Skip to Content

London

For Christ's Sake

 The following is a bare statement of the experiences of a man who, out of work and with a wife and four children to support, applied, with a letter from a local clergyman, to one of the Church Army Depots, for work. The man lives at South Tottenham. He delivered his letter at No. 8a. Hornsey-st., Holloway-rd., at 8 a.m. on December 4th. With five others he was told to apply at 9 a.m. and was then given a cross cut saw and started by a Church Army Officer at cutting a heap of old, damp wood full of nails. The men worked in pairs; the wood was of all shapes and sizes but had to be cut into pieces 5½ inches in length. After working from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. without food (although a dinner time was allowed between 1 and 2) our correspondent and his mate had cut 274 lbs. between them. For this he received 10½d. less than 1½d. per hour! It is not suggested that his mate worked harder or better or had more to shew for his efforts, but his mate received 2/6.

Grenfell Tower

'Warnings Ignored and Money Saved

Regulators Put Cost Before Safety' (Headline 'New York Times', 24 June)

The provision of 'social housing' constitutes a charge on the profits of the class of owners whose interests must prevail while class divisions persist. It is this fact that should be borne in mind in any analysis of the wider issues behind the immediate causes of the Grenfell Tower disaster. 

In 1999 a House of Commons All Party Select Committee considered the risks involved in the use of cladding in the five hundred tall buildings in which it had been applied. They reported that they thought that all external cladding systems should be required either to be entirely non-combustible or to be proven by testing not to pose an unacceptable risk in terms of fire spread. The actions they recommended should in their view be applied to old as well as new buildings and they concluded that:

Housing and Human Problems

One morning in the early 1920's, a young mother trudged up the front steps of a town hall in one of the London suburbs. She was confronted at the top by a portly commissionaire, pompous in his petty authority, but she pushed angrily past him and found her way to the Mayor’s parlour at last. There was certainly no respect for civic dignity about her as she barged through the door and demanded of the official there when he was going to get her and her family somewhere decent to live.

Her husband had been unemployed for two whole years after his return from the slaughter of the Great War, and their marriage was early feeling the strain of trying to live with their young ones in two small rooms. No wonder the poor woman was at her wits end. In desperation, she pleaded— and threatened (she would drown herself and her three children, she said), but it made no difference. The official was not impressed.

Editorial: Burning Injustice

So many things about the Grenfell Tower fire continue to stink, even weeks after the disaster. The flames were not even out, nor the bodies counted, before the recriminations and finger-pointing began.

Not surprisingly the building owners, Kensington and Chelsea Council, quickly came under savage criticism for spending £8.6m on a recent refurbishment aimed at creating new rentable space and prettifying the exterior with new cladding, but not bothering to install sprinklers or ensure that the cladding material was fire-proof.

Why, people wanted to know, was there only one fire exit in a building of 120 flats, an exit frequently blocked by rubbish including old mattresses which the council did not remove? And why, when the fire broke out, was there such chaos on the ground with nobody from the council on the scene to establish any kind of central meeting and information point for survivors and anxious relatives?

Syndicate content