Today: Handing in our letter to the Secretary of State

At our demonstration today outside the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government we’ll be handing in our letter to the Secretary of State, the wording of which has been signed by nearly 150 different organisations, MPs and councillors, including:

  • 28 MPs from Labour, Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and SNP
  • 5 Councillors
  • 44 housing groups, residents associations and Grenfell related froups
  • 16 poverty, discrimination and health organisations
  • 5 national trade unions, 20 other union bodies and branches, and NUS

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 Logo .                      Image result for bakers union logo .                        Image result for pcs 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.

Still in danger two years on

Second open letter to MHCLG on cladding and insulation – 17 October 2019

On 17th October 2019, we delivered an open letter to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), signed by 83 organisations and MPs.  It demands that the government meet the commitments it made in response to our last letter, one year earlier, on 17 October 2018.

This is the letter we delivered on 17 October 2019.

Oct 2019 Open letter to MHCLG re Insulation and Cladding incl. list of signatories (06.11.2019)

This is the response from MHCLG, received on 4 November 2019.

Response from MHCLG to Oct 2019 open letter

First open letter to MHCLG on cladding and insulation – 17 October 2018

At our demonstration on 17th October 2018 outside the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government, we handed in an Open Letter to the Secretary of State, the wording of which has been signed by nearly 150 different organisations, MPs and councillors, including:

  • 28 MPs from Labour, Liberal Democrats and SNP
  • 5 Councillors
  • 44 housing groups, residents associations and Grenfell related groups
  • 16 poverty, discrimination and health organisations
  • 5 national trade unions, 20 other union bodies and branches, and NUS

Dear Secretary of State
We were very glad to hear of the government’s intention to fully fund replacement of flammable cladding on social housing tower blocks.  The announcement (16 May) brought hope to many homes.  However, the commitments made so far are not nearly enough.
The government’s history on this issue is disgraceful.
Eleven months after the Grenfell fire, when this announcement was made, only 7 out of over 300 tower blocks had been re-clad.  On a third of the 158 social housing blocks deemed to be in danger, work had not even started.   People who were initially told they could move out of dangerous buildings have been denied the opportunity to do so.   On private blocks, leaseholders have been told to fund the works themselves – which they cannot afford – or continue to live in a fire-trap. Leaseholders in these blocks often have trouble meeting even their normal heating bills, and many go cold each winter.  Nothing had been done, or offered, for people in danger in flammable office blocks, hotels, or other workplaces, or in schools or hospitals.
Then, after months of refusing urgent requests from local authorities, the government promised to fully fund re-cladding costs for social housing, estimated at £400 million, to be taken from housing budgets.  Yet BBC research in December 2017  found that the cost of planned post-Grenfell fire safety measures for councils and housing associations alone had already reached at least £600m, a figure said to be likely to be a considerable underestimate. Safety from fire requires both non-combustible exteriors and safe windows, doors, compartmentalisation, and sprinklers.  Shelter cites one social landlord that originally estimated £2 million to replace cladding but found it cost £18 million in the end.  Meanwhile MHCLG handed back £817 million to the Treasury in unspent cash, money also originally earmarked for housing.
The government must now fulfill its promise of June 2017: “We cannot and will not ask people to live in unsafe homes.”  Costs must be met in full, and without delay.  
Moreover, the health and safety of residents must not be sacrificed during the process that the government now promises to fund.
Cold, like fire, kills.  Even in a normal year, thousands die each year when they cannot heat their homes.  Residents in many blocks already going through re-cladding know that when cladding is off in the winter, uninsulated flats are places of constant cold, condensation, damp and mould, and astronomical bills.  Works can go on for months, with families constantly ill. Some are scheduled for nearly two years.
It is difficult for residents to legally enforce their human rights to decent housing. Nevertheless,  landlords have a duty of care to the residents of their properties.  The government must ensure that this duty is fulfilled, and for social housing must provide the necessary funds.
On 16 May the Prime Minister accepted that paying for re-cladding works “must not undermine” housing providers’ “ability to do important maintenance and repair work”.  Similarly, paying for residents to keep safe and warm until the works are completed must not undermine local budgets — either housing budgets, or already devastated budgets for health and social care.
In the light of the appalling history of residents not being listened to, of promises being broken, and work necessary for health and/or safety being delayed, done badly, or not done at all, we believe it is essential to establish some principles for how the new funding will be implemented in practice.

