Grenfell Tower – The Unrestrained Privatisation Profit Model That Kills
TruePublica Editor: The article below is an excerpt by Liz Smith writing for wsws.org entitled: Residents in Bradford, England: “We are all affected by what has happened at Grenfell.” It highlights one particular aspect of the continuing situation that surrounds not just Grenfell Tower but social housing generally in Britain – that privatisation, the market driven profit model is somehow the most effective way to deliver services to the wider public. The consequence of the push by both Labour and Conservative governments since Thatcher to fully financialise social housing in Britain are that millions are on waiting lists with many to eventually end up entering buildings like Grenfell Tower. Buildings such as these are now known to litter the country. They are death traps for the many on the one hand and cash generators for the very few on the other.
Reporters also spoke to workers who lived in the high-rise flats situated at the bottom of Manchester Road. Built in the late 1960s as part of a massive expansion of social housing to replace slums, the flats were initially coveted as the place to live. Following the oil crisis in 1973 and the subsequent hike in electricity prices, workers who lived there faced considerable debt. Many had no choice but to stop using the under-floor heating systems installed, which then caused widespread damp.
Things have worsened ever since. In 2003, as part of the privatisation moves of the Blair Labour government, all council-owned housing was transferred to Incommunities, an arms-length social housing company which owns and is responsible for tower blocks such as Douglas and Evans Towers, 15-storeys high, and the Courts, which are all 12 storeys.
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John, who lives in Windsor Court, said, “What really irks me about what has happened at Grenfell is you have the Archbishop of Canterbury commenting on it. But where was he before? Has he walked around there? Has he heck! Putting people back into flats that have just had such a traumatic experience. They would have been better off asking me to sort it out!”
John explained, “Recently we had a lot of problems with kids setting off alarms, smoking in stairwells, etc. So what Incommunities did was to take out the fire alarms from the apartments, in the kitchen or near the kitchen, because it was costing them too much money for callouts. Instead of tackling the actual issue of the children or the people setting them off, or educating people, they decided to take them away instead because it’s cheaper. But my rent has not gone down.
“I work and it’s very high rents round here. It’s social housing, but it is £105 a week. They have been trying to get me out. I have been in and out of work. I had four jobs in one year. I need two bedrooms because I have my children on a weekend.
“I don’t have to pay bedroom tax now [a penalty on claimants in an “under-occupied” council home] because I am working. But when I am not working I do, and I then have no money to feed the children on a weekend. They did it to satisfy the middle class, who don’t understand.
“This is not a bad place to live. I just wish people would stop driving past thinking we are all scum. I know lots of people in there that help people out. The working class club together more. They look after each other.”
David, who lives in Evans Towers, described the dangers of living in the block:
“If you go on every single landing and look at the fire doors they have all got gaps under them. The fire brigade was parked up the other day—an open day where you could go and speak to them. I told the fireman about the gaps under the fire doors. He told me they should be flush or have rubber sills. The fire door is there to prevent fumes getting out. He asked me if I had reported it. I told him I had, but had been no response yet.
“The wind that comes through the windows blows them open a good inch in winter, when there are high winds. It can take two people to even close the window and if you call them out and it is deemed to be not an emergency they charge you £80.
“The fire engines can only get to the seventh floor. I am at the twelfth floor. And when I get a shower you are lucky if you get a trickle out sometimes.
“We pay for a concierge and for each flat that’s £10.80 a week. The concierge is based in Ravenscliffe (4 miles away). It’s a complete waste of money. If you ring up he says, ‘There is nothing I can do. I am not allowed to leave the office. All I can suggest is that you or I ring the police.’ Part of that £10.80 each flat pays goes to the retirement scheme for Incommunities directors. So because a lot of people are unemployed the taxpayer is paying this. They have flats all over Bradford and elsewhere, all contributing.
“Just think if you are a full-time worker in Bradford paying tax and you knew that part of that money was going to pay Geraldine Howley, chief group executive for Incommunities retirement scheme!”
Some of the smaller blocks near the towers are being demolished. “These are all getting knocked down by Incommunities,” David said. “On the land here they are rebuilding a small estate—multi-bedroomed occupancies with three, four, five, six bedrooms—owned by Incommunities. They know it is going to get funded by the government, because who around here can afford a six-bedroom house?
“People living here are all being moved out. The ones that are still living here are mortgage holders—about two in each block. The people that moved out got paid about £6,000 each and a free move. They kept it at £6,000 because, above that, you have to declare it and you could lose benefits. The taxpayer will be basically paying the rent.
Read the full article – Residents in Bradford, England: “We are all affected by what has happened at Grenfell Tower at wsws.org