Friday 16 June 2017

Tower block fires and red tape

Official voices are rightly cagey about making pronouncements on the causes of the horrifying fire in Grenfell Tower, Kensington, but it seems to me that three options are available and one of them must be right.


1.  The regulations regarding building tower blocks, their footings, fire precautions, materials, stairs, escape routes etc are inadequate, in which case we need some more and better regulations.

2.  The regulations are adequate but they were evaded or avoided, either deliberately, through negligence, or to cut costs.

3.  The regulations were adequate and adhered to, but the inspection system to ensure that proper standards continued to be maintained were lax or even non-existent.

In due course we shall find out which of the above, or even some of all three, put these poor people through such a horrible trauma and led to the unnecessary deaths of at least 17 and possibly 60 people living quietly in their own homes and minding their own business, something we are surely all entitled to do.

It should be noted that all three of the above scenarios involve the "red tape" of regulations and the employment of "officials" to ensure they are observed.

We need to remember this when right-wing market libertarians are for ever telling us that that less government regulation will free them to be more innovative, adventurous and profitable, which profits will eventually trickle down to the rest of us.

Maybe some red-tape is unnecessary, and certainly some is out of date.  (I believe that until recently there was a law forbidding the display of liqueur chocolates in shop windows lest the young be tempted to become alcoholics).  But most is necessary to keep us safe in our homes, on our streets, in our schools and hospitals, and at work.

It is hard to suppose that government cuts reduced the ability of a rich borough like Kensington to police adequately the regulations  for which it is responsible, but that will doubtless be the case in poorer areas..  We also need to remember that there are large and influential building companies which doubtless spend a lot of time and money lobbying ministers and councillors, and it may be that profit sometimes takes precedence over public safety in their urgings.

It is public servants and public expenditure, financed by taxes, which keep  us safe.  These poor people may be victims of our delusion that we can have a top-quality public services without paying for them.

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