STOP PRESS: Fire Brigades Union joins Safe Cladding and Insulation Now campaign

We were delighted this week to receive the support of the Fire Brigades Union for our Safe Cladding and Insulation Now campaign! Matt Wrack, the General Secretary of the union, has signed our open letter to the Secretary of State outlining that people are still not safe in their homes one year after Grenfell. You can read the latest statement by the FBU on government action (or inaction) post Grenfell here. They will be taking part in the Day of Action on 17 October.  Fire Brigades Union Logo
The FBU join a growing list of other unions and union branches in support of our campaign including:

  • Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union BFAWU
  • National Education Union NEU
  • Public and Commercial Services Union PCS

Branches/officers

  • UNISON Greater Manchester Mental Health Branch  (affiliated)
  • UNISON Salford City (signed Open Letter, and supporting Salford residents contingent to come to London for the Day of Action)
  • Adam Lambert, Regional Officer, Unite the Union (signed Open Letter)
  • Rob Miguel, National Health and Safety Advisor, Unite the Union (signed Open Letter)
  • Unite  Bermondsey  Construction Branch (signed Open Letter),
  • Unite Housing Workers Branch (signed Open Letter and affiliated)
  • Unite Branch 0742M (Runcorn) (signed Open Letter)
  • Unite Retired Members Swansea Area Branch (signed Open Letter)
  • Unite North East, Yorkshire and Humberside
  • Unite Unite NE/408/26

The support of these unions is invaluable in the continuation of our campaign. You can sign our open letter here and affiliate to the Safe Cladding and Insulation Now campaign here as a trade union or here as an individual.
National Education Union LogoPCS Union Logo

Safe cladding and Insulation NOW Day of Action – 17th October

flyer for safe cladding and insulation now demo flyer for safe cladding and insulation now demo
After searing pressure from campaigners all over the UK, the government finally conceded £400 million to replace Grenfell-style cladding on tower blocks. Whilst this is a step toward justice, it is not enough to make buildings fire-safe and does nothing for private tower blocks, student residences, buildings under 18M high, schools, hospitals or workplaces.
There is every sign that only a few buildings will be fully re-clad before next winter – with works finished on one in ten public sector buildings since June 2017. Last winter residents left without cladding or insulation were freezing in their homes. More will face cold and damp this winter and the next, if nothing is done. Cold. like fire, kills.
Join the campaign for Safe Cladding and Insulation Now. Demonstration at 1pm, Wednesday 17th October outside Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government, 2 Marsham Street, SW1P 4DF. Followed by a house of commons event hosted by Emma Dent Coad MP.
Please read our Open Letter to the Secretary of State which highlights our demands.
If it would be useful to print off this flyer there are some options here.

Mirror image of Grenfell Tower – Spruce Court, Salford fears disaster

Earlier this summer, residents of the Salford tower block, Spruce Court, asked to meet Grenfell survivors, and we organised for them to meet with Grenfell United, along with other residents of dangerous high rise blocks.  The Grenfell community has long insisted on one legacy: no one else should suffer what they went through.  They were instrumental in winning the promised £400 million to re-clad social housing, but are now forced to watch this work proceeding at a snail’s pace.
Residents of hundreds of buildings like Spruce Court continue to live with the same dangerous structures, materials and policies that destroyed so many lives, and, like Grenfell residents over the years leading up to the fire, continue to be ignored.
You can read the full guardian report of the link between these two flammable towers here. Below is our own comparison, the “Mirror Document” which helped to spark the Guardian report. There are many more buildings that still “mirror” Grenfell Tower as it was.

Burning Gas at Drax Power Station – Voice your Objections

Drax power station has applied to the Planning Inspectorate for permission to replace its two remaining coal-fired units with much larger ones burning fossil (natural) gas. You can read the full response we’ve submitted to this here.

