Grenfell survivors accuse Government of dragging its feet on housing reform

Survivors and those who lost loved ones in the Grenfell Tower fire have accused the Government of “going through the motions” on fire safety and failing to tackle the root causes of the blaze.

On Monday – almost two years on from the disaster – members of campaign group Grenfell United are due to meet Housing Secretary James Brokenshire to demand swifter action.

Seventy-two people lost their lives – including 18 children – because of the fire on June 14 2017.

In a letter published in The Guardian ahead of the meeting, Grenfell United said: “In most cases those in power simply aren’t interested in acting on our concerns.”

It continued: “(Ministers) go through the motions of meeting us so they can say they have listened and then fail to take the action necessary to bring about change.

“We are not naive and are prepared to be patient. But it is becoming increasingly apparent not only that the system isn’t changing fast enough but that it’s not even going in the right direction.”

The group accused the Government of “backing off” from making the changes to social housing needed to prevent a similar disaster.

Seventeen households remain in temporary accommodation after losing their homes in the blaze.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan echoed Grenfell United’s criticisms in an open letter to Theresa May, branding the Government’s response “utterly shameful”.

Mr Khan wrote: “The community continues to feel ignored and neglected, having to fight for every piece of support from the council – from receiving legal advice, accessing mental health services to simply understanding their rights.”

He demanded greater support for survivors, a greater voice for families during the second phase of the inquiry, swift action to reform building regulations and the appointment of a social housing commissioner to act as a watchdog for tenants.

Mr Khan concluded: “Your claim that your response to Grenfell was one of your biggest achievements as Prime Minister is far from the truth, rather it is a legacy of your premiership that vulnerable people in our society have been let down, been continuously neglected and clearly ignored.”

Grenfell Tower protest
Thousands of people are believed to still be living in housing coated in unsafe cladding (Rebecca Brown/PA)

Mr Brokenshire’s meeting with survivors comes in the wake of calls from Labour for councils to seize high-rise buildings in private ownership with Grenfell-style cladding if the material is not replaced by the end of the year.

The latest figures show 164 high-rise private blocks have still not had aluminium composite material (ACM) replaced, and 70 had no firm plan in place to address the issue.

Labour said thousands of residents may not know their home is unsafe and called for owners of tower blocks with risky cladding to be named and shamed.

The opposition also called for Government funding to be made available to councils who take over private blocks with dangerous cladding.

Shadow housing secretary John Healey said: “Enough is enough. Private block owners should be made to replace this dangerous cladding, or face councils taking over ownership of these buildings to get this vital safety work done.”

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “There is nothing more important than making sure people are safe in their homes.

“That is why we have committed to fully funding the replacement of unsafe ACM cladding on high-rise private residential buildings so residents can feel confident they are secure in their homes.

“We have been clear that there are no more excuses and we expect these buildings to be remediated as quickly as possible.

“We are backing local authorities to take enforcement action where building owners are refusing to act.”

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