Grenfell Tower a burning symbol of failed free market capitalism and mutilated welfare

By   /   June 17, 2017  /   29 Comments

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Their deaths are a tragedy but it is a tragedy that was written by ideologues and bureaucrats more interested in finding ways to shrug off their obligations than protect the poor.

The horror of Grenfell Tower is matched only by the rising fury at the way London’s working class, migrant, disabled and old were betrayed by failed capitalism and a mutilated welfare state.

The prophetic warnings of the Grenfell Action Group, were ignored.

The warnings of using this type of cladding was ignored.

And officials sat on reports that warned a fire like that at Grenfell could occur.

The abdication of responsibility by Government agencies to private contractors is done on purpose so that when these events occur no one is held responsible.  Mix this profit motive with the pressure by posher neighbourhoods wanting to gentrify and pretty up working class tower blocks no matter what that does to the safety of the building, and it is easy to see how free market capitalism has failed the residents of Grenfell Tower. They have been cheated by a mutilated welfare state that could never protect them because protection requires political power.

Their deaths are a tragedy but it is a tragedy that was written by ideologues and bureaucrats more interested in finding ways to shrug off their obligations than protect the poor.

In NZ, National get away with the exact same mutilation of our welfare state because those impacted by it die slowly and individually. 1600 NZers die each year because of cold houses, 41 000 are homeless and our suicide rate is 3 times as high as officials admit.

Sadly in NZ such social carnage will always be ignored.

 

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29 Comments

  1. Mike in Auckland says:

    It is not a symbol of a failed capitalist market, it is simply showing how exactly unconstrained free market capitalism works. As horrible the news was and is, and as scandalous the deaths of dozens of ordinary poor residents is, the real estate market in London is just the same as here, watch The Nation on TV3 tomorrow morning, and you can see how third world living conditions exist for instance in boarding houses in Auckland!

    The poor are driven into ghettos, kept away from the gentry and other better off, out of sight, who cares how cramped and shocking their dwellings are, and what cladding is used, first of all, it must be “cheap”, as “cheap people” only “deserve” cheap solutions.

    That is what we will get with the Auckland Unitary Plan and our rather poor Swiss Cheese type building regulations here in NZ Inc.. Wait until the construction of multi level buildings goes into full swing here in Auckland, I heard on one TV news channel yesterday, TV3 it was, that “less than 100” buildings in Auckland are probably having the same or similar classing used, as was used in this West London, Kensington tower that went up in flames.

    We have other issues too, maybe less dramatic, but the poor here get second or third rate accommodation, what is being built in Glen Innes and so is showing already, that it is of poor quality and not built to last, and we are with the new “social housing” in NZ building the slums of tomorrow, whether by Housing NZ or other builders.

    Still now we have tens if not hundreds of thousands poorly insulated homes, that are damp, cold and would not be allowed in many European countries, given the poor standards.

    Sadly the ‘Kiwi Battler’ puts up with far too much, and must start standing up and challenge the endless BS we get sold.

    This election, so far only offers a choice between true evil and a lesser evil alternative, I am afraid, that is NOT good enough for me.

  2. Jono says:

    So true Martyn. Its sad. But the forces of greed are strong enough and the lack of empathy wide enough in the elite ruling classes. If this event does not show severe inequality then nothing will. i believe we may see an uprising soon if things for the masses get worse.

  3. Andrew says:

    Not sure how you can believe that when it’s a council owned building with a Borough Councillor on the management board.

    • David says:

      Easily believed, it is estimated that 90% of New Zealand commercial and multi unit residential buildings are currently non compliant with the fire requirements of the New Zealand Building Code and this is the figures bandied about by the governmental statutory authority. No Surprises here.

      • Mike in Auckland says:

        Believable indeed, as the Building Code may get amended and improved over time, but the new rules never apply to buildings constructed before the new law comes into effect.

      • Mike in Auckland says:

        A useful report on the situation in New Zealand:

        ‘FIRE SYSTEM EFFECTIVENESS IN MAJOR BUILDINGS’

        Marsh Limited – May 2012

        http://www.fire.org.nz/Research/Published-Reports/Documents/Report%20124%20risk%20informed%20fire%20safety%20systems.pdf

        Page 113:

        “11 Conclusions”

        “There is no evidence from fire incidents that fire protection performance of major buildings is an issue in New Zealand.
        However the anecdotal view from industry is that systems and particularly the complex systems that are more likely to be found in major buildings have issue s around their design, testing and maintenance. This view is supported by the event tree analysis.

        Reassuringly these buildings tend to be sprinkler protected and the evidence is that sprinkler reliability is relatively high. However in the event of a sprinkler system failure the potentially low reliability of other (secondary) fire safety features could lead to a catastrophic fire event. Furthermore in some scenarios (notably smouldering fires) the sprinkler system is unlikely to be effective and secondary systems are critical for providing immediate life safety.

