In June 2017, 72 people burned alive in the Grenfell Tower disaster. They were effectively killed for profit.
Now, scandalously, over five-and-a-half years later, only 7% of dangerous homes have been made safe to live in. Hundreds of thousands of people’s lives continue to remain at risk, as those responsible for this crisis refuse to pay up.
This is another shocking reminder of how, under capitalism, the interests of big business come before the lives of ordinary people.
Thousands of leaseholders remain trapped in high-risk homes – unable to sell them, but unable to afford to live anywhere else.
Many are being financially ruined by astronomical insurance premiums, and costs for ‘waking watch’ fire patrols. Meanwhile, others are bankrupted by remediation bills of up to £200,000, in order to fix problems that they didn’t cause.
The resulting stress is pushing many to the edge. One survey found that 90% of those affected by the cladding crisis said their mental health had deteriorated. 23% said they had suicidal feelings, or a desire to self-harm.
And no wonder. In the years since Grenfell, fires have broken out at a further two buildings wrapped in flammable cladding – luckily with no loss of life.
Whilst those responsible fight amongst themselves as to who should pay, another catastrophe is an accident-waiting-to-happen.
Too little, too late
After years of dithering, the Tory government has announced a scheme that requires housing developers to sign a contract which obliges them to fix fire-safety defects in their buildings, or face a ban on future development.
But this plan is a case of too little, too late. Even if the contract is fully enforced, it will only cover an estimated 1,500 buildings. Yet more than 10,000 buildings are expected to need work.
Plus, this latest scheme only requires developers to cough-up when it comes to fixing ‘life-critical’ problems on buildings over 11 metres tall. This still leaves many thousands of people stuck living in dangerous, unsellable homes – lumped with ruinous debts to pay for repairs.
So far the government has made £5bn available, to help leaseholders cover the costs of fixing buildings over 18 metres high. A further £5bn is expected to be paid by developers. But the true costs of fixing the cladding crisis have been estimated at above £50bn.
Those responsible are a motley crew of crooks and money-grubbers.
This includes the cladding manufacturers, who knowingly created and missold deadly cladding to maximise their profits; the developers, who cut-corners at every turn to increase their returns; and the Tories who – in-bed with the developers – relaxed building regulations and ignored warnings.
Yet so far, none of these people have been prosecuted. Although criminal investigations are now underway, it’s thought that trials probably won’t start until 2025 – over seven years after the Grenfell disaster.
In contrast, after the 2011 riots, courts were running 24/7 in order to prosecute teenagers accused of stealing bottles of water. As ever, it’s one rule for the rich and powerful, and another for the rest of us.
Even if certain individuals are eventually brought before the law, ultimately it is the capitalist system that must stand trial for these crimes – a system that prioritises only one thing: maximising the profits of the bosses.
By contrast, under a socialist economic plan, safe homes could immediately be found for those affected, on the basis of requisitioning the empty properties of the super-rich.
Furthermore, in order to help fund a rapid programme of remediation works, the assets of all those responsible for this scandal would be expropriated.
We say: Make the billionaires pay for this crisis!