  1. For social housing, the government must “fully fund” replacement of all flammable cladding and insulation,  and other necessary fire safety measures, regardless of the £400 million estimated total.   No housing provider must be turned away.  Both cladding and insulation components must be non-combustible.
  2. For private housing, central government must cover the initial costs, and then seek to recover costs from landlords, developers and contractors.  Student residences must also be covered.
  3. All residents should be guaranteed that they will not pay more for using extra energy over the winter.  Payments for extra costs should be paid direct to residents, and should be made in time to cover the bills or prepayment meter costs when needed.
  4. Where cladding/insulation has been removed landlords are still responsible for protecting residents from cold, damp and mould, and other hazards.
  5. Residents forced to live temporarily in blocks which still have flammable cladding should be protected,  without cost to themselves, by fire wardens, alarms, and sprinklers. Where it is unsafe for people to remain in their homes, alternative local housing should be offered.
  6. Until cladding and insulation are completely restored, residents should be offered a package of special measures.   These measures should include, as required:  approved damp and mould treatment; dehumidifiers; safe space heaters;  draught-proofing; immediate repairs to faulty or inadequate boilers, heating controls, windows, and vents; enhanced out-of-hours services; hot meals for those who need them; warm and comfortable places to go in the daytime; and facilities to exercise (e.g. free gym/pool use). Again, where homes cannot be made fit for habitation, alternative  local housing should be offered.
  7. Consultation must ensure that residents are fully informed about options and cladding is replaced in accordance with their wishes.  Residents must be kept informed about progress and timetables.  Residents Associations must be supported and must have the opportunity to interrogate any delays or shortfalls and receive answers.
  8. All new developments, and refurbishments, must be effectively monitored and inspected by authorities that are independent, and legally accountable.  New and refurbished homes should be safe and well-insulated in practice, not just in theory.
  9. Immediate safe, good, permanent housing must be offered in the area of their choice for Grenfell survivors; no deportations of affected individuals; criminal charges against those responsible for the fire.
  10. To prevent such disasters in the future there must be a clear, quick and effective route for residents’ voices to be heard and listened to, and responsibility and accountability must rest with clearly identifiable senior individuals.  These principles (recommended in  the Hackitt Review),  must apply to insulation from cold as well as fire safety.

The standards and practices that led to the Grenfell fire must not go on to cost more lives.


Update: Minister Replies to Open Letter on Cladding and Insulation – 22 November 2018

Reply from James Brokenshire to Open Letter on cladding and insulation formatted

Still in Danger One Year On

Before the government conceded the principle by promising to “fully fund” the replacement of Grenfell-style cladding, FPA had collected over 60 signatures from MPs, community organisers, campaigners, trade unions, and resident associations on an open letter that demanded that the government release the money to make people safe and warm. Though the victory in £400 million cannot be understated, the money and promises don’t nearly go far enough in ensuring peoples’ homes are made safe from fire, nor does it promise vital guarantees to keep people warm over the winter when remediation works are underway and cladding and insulation is off. FPA spoke to many people left out in the cold and suffering in freezing homes last winter, whilst their insulation was off. Cold, like fire, kills.
FPA have redrafted their letter and sent it out to be signed. The new letter presses on a set of urgent demands that the government needs to meet and will be delivered to the Secretary for Housing, Communities and Local Government this October.
Please read and share.
Solidarity.
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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.