        Overall the view is that the fire risk in major buildings is small but the trend of complexity and issues around quality in design, installation, commissioning and maintenance are of concern…”

        • David says:

          Yes I agree,on the face of things the passive and active fire safety requirements of the New Zealand Building Code seem sound,however the installation and maintenance of the systems are questionable. Also the common belief and confidence that a sprinkler system will reliably suppress a fire is misplaced.Fire protection measures are multi layered and work in unisum ,it’s not as simple as installing a sprinkler system and all well be fine.
          When undertaking renovations it is common to stumble across fire protection/suppression systems so incorrectly installed or often not I stalled at all is frightening.

    • saveNZ says:

      “The refurbishment was carried out on behalf of Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) which has managed all of the public housing owned by Kensington and Chelsea London Borough Council since 1996.

      On Friday, The Times of London reported that spending just another $8000 would have seen the entire tower fitted out with fire resistant cladding…..

      It has also emerged that the four most senior staff at the KCTMO, who managed the tower, were potentially paid in excess of $1 million annually.

      According to The Times, the not-for-profit paid its “key management personnel” £650,794 ($1,094,456) in 2015-16.

      The company has not confirmed how many of its staff are “key”. However, only four senior executives are listed in its accounts.

      Shared among four people, their individual salaries would be £163,000 ($274,000) each. British Prime Minister Theresa May’s annual salary is less than that at £142,500.”

      http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11877802

    • John W says:

      Andrew how about the privatised aspect of the management.

      Similar to our NZ CCO ignoring the councils who are supposed to own them.

      Corporatised state owned energy assets, our postal system, Railway wrecked by privatisation, awarding of suppuy contracts to overseas firms so importers can skim off ,and all the behind the scenes nods and winks as the investor state overruns the NZ State so fleecing the people without regards for their welfare and the future generations.
      Blind greed and some simpletons defend it.

    • Strypey says:

      A council-owned building, Andrew, whose management had been contracted out to a private company, whose staff were draining capital out of the built assets by paying themselves ludicrous salaries and deferring maintenance. We’ve seen so much of this “outsourcing” and “downsizing” (now “right-sizing”) and “contracting” and “consulting” and “communications” (ie PR) of public services in this country, with the same degraded results. Our built environment and social infrastructure, as well as key pieces of our natural environment like our waterways, drained of resources in order to “return value to shareholders”.

      The ridiculous thing is, as Doug Rushkoff points out in ‘Life Inc.’, by turning both the state pension fund and retirement savings in general into a capital investment fund, instead of a public trust, we’re all extremely minor shareholders in the very privatizing and privatized companies that are sucking the blood of our public services. We are the ones, on whose behalf the “free market” con job claims to be externalizing costs and privatizing profits and into the pockets of the 1% oligarchy (wealth inheritors like Bush, Bush Jr, and Trump).

      Austerity needs to be replaced with commons that we all contribute to, and that we can all draw from when we need it. Observing reality tells us that the “free market” can’t pay workers enough to own a house, in rich countries, where there need be no shortage of housing. So either managing housing or determining wages needs to be under democratic control, if not both. Are any of the “left” parties asking for our vote in October proposing policy to do either of these things?

  4. Mike the Lefty says:

    The UK government are desperately trying to “find” evidence that it was a terrorist attack, which will shift the blame onto someone else.

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      Yes mike I thought that, as the Chemical industry wont want to accept the blame of their petro-chemicals in those plastic interior insulation panels and exterior claddings were actually responsible for the deaths of many when the toxic incineration from them produced such a toxic soup that was as bad as a mass chemical cloud the troops at Flanders on the front of the ist world war suffered from.

      I was chemically poisoned while working on a construction site 20 odd years ago and still suffer from the effects so I know something about this.

      The residents never stood any chance martyn as the plastics burning produced a cloud of Phosgene gas along with Toluene Di-isocyanate (TDI) and its cousins HDI, HDI and all the derivatives of all aldehydes, these are certain instant death when breathed in the incineration process we saw with those black clouds.

      We must all pray for there souls as they had no chance to survive this.

  5. saveNZ says:

    Totally agree that Grenfell Tower is a burning symbol of failed free market capitalism and mutilated welfare.

    Hard to believe in one of the richest countries in the world, in one of the richest cities in the world and in one of the richest boroughs in the world, that parents have to throw their kids out the window in a fire, to save them, because Tory right wing government policy seems to have allowed a continuation of deregulation, exploitation and profiteering to foster rather than basic safety and common sense in their city. Sadly it looks like the poor kid is going to be an orphan even though she survived.

    Miracle of four-year-old girl who was caught by hero after being thrown from the tower

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11878164

    Sadly as well, the UK investigations will probably find nobody criminally responsible, as all the many people who made the decisions that led to this manslaughter will be deemed to be ‘doing their job’ under capitalism.

    The stupidity, profiteering and policy wonks who allowed this situation to happen will be isolated, because it will be found to be completely legal to kill people in this way under a right wing government – profit before people.

  6. WILD KATIPO says:

    The UK had its Grenfell Tower, we had our Pike River.

    This is what you get when nothing is done about a supranational, globalist based ideology like neo liberalism.

    And the way to minimize their impact is to exercise the power of the vote.

    Vote the shitters out this coming September and let the incoming Labour led govt have NO QUARTER in partaking of that ideology whatsoever.

    We owe it to ourselves to DEMAND the best.