If you agree that we should not allow Drax to increase carbon emissions by burning gas and wood biomass, you can help stop Drax’s proposed gas development by sending an objection to the Planning Inspectorate.
The deadline for responses is Wednesday the 29th of August at 11.59pm.
Further information and a model submission, which you can also sign on to, is at http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2018/drax-gas-alert/

 
 

Summer report – and object to Drax power station proposals!

Greetings!
As some things slow down for the summer, we wanted to share a brief update, and a “hold the date” for Fuel Poverty Action’s coming AGM, which is scheduled for 13 September.
Help stop Drax:
Before that, however, can we draw your attention to the request for objections to Drax power station’s plans to create the UK’s largest gas-fired plant to date, at a time when fossil fuels must urgently be phased out.  Biofuelwatch asked us to spread the word on this. This year’s extreme temperatures are now making summer another dangerous season, with heat waves as lethal as cold.  There is also the danger of air conditioning – for those who can afford it – further increasing carbon emissions and causing a vicious spiral of climate change, cost, and deaths.  Biofuelwatch’s tweets and a facebook post for sharing are below.  They also have a model response to the consultation (deadline 29 August), and we have a draft ourselves if you’d like to see it.
 
FPA Update:
It’s been a very busy few months, pressing for

  • an effective cap on energy prices (See e.g. here,  here (with DPAC) and on Victoria Derbyshire Show here),
  • a fairer deal for people with district or communal heating systems, (see eg here and here),
  • better insulation where low and unenforced building standards have left residents in the cold (see here and here),
  • relief for people in hard to heat rural homes with oil-fired heating (here and here), this has helped change government policy
  • non-profit, democratically controlled municipal energy (eg here and here),

 
and at the same time, we have

  • stood up for lots of individuals and residents’ groups in battles with their energy or heat suppliers, and landlords, private or social.
  • republished our MiniGuide to energy customers rights (now expanded with information on rights in relation to landlords),
  • responded to several GLA and other consultations on housing policies and on fuel poverty,
  • spoke at and participated in Housing Justice conference in Liverpool, forming a new coalition
  • combined forces with organisations of pensioners, asylum seekers, and people with disabilities, and been active participants in the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, the Radical Housing Network, the movement to divest from fossil fuels, the  Right to Energy coalition, aiming to eliminate energy poverty in Europe, and more.

Safe Cladding and Insulation Now!
For the last six months, however, the lion’s share of our energy has gone into starting the SCIN campaign for Safe Cladding and Insulation Now, following the appalling loss of life at Grenfell Tower.   If you haven’t been seeing our mailings about this, have a quick skim of the website front page and News, and see more under “Cladding and Insulation” tab – including the Open Letter to the Secretary of State (for organisations, politicians, etc to sign), ways to affiliate, personal testimonies from people suffering cold or in fire-risk buildings, and model motions for trade unions and political parties.  In the last few weeks we’ve been working with Grenfell United to back up residents of an estate in Salford which has the same cladding and insulation as Grenfell. We expect to deliver the Open Letter in October, with a demonstration/event.
Please see what you can do – for the sake of both the people who must go to sleep in buildings that could go up in flames, and the people who may end up freezing next winter, as many did last year, when cladding has been removed and not replaced.   The dangerous state of UK homes, old and new, is a national disgrace and an emergency. No more residents should pay for this with their health or with their lives.
In fact, we welcome help of all sorts, from joining our core team to spreading the word on social media or helping on a one-off basis, eg organising events, or going door to door on housing estates. Just get in touch and let us know, or come along to our AGM, we’ll be very glad to meet you!
Meanwhile, FPA still has no funding!  We rely on voluntary labour (lots!) but also on the generosity and determination of our friends.  A “donate” button can be found on our website here.  We have made time to do some funding applications.  Offers of fundraising events are also very welcome, and a good way of spreading the word, as well — we’d be glad to help.
* * *
On Drax, please share:
https://twitter.com/biofuelwatch/status/1021706758107156480
https://www.facebook.com/Biofuelwatch/posts/2149840821754870
Hope to see you on 13 September – or to hear from you, before!

