incidents and the training that arises from such



Of course, many of the arguments made in this pamphlet are provisional, pending

publication of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry’s (GTI) reports. But if the Westminster

government and its inquiry are to leave no stone unturned in investigating the

Grenfell Tower fire, then it must examine the entire UK-wide fire safety system over

the last half century.


Read the whole pamphlet here:

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