TOWER HAMLETS Independent Group of Councillors has marked the Queen’s Speech by sending an Open Letter to the two Labour MPs in Tower Hamlets – Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar & Limehouse) and Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green & Bow),
The Letter deals with the important concern of fire safety in the borough, highlighted by the Grenfell Tower fire. Tower Hamlets residents have been reassured by the Executive Mayor that there are no tower blocks with the Grenfell type of cladding in our borough. However, past Labour Administrations sold off large parts of social housing – and it is now taking time to find out if these homes are safe.
Here is the Open Letter in full. Residents will be interested to see what their MPs say by way of reply.
Dear Jim Fitzpatrick MP and Rushanra Ali MP
As local residents and elected representatives, we are writing to you about an important issue that can save people’s lives and protect their loved ones, families, children and our neighbours.
The tragic fire in Grenfell Tower in West London is hard to swallow with up to 79 people missing – presumed dead – with widespread public anger, dismay and a national search for answers. They all should have been safe when they went to sleep last Tuesday night. In the 21st century Britain, one of the richest countries in the world, nobody should be living in a home that risks their life.
It’s heartbreaking when you consider that this devastating fire was eminently avoidable. The unnecessary, moronic and petty cost cutting measures by Kensington and Chelsea (K&C) Council or its agencies to reportedly save £5,000 by installing cheaper but more flammable cladding did not help the poor people, which included children, trapped in the fire. This becomes even more devastating when you consider the fact that the K&C Council is currently sitting on a shocking £209 million reserves in their coffers – surplus to their requirements – and boasted its “achievement” with a “£100 sweetener rebate” to their council tax payers in 2014 before the local election, in the name of “efficiency savings”.
The Government was warned time and time again of the fire risks in blocks of flats like this. But these warnings were ignored. Now, it is imperative that the government changes the law to make buildings like Grenfell Tower safer when there’s a fire. At least 20 tower blocks across the capital, ranging from 11 to 23 storeys, are believed to have the same cladding used at Grenfell, according to Construction Enquirer, a trade publication.
In Tower Hamlets, we have many similar towers and residents are genuinely frightened and have concerns. This national tragedy has shown that our laws on fire safety in buildings aren’t fit for purpose. Very soon, the Government will make a major speech. They may announce they’ll strengthen the fire safety laws for flats like Grenfell Tower, so this never happens again.
But it can only happen if you, as our MPs, speak out in Parliament.
Experts have been warning that the Government needs to update old-fashioned fire regulations for years. After a tower block fire killed six people in 2009, the Government failed to act on recommendations to make blocks safer. Now, experts say there are thousands of other tower blocks like Grenfell at risk of fire, many in Tower Hamlets.
At least seven countries – Germany, Denmark, Croatia, Poland, Slovakia, Serbia and the Czech Republic – have recently changed their building regulations to ensure that only non-combustible materials are used on the facades of buildings above certain heights, ranging from 12m to 25m. Fire Safe Europe, a body that campaigns for fire safety on the continent, said other countries must now follow suit.
We’re writing to ask you to call on the Prime Minister to include plans for improved and strict fire safety laws in the Queen’s speech, and seek assurances from Mayor John Biggs about “all” tall buildings of more than five storeys.
We need to make sure all our buildings are safe.
Please will you tell us when you have passed on our concerns?
Cllr Ohid Ahmed
Cllr Oli Rahman
Cllr Gulam Robbani
Cllr Maium Miah
Cllr Mahbub Alam
Cllr Muhammad Mustaquim
Cllr Harun Miah
Cllr Suluk Ahmed
Cllr Gulam Kibria Choudhury
Independent Group – London Borough of Tower Hamlets