Thankfully the vast majority of people will never experience anything like the event at Grenfell Tower. Equally we could never begin to imaging the horror or suffering of the victims and their family and friends. I am not going to add anything to that as I am not in a position to comment.
That said, I would like to make a number of rather obvious comments – it would be remiss not to do so, before I get to my main theme. The investigation into the tragedy is opening will a police investigation. At least they got that right rather than waiting for a full Public Enquiry.
If the revelations that the tower was clad to improve the view from the outside and negate the negative impact it was having on multi-million pound properties for sale – then anyone directly involved in that should go to prison; full stop.
If the choice of cladding was made to save money and compromised safety – then anyone directly involved in that should go to prison; full stop.
If the cause was due to poor or substandard workmanship – then anyone directly involved in that should go to prison; full stop.
If regulations in place are shown to be inadequate then, unless there is a substantial reason for that – and I can’t see what that could be – then anyone directly involved in that should go to prison; full stop.
If recommendations and expressions of concern from tenants or other advisory bodies were kicked into the long grass by officials or politicians for political expediency – then anyone directly involved in that should go to prison; full stop.
The Local Authorities who have demonstrated crass incompetence before, during and no after the event then as a minimum everyone with responsibility should be sacked for gross negligence – with all that infers under employment law.
I expect that senior people in the fire services were very aware of the danger to life and their inability to fight a fire at floors 13 and above in a multi-story. If they cannot demonstrate that they did everything reasonably in their power to bring this to the attention of their seniors then as a minimum everyone with responsibility should be sacked for gross negligence – with all that infers under employment law.
I don’t know if I have missed anyone, but the thinking goes on. None of this will help the victims but in a small way, it may assist them gaining closure and perhaps save lives in the future. Anything short of this will guarantee that many people will never ever achieve closure and will spent the rest of their days angry and embittered and with good cause.
Now, on to my forgotten victims. It may almost seem trivial now – but to these victims it is anything but trivial and may even be life changing.
Of the 144 flats at Grenfell Tower something like about 80 were private landlords. A private landlord owns the flat from the front door inwards and pays the management company or their equivalent a fee for common upkeep and maintenance. They generally have any real say, they just pay up. I am almost sure that certain works to the common areas of the block would be charged back in total or in part to the private landlord; dependent on their Title.
The fire at the Tower may have started in one flat. The fire services commented they often get called to a flat fire in a tower block but it is normally confined to the flat or even an adjacent flat; never the whole block. One thing is very clear, the fire almost certainly did not spread from flat to flat within the block. This will be established when the investigation completes.
I want to recognise a situation that may affect a single flat or perhaps up to about 80 of them.
Let’s take one very possible example. An ordinary person retires and they may have a little saved up or a small lump sum from their employer. They don’t have much of a pension; thanks to our own Gordon Brown (but that’s another story). They take some financial advice about what to do for their retiral. They are advised that investing in a pension is not a great prospect. ‘Get you money into brick and mortar’. Now we are talking about a relatively modest income person. In London there were lots of flats on the market from the ‘right to buy’ scheme. This person can only look at something modest in a high rise. Because it is nevertheless London they may have paid around £250,000 (the figures are not so important). They could not afford an outright purchase so they opted for a ‘buy to let’ mortgage. They renovate the property, furnish it to a reasonable standard and find themselves a tenant. Now they have a little income. Margins are tight and they may not be able to afford a full blown landlords insurance.
From the time of the fire at Grenfell Tower and the evacuation of the people our private landlord’s tenant was moved out or lost tragically. If they survived, let’s hope this tenant is able to find another home and let’s hope that the authorities are able to do something there. However, the landlord has lost his tenant and his income. It is almost certain that Grenfell Tower, even if it is structurally safe will be demolished. Our landlord has also lost his property and all the furnishing and the renovation costs are also gone. Chances are there was no adequate insurance in place and if there was then there may be no pay out while investigations are under way. Of course, remember, the landlord had a ‘buy to let’ mortgage so payments must still be met and there is no income to back this it.
This private landlord may be just an ordinary person on a modest income who spent everything and took on debt to plan for or support their retiral. This is not some property magnate with a massive portfolio. This ordinary person may now find themselves in financial ruin, without support or recognition and to add insult to injury may even be vilified as another one of those rogue private landlords.