Still no sprinkler systems – two years after Grenfell and ten years after Lakanal

Central and local government politicians continue to ignore calls to retrofit sprinkler systems to existing council house tower blocks – despite the deaths of 78 people at the Lakanal House and Grenfell Tower fires. Thousands of residents still live with the constant risk of fire, writes Paul Coleman.

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PROMISES, PARLIAMENT AND THE GRENFELL TOWER FIRE

Campaigners have projected the slogan, ‘2 years after Grenfell this building still hasn’t kept its promises’, onto the Houses of Parliament.Grenfell United – campaigning on behalf of survivors, bereaved and residents – carried out the protest. Nobody has yet been arrested for the fire on the Lancaster West council estate of 14 June 2017 that killed 72 people.

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London in need of “a bigger Monopoly board” – Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson launches his Conservative Party leadership bid with plans for a ‘no deal’ Brexit, tax cuts for the rich and a promise he will be “extolling the virtues of free market capitalism”. However, rarely seen footage of one of Boris Johnson’s previous bumptious private speeches reveals why the former Mayor of London’s past record on housing policy will get a lot of attention if the 55-year-old achieves his long-cherished ambition to become the Conservative Party leader and Britain’s Prime Minister. In a Berkeley Square speech at the inaugural London Real Estate Forum, Johnson describes housing in London as “one of the most important games of Monopoly ever played”. The speech reveals Johnson’s instinctive support for the unfettered operation of a free market in housing and property in London – and his thinly-veiled ideological contempt for council housing. Paul Coleman reports.

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Elephant and Castle: ‘regenerate’ and destroy

Londoners enjoy great views of London from Alexandra Palace. The Elephant and Castle can be seen seven miles away but the view conceals more than it reveals. Residents in the Elephant and Castle and Walworth struggle with developers and a local council hellbent on a type of ‘regeneration’ that causes net losses of council homes and forces working class people out of this south London neighbourhood. Now this corporate gentrification threatens to destroy the livelihoods of people who trade and work at the area’s landmark Shopping Centre. Is the Elephant and Castle destined to be a domain just for the wealthy? Is ‘regeneration’ degenerating London’s unique character and culture?

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London: a Real Estate City as seen from the People’s Palace

The view of London from Alexandra Palace conceals more than it reveals. A ‘havoc’ of luxury residential and office towers gives London’s skyline a jagged edge. They are the product of an unaccountable and powerful alliance between global corporate capital interests and a cadre of London’s leading politicians, including the Mayor of London. This opaque ‘local market state’ severely cramps the life chances of working Londoners on average and lower incomes, demolishing Londoners’ secure council homes – and then denying Londoners the secure and genuinely affordable homes they desperately need.

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Brexit ‘a tragic distraction’ as austerity ‘shatters millions of lives’

The United Kingdom might be the world’s fifth largest economy but government austerity policies mean 14 million people live in poverty. Child poverty will increase to 40% by 2021. Life expectancy is falling for many people. The UN report says: ‘High employment…has not reversed austerity…the glue that has held British society together has been deliberately replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos.’ And, Brexit is a ‘tragic distraction’.

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Property’s big guns to get loaded in London

The annual London Real Estate Forum kicks off on June 12 with champagne, canapés and even a genteel game of cricket. Since 2013 the LREF has helped developers and elected council leaders to mushroom gentrification across the city and to worsen a chronic shortage of genuinely affordable homes. The LREF boasts it offers ‘property decision makers’ a chance for ‘relaxed conversation’. However, council estate resident campaigners, trying to save their homes from demolition, say LREF helps local politicians to secretly offer publicly owned land and assets to corporate developers. As for the cricketers, they will pay £300 each to play in a charity match raising funds for young homeless people. Paul Coleman reports.

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The ‘council house boy’ and his very British ballots

After his election in 2016, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan – the ‘council house boy’ – faces growing demands from council estate residents – threatened by ‘regeneration’ schemes – to be granted a real voice and a decisive vote on whether their homes are demolished or not. 

Finally, two years later, Mayor Khan introduces ballots but it’s a concession laden with conditions. Resident campaigners suspect Khan has ensured ‘regeneration’ deceits lurk in the details of these very British ballots.

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Another Grenfell could happen…soon

Thousands of tower block residents across Britain remain at risk exactly one year after the catastrophic Grenfell fire in west London. A fire chemistry expert warns of dire consequences if the government continues to fail to tackle combustible materials on tower blocks. “If these issues are not addressed, we are going to see another Grenfell,” says Professor Anna Stec. “And we are going to see it soon.”

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