We will all have seen the heart wrenching scenes from West London. One of the most unacceptable aspects of the Grenfell tragedy is the news that some of the capital’s poorest residents had repeatedly raised questions with the housing management company and local council, that largely went unheeded.
Here my thoughts turned immediately to ensuring no such incidents occur in Brighton and Hove. In the wake of preventable events, it is more important than ever for elected representatives to seek assurances about safety. Green councillors have raised 12 questions about the regulations and measures taken by the city council and East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service to safeguard our residents – the so-called ‘red tape’ that the Conservative government has been adamant about cutting.
Having spoken to the chief fire officer it has been reassuring to hear our emergency services and the city council will be conducting joint inspections of all of the city’s high-rise blocks and the council will be commissioning an independent survey to check our buildings.
I have been concerned to hear that many residents report that they encounter difficulties raising ‘awkward’ questions about the state of their accommodation- including cladding and emergency measures in place in their buildings. No matter where they live, whether in temporary, emergency or permanent accommodation, residents’ concerns need to be listened to and acted upon. No-one should feel in the dark about the safety measures present in their own buildings.
People living in social or rented housing are putting their lives in the hands of landlords, housing associations and the council, and are owed nothing less than full answers to their questions. This is also why Greens continue to push for tougher regulation of the housing sector, through measures such as a Good Landlord scheme.
We never want to see Grenfell repeated, and will keep the pressure up so that every step is taken to ensure residents’ safety is paramount.
Phelim Mac Cafferty is the convenor of the Green Group on Brighton & Hove City Council.