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
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: