QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS –WHO GUARDS THE GUARDS?
The leaking of this report to the media has impacted on the ability of the BSRs and community to have had the time to calmly digest the recommendations made by Inquiry Chairman. The media has started with an onslaught on the firefighters who attended on the night; J4G feel that this outcome was embedded in the initial culture of the Grenfell Tower lnquiry. (GTI )
The fire at Grenfell Tower occurred within a historical background of cuts to public services, deregulation, privatisation, a culture of ignoring the concerns of social housing residents and social inequality. So the GTI should have begun with in this context; it would then have greatly assisted the inquiry’s investigation and subsequent recommendations. Instead the Inquiry began with ‘Act two, Scene 1’ asking details about the fire on that fateful night .The Phase 1 Inquiry ‘stage’ seems to have been pre-set with a determined route that would lead to a determined outcome (blaming the firefighters); with no historical context the route appears to be one that let’s those most accountable namely, government and private companies, off the hook.
The Chairman has made a range of recommendations primarily for the fire service and Owners and Managers of high rise buildings including:
For the Fire Service:
- The development of national policies on evacuation from high rise buildings
- Improved equipment for fire fighters including upgraded communication systems and breathing apparatus
- The development of policies for emergency call handling
These recommendations all have financial implications which will have to be honored and prioritised by the same government that cut fire service budgets in the past.
For Owners and Managers of high rise buildings he has recommended:
- urgent inspections and regular checking of fire doors and the provision of fire safety signage.
- Regular inspections of lifts
These recommendations could have been made during the duration of the inquiry.
Moore-Bick makes no recommendation for the fitting of sprinkler systems. No recommendation has been made to ban the use of combustible materials in the external walls of high-rise buildings that are not of Euro class Al (the highest classification of reaction to fire in accordance with BS EN 13501-1); again he will look at this in Phase 2.
He does however touch on the lack of urgency by the government on the removal of combustible cladding from current buildings.
In 2010, after six people were killed in a cladding fire at Lakanall House, the coroner made a series of safety recommendations for the government to consider. But these recommendations were sat on by then Minister Gavin Barlow with devastating effects on ehat would happen at Grenfell. There are so many parties’ decisions implicated in the lead up to the fire: the government at all levels; the council; the planning department; the building management company (KCTMO); building inspectors; the building industry as a whole, architects to contractors and manufacturers and retailers.
How could they all have failed in their professional responsibilities and in their duties of care, so abysmally? If the Inquiry had begun with Act 1 scene 1, the Chairman’s recommendations would have looked starkly different and the real ‘villians of the piece’ would have been in the headlines, rather than the firefighters who risked their own lives in a building that no-one should have been living in.
The inquiry must fully investigate all such issues, in addition to purely practical issues such as what technically started the fire, how did it spread, the role of the cladding etc. These matters are vitally important, but they are simply the final act in a long line of actions that (appear to us) to have led, inevitably but predictably, to the Grenfell Tower fire and its attendant loss of life. We submit that, left unchecked, the social, economic and political forces that have led to Grenfell will no doubt lead to further such preventable disasters.
We are also minded that there is nothing on the statute books that makes it mandatory for a government to act on any public inquiry’s recommendations. This will be about political will. Let’s hope they will!
This leaves us to ask the question – QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS –who guards the guards?
RIP to all those whose lives were taken in this tragedy.