'When the facade comes off' – the wider implications of the cladding and insulation crisis

Besides killing 71 people and shattering many more lives, the Grenfell fire has shone a light into deep fault lines in UK housing, politics, and social relationships, all of them disaster areas that are set to cause many more deaths.  In memory of those who have died, the onus is on all of us to seize this moment.
On the front line are the Grenfell survivors, many still crammed into hotel rooms and fighting for permanent homes, the right to stay in Britain, or support to recover from devastating grief and loss.  Right behind them are the residents of other tower blocks.  People who’ve been told they must go to bed each night in a flammable building unless and until they can themselves find the money to replace cladding.  And people who have had the cladding and insulation stripped off their buildings, for safety, but who now find their homes exposed to freezing winds, and damp, for months, or even years.
Grenfell has exposed:

  •  Social housing where residents – the experts on their buildings and communities – cannot make themselves heard.
  • A construction industry driven by perverse incentives and conflicts of interest, without effective monitoring, inspection, or clear lines of accountability.
  • Regulations compromised by commercial interests including the plastics industry (searching for markets for a tide of petrochemicals fracked in the USA).
  • Privatised and ineffective inspection of building processes and materials.
  • Local government removed from the control of local people.
  • Central government which can promise to “keep our people safe” and then continue to claw back the money on which safety depends.
  • Ill equipped, ill funded fire services and a shortage of fire experts.
  • Run-down skills and capacity in construction, manufacturing, and research.
  • Housing standards, duties of care, and laws on wilful neglect that can be breached with impunity, in a crisis like the present one, and even on a routine basis, day to day.
  • Leasehold contracts that leave residents without  effective protection from their landlords
  • A system which ignores the views of residents, those who know best what is happening in their own buildings/areas.
  • Regeneration that breaks up the communities on which rest people’s health and happiness
  • Leasehold contracts that leave residents without effective protection from their landlords
  •  Hundreds of thousands of flats sitting empty, many bought up as investments for the portfolios of billionaires, while people sleep on the streets outside, and Grenfell families, like others made homeless, are crammed into a hotel room.
  • A system of financial auditing – the critical safety net against corruption and corner-cutting — where the auditors are financially linked to the businesses they are inspecting.

Small wonder that as cladding comes down from new or refurbished buildings, local authorities are finding that the glossy exterior has been concealing missing fire-breaks and insulation, faulty structural fixings, holes in walls and floors, and inferior materials – the basics are not there.
Critically, they have found insulation missing – a scandal FPA are very familiar with, as residents on new build housing estates contact us, unable to heat their homes.  Their homes have high EPC ratings – deemed good on “energy performance”, but thermal imaging shows where contractors have simply saved money by leaving insulation out.  UK homes – for this reason and because little is being done to tackle draughty, damp, and hard to heat older housing – are among the coldest in Europe.  Landlords’ legal obligations, such as they are, are not enforced, and the central government funding, which paid for health and safety officers, has been taken back by Whitehall.  Official standards for insulation, won over decades of pressure by energy and fuel poverty lobbyists, are still there, on paper, but are missing on the walls.
As the changing climate removes the blanket of Jet Stream protection which has until now kept the UK climate temperate, the first people to pay will be those on low incomes living in poorly insulated housing.  Many will pay with their lives.  Every winter thousands of people die in this rich country, because they cannot heat their homes.  Like fire, cold kills.
The Grenfell Inquiry, the Hackitt Review, all the meetings, all the demonstrations, cannot be allowed to lead to business as usual.  The present lifting of the cover on “the way things are done” gives us all  a moment of power.
At our meeting “Dying from Fire, Dying from Cold”, Ishmael Francis-Murray from the Grenfell community said, “ If we don’t get change through this, we never will. . .  Right now we have a chance.”
Change must begin with justice and security for Grenfell survivors – and with warm, safe homes for all whose buildings have been immediately affected by this disaster.  It must then reach further.