CMA call for heat networks regulation – but leaseholders’ crisis is ignored

Fuel Poverty Action are glad to see the CMA’s recommendation for regulation of heat networks – which is long overdue –  and the acknowledgment that while some customers benefit from District Heating, others are trapped with high prices and regular outages.  With the government poised to release £320 million of public money for heat networks this autumn, consumer protection is urgent. As well as regulation, this protection must be built into low carbon planning requirements. And it must include protection from the common problem of overheating, summer and winter.
However, one outstanding issue does not seem to have been addressed, despite FPA specifically raising this with the CMA when they consulted us, and in our response to their Statement of Scope (a response they do refer to in relation to reliability):  The huge demands on leaseholders for capital when a heating system is deemed to require further expenditure — often extending beyond repair to major extension or improvements.
Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action said,
“Demands for tens of thousands of pounds each, on top of high standing charges for maintenance, go beyond what leaseholders can be expected to budget for and are not reasonable: freeholders and heat suppliers are in effect asking these individual householders to finance an infrastructure development in UK heating.
“This is similar to the demands being made on residents of tower blocks clad in the same combustible materials as Grenfell Tower, who are also being asked for five figure sums to remove and replace their own cladding.  Here too, the materials chosen by developers were not chosen by residents, and they should not be asked to pay the cost for others mistakes or cost-cutting decisions.  Many simply do not have the money to do so.”
The very weak legal position of leaseholders in the UK has recently been the subject of much debate in the media and in Parliament including a recent debate led by Leasehold Knowledge, with input from residents of many residents associations.
FPA have worked with leasehold residents in several estates who are fighting such demands in court, who would be ready to speak to the media.
One says,
“On my estate over 80% of leaseholders have moved out or now rent their flats and live elsewhere outside of London to pay the debt.”
Another says,
“Many of the leaseholders are pensioners and they are simply too old to move and organise renting out their dilapidated flats, the money will simply come from their food.”

FPA response to new proposals for ECO scheme

The government published proposals for the ECO (Energy Company Obligation) scheme due to come to force in October 2018. FPA wrote with our concerns that the proposals, by excluding oil, risk the lives of rural residents. We also prompted a personal response from an oil customer in a rural home with no other realistic way to heat his family’s home.  In August 2018 we learned that in a surprise change from their original consultation, BEIS have announced that they will continue to allow new oil boilers to be installed under ECO3  under the ‘Broken Boiler Cap’ (of 35,000 systems per year equivalent). BEIS expects that new oil boilers will be delivered mostly in rural areas. In addition, a 400% uplift will be available to provide support for the replacement of broken boilers (including oil-fired boilers) under the cap to low income, “vulnerable” and fuel poor households.
Read our letter to Claire Perry, the Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth below:
Letter to BEIS on Oil and Fuel Poverty

Government finally promises to fund re-cladding in social housing! A good beginning . . .

Eleven months after promising to “keep our people safe”, the government has announced that they will “fully fund” replacement of cladding in social housing tower blocks.  They estimate the cost at around £400 million.  This is a huge achievement for those who have been pressing hard for this money, including Grenfell survivors, FPA and the many organisations and MPs supporting the demands of our SCIN campaign (Safe Cladding and Insulation Now!), and Local Authorities whose tower blocks are affected.   But it’s nowhere near enough, and there are many unanswered questions, including, incredibly: will the new cladding also be flammable?

Below is the letter we sent to the Secretary of State when Theresa May announced the new money.  We will be writing to him again as soon as he releases, as promised, the details of the planned funding.  We will be inviting supporters to join us in signing this new letter, to be delivered later this year.  Protection for tenants and leaseholders, from fire and from cold is essential and is a minimum that all are entitled to expect.  And there must be no further delays!  The time for re-cladding is now.