Lambeth Residents demand council action after Grenfell

In the weeks since the terrible tragedy in Grenfell,  residents from across Lambeth, have held meetings to discuss  the actions needed immediately to ensure the safety of our homes.

Grenfell, as many have observed, was not just an  ‘accident’.  It appears to be the result of ‘ the conscious cruelty’  of those who could and should have taken remedial action; those who had the  resources, power and mandate to do so.

Grenfell was not just a failure of fire safety. It was  the consequence of years of neglect and poor refurbishment work that put  cost-cutting, and the superficial appearance of the estate for the  appeasement of their rich neighbours, above the safety of the Grenfell residents.  It was a consequence of what residents  documented and reported to be years of contempt for tenants, that saw serious
concerns ignored not to mention threats and intimidation directed at those who  raised their voices. 

A result of all the elements we have come to know as  ‘regeneration’ – what seems to be deliberate neglect of social  housing to pave the way for future demolition and privatisation. To the detriment and destruction of entire settled and long standing communities.

In this context, residents have raised demands that go beyond specific fire safety measures.

Therefore,  we call on Lambeth Council and other registered social landlords to undertake  the following:

1.  New in-depth fire risk assessments (FRAs) by the fire authorities (NOT Lambeth council officers) of all blocks

We  welcome the fact that Lambeth council reports that it is now engaging with the  fire brigade to conduct level 4 FRAs on high blocks  but we would like these extended to all blocks and we want full accountability  about what FRA recommendations are outstanding and  when they will be completed.

2.  Review of all blocks to assess for compliance with best practice not the  inadequate ‘minimum standards’. Publish the assessments including information on:

  • Cladding
  • Fire Alarms
  •  Fire Doors
  •  Sprinkler systems
  •  Heating systems
  •  Gas pipes
  •  Electrics

3. Begin implementing the recommendations of Lakanal Inquest immediately. Such as retrofitting sprinklers among others. Spend reserves if necessary and then work with the community to demand and secure additional funding from central government. 

We  understand the financial constraints that have been put on councils by governments  over the years but this is too important for that too be the reason not to do what needs to be done to save and protect lives.

4.  Set up a specific webpage to publish all requested information on fire safety,  including;

  • Cladding types currently installed on buildings (and who installed it)
  • Existing maintenance contracts with external suppliers
  • Complaints and concerns received from residents regarding fire hazards and state of estates, including electrics and
  • Current fire vulnerabilities the council are aware of including publication of all previous fire risk  assessments
  •  Progress reports on implementing the safety review recommendations

Residents want to be provided with information to enable them assess what they are being  told. On many estates, complaints made by residents are at best treated as  individual problems, or frequently, residents are ignored and treated like they  are the problem.  The cumulative complaints and concerns that have been made over the years can provide vital information towards understanding the problems in estates.

5.  Provide on-going transparency and public accountability, through holding immediate public forums to announce plans on the safety review and ongoing forums to report progress.

It  is vital we have on-going accountability. As one resident said, after the Lakanal fire in Southwark fire doors started to be fitted on their estate. After a while when  the fuss died down the work stopped and now only half the estate has fire doors.

6. Halt all regeneration schemes in Lambeth until a new review and public consultation can be organised that gives residents full confidence in the projects and the companies involved. 

The regeneration of Grenfell led to the installation of the fatal cladding by a company that is involved in Lambeth regeneration projects. The refurbishment of Grenfell was not done in the interests of the existing community and people died as a direct consequence of that failure.

7.  Stop ignoring residents – actively create a culture of communication,  collaboration, promote independent residents associations and support strong Tenants’ and Leaseholders’ Councils for council estate residents.

Give residents on all estates the final say on regeneration projects. Resident after resident spoke about people raising problems being ignored and bullied. Perversely,  two weeks after Grenfell, Lambeth Cabinet voted to abolish the elected tenants’,
leaseholders’ council and area forums, which are the only elected representative means for tenants to organise together and hold their landlord  directly accountable.
We  call on the Council to reverse this decision.