A government in dereliction of its duty

On this Friday’s anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire I thought the paragraph below from Municipal Dreams: The Rise and Fall of Council Housing by John Boughton was very powerful:

Council housing then, social housing now, arose from the duty of the state to house its people well even as the market proved unable or unwilling to do so. Grenfell Tower, at root, epitomises the dereliction of that duty, but the failure of private enterprise remains even as the state has, in recent decades, retreated from its former role. Grenfell has reminded us, in the most powerful way imaginable, how much we need the state. We need its regulation and oversight to protect us from commercially driven agendas which value profit over people. We need its investment to provide the safe, secure and affordable housing for all that the market never will. And we need its idealism – that aspiration to treat all its citizens equitably and decently which lay at the very heart of the council house building programme which improved the lives of many millions of our citizens from the 1890s.

It is shameful that there are still, two years on, reckoned to be 221 buildings still to be ‘unclad’, where work on removing cladding hasn’t even started. Most of these are unsurprisingly in the private sector – including some hotels.

It is also deeply regrettable that we have a government that has so little social conscience that its bonfire of redtape remains unrenounced and its enquiry into Grenfell has still, apparently, two years to run.

We need the state not to be run by those determined to require it to operate in dereliction of its duty.



  1. Bill Hughes -

    I think the “dereliction of duty” regarding the Grenfell inferno lies principally with Kensington and Chelsea council in not ensuring compliance with fire safety regulations in the “refurbishment” of the tower. Going for the cheapest options and cutting corners, no doubt fostered by central government’s austerity and cost cutting madness. In addition to inflammable cladding there were issues about lack of fire alarms, water spray fire extinguishing devices in the flats and access stairs and corridors, non-fire resisting materials used in other parts of the structure to name but a few. Most of these points could have been checked by the council’s planning department and advice taken from other bodies such as the London Fire Brigade which were ignored.

  2. Peter May -

    Agreed – but it does seem to have been going on to a greater or lesser degree, countrywide.

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