The fire at Grenfell Tower in Kensington and Chelsea on 14th June this year was shocking and horrific.
Hundreds of people lost family and friends in the tragedy and many people were made homeless – most of the survivors are still waiting to be re-housed.
All of the causes of the fire must be investigated, so that lessons can be learned and the victims and survivors receive justice. In the short term, it is vital that central government and every local council completes urgent fire safety works so that residents across the country can rest assured that their homes are as safe as possible. In Southwark I know that this work is well underway.
I am a member of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee in Parliament, a scrutiny committee which holds to account government ministers. Two weeks ago I questioned the Secretary of State for Local Government on what additional funding the Tories will provide to ensure that essential fire safety works can be carried out without delay.
I was appalled to hear that the government will provide no grant funding for essential fire safety works post-Grenfell, only letting some councils borrow more money. The Minister was also clear that Councils will be expected to ‘reprioritise’ in order to fund the works.
Government cuts to Southwark’s housing budget will amount to £64m per year by 2020 – that’s almost £1bn over the 30 year period that councils use for planning the essential repairs and major works needed to keep tenants and leaseholders’ homes in good condition.
This comes on top of the recent report that the number of truly affordable homes at social rents funded by government grant has been slashed by more than 95 per cent since the Lib Dem-Tory coalition took control of our country in 2010.
The previous Labour government invested heavily to bring council homes up to scratch after the huge cuts of the Thatcher and Major Tory governments. Essential safety measures which are necessary following the Grenfell fire must be undertaken, but they cannot be at the expense of planned works or urgently needed new homes, and I will keep challenging the government to step up and fund this vital work.