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Opinion: Brexit 'obsessed' government fails Grenfell

PUBLISHED: 10:30 18 July 2019

Barnet and Camden AM Andrew Dismore feels fire safety reform has stalled because of Brexit. Picture: PA

Barnet and Camden AM Andrew Dismore feels fire safety reform has stalled because of Brexit. Picture: PA

PA Archive/PA Images

As chairman of the City Hall fire, resilience and emergency planning committee, I'm becoming increasingly concerned about the government's snail paced efforts over fire safety.

In her resignation speech, prime minister May reiterated that nothing like Grenfell Tower must happen again.

Yet two years on, there's no new legislation to reform fire safety, thousands of Londoners still live in blocks with flammable cladding, and 17 Grenfell displaced families are still without permanent homes.

The government commissioned Hackitt Review reported a year ago - but implementation of its recommendations is only just beginnning and new legislation is not expected until 2021.

Whilst the government introduced a temporary ban on flammable cladding on new residential buildings over 18m last November, nothing was done about other tall buildings, like the flats in Barking which went up like a torch on June 9.

Fire testing the wide variety of cladding types didn't begin till April 30 this year - but does not include their fire fumes and smoke, the main killers in fires.

In June 2018, they announced a Joint Inspection Taskforce to speed up private sector remediation but it has only just started.

It took until May for them to allocate funds for private sector remediation - but bids couldn't be made till two months later, let alone actually starting work.

There are more private sector buildings with no remediation plan at all, compared to those that have been fixed, including over 100 in London.

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There is a long earlier history of ignored warnings and coroners' recommendations.

And the public inquiry and police investigation are months behind.

This Brexit obsessed Conservative government's delay is insulting the memory of the 72 victims of Grenfell, the survivors, and the 4,600 social and 10,600 private sector London families still living in blocks with dangerous cladding.

Prospects for justice for Grenfell and flat dweller safety are not promising, especially if untrustworthy Boris Johnson becomes prime minister.

As London Mayor, Mr Johnson broke his election promise not to cut the fire brigade. His 2014 cuts axed 10 London fire stations, 14 fire engines, and 553 firefighter posts.

After I challenged him at Mayor's Questions, he responded by telling me to "get stuffed".

When I questioned him about the 2015 Camden Road fatal fire, after the first fire engine took over 13 minutes to arrive because he'd closed the nearest station (Belsize), and no fewer than 10 per cent of London's fire stations on that day were "off the run", he replied "you are talking total xxxx"

After his 2014 cuts, Boris Johnson again promised no more, yet he axed a further 13 fire engines in 2015/16.

And perhaps worst of all, Brian Coleman, former assembly member and then chairman of the Fire Authority, exposed Boris Johnson's use of language about families bereaved by the 7/7 terror attacks.

Two years after Grenfell, the government's Brexit fixation has meant other urgent business has gone by the wayside, failing in its vital duty to thousands of flat dwellers who don't know when their homes will be safe.

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