  7. Pat O'Dea says:

    Killed by cladding.
    There is hardly a need for an enquiry, (expected to take 4 years to complete). It is clear that the cladding spread the fire.
    Charges of manslaughter, or at the very least reckless endangerment, need to be laid now against those responsible, for ordering this cladding.

    An eye witness report:

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/video.cfm?c_id=1503076&gal_cid=1503076&gallery_id=177629

    Justice delayed is justice denied.

    Theresa May’s so called inquiry is a deliberate delaying tactic, in effect whatever the inquiry findings, it will be a whitewash.

    People have died.
    Those responsible for making the decisions that led up to those deaths need to be charged right now, and made to argue their defence in a court of law.

    The public should not have wait for the deliberations of an inquiry, the findings of which may result in the laying charges against those found to be allegedly responsible, at some distant time, some years in the future.

    There are more than enough grounds.

    • David says:

      Yes I agree,on the face of things the passive and active fire safety requirements of the New Zealand Building Code seem sound,however the installation and maintenance of the systems are questionable. Also the common belief and confidence that a sprinkler system will reliably suppress a fire is misplaced.Fire protection measures are multi layered and work in unisum ,it’s not as simple as installing a sprinkler system and all well be fine.
      When undertaking renovations it is common to stumble across fire protection/suppression systems so incorrectly installed or often not I stalled at all is frightening.

  8. Pat O'Dea says:

    A criminal inquiry needs to be launched by the police immediately.

    Why is this not being done?

    In any other mass killing, the UK police would be raiding the houses of those even remotely possibly, responsible and dragging them out in their nightclothes in the early hours, and holding them, with or with out charges.

    • saveNZ says:

      @ Pat – the criminal charges have not been bought yet, because the flammable cladding was legal in a Tory government.

      Just like leaky building here, which was signed off by council and the cladding approved by BRANZ a government agency.

      And the CTV building that collapsed due to faulty engineering signed off.

      And Pike River that allowed a lethal mine to operate, kill 29 people and not even have any reasonable rescue attempt or plan by management. They were just left to die.

      Pike River is actually worse than Grenfell from that point of view, because at least the fire service tried to rescue people at Grenfell. With Pike River the management and police stopped the rescue attempt ensuring the men would all die.

    • Pat O'Dea says:

      Q: Is the right way, a public inquiry?

      A: That’s not the right way, the right way is an inquest.

      Interview with Sophie Khan,
      Solicitor for Lakanal House fire victims.

      @0:25 minutes

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZjL67VO8zs

  9. mary_a says:

    In this regard, given what seems inferior standards of many buildings in the city, Auckland is a potential tragedy just waiting to happen!

    • saveNZ says:

      As far as I am aware we have pretty good fire and sprinkler rules in NZ.

      NZ issues are more about the structural soundness, mould and engineering as well as corporate manslaughter in workplaces like mines. They are probably much worse than UK!

      • David says:

        As I stated earlier, an estimated 90% of commercial buildings and residential units do not comply with the New Zealand Building Code and that means all buildings whether built prior to the Building Act or last week.
        It’s referred to as our next leaking Building crisis ,the costs of correcting the situation will be enormous,therefore little will be done until a tragedy happens.

  10. Takere says:

    Rental properties need to be reclassified and brought under the Contracts Act as a “Commercial Activity”,not as an “Asset” classed tax classification as it is now. The law(s) are different and its why there is a Tenancy Tribunal to mitigate the owner’s “obligations” whereas if they were to be treated the same as a “Business” there are “Laws” that apply eg; A product has to be “fit for purpose” under the Consumers Guarantees Act.Which at the moment does not apply legally to the “Asset Class” Rental Properties are captured in.

  11. dave brown says:

    Grenfell is the result of the failure of actual capitalism, not the free market.
    Free market capitalism was replaced by state monopoly capitalism a century ago and since then we have had a series of depressions and wars to divide and destroy the rise of the proletariat to power.
    State monopoly capitalism (aka imperialism) imposes prices at the point of a gun, nothing to do with market signals.
    ALL of the governments, neo-liberal or Keynesian, since the 1970s have deliberately attacked the historic gains of workers to cut wages and state social spending to pay for the crisis of falling profits.
    That is why income inequality has risen dramatically and the welfare state has been bled to death.
    The capitalist state cannot be taken over by the majority to stop the mass murders of Grenfells and colonial wars.
    This has been obvious since the sacking of Paris to smash the Commune in 1871.
    There is only one solution, socialist revolution!
    For the working masses to live, capitalism must die!

  12. Mike in Auckland says:

    Government and MoBIE intend to make fire safety rules in the Building Code less prescriptive, according to this consultation document:

    ‘Consultation on fire safety proposals – Changes to the Building Code’, May 2017:

    http://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/building-construction/consultations/fire-review/discussion-document-fire-safety-proposals.pdf

    From page 11:

    ‘Why make the proposed changes?’

    “In 2012 Building Code clause C3.4 was revised to provide quantified measures of internal surface finishes when exposed to fire. The clause is prescriptive and provides no alternative to a benchmarked fire test. The clause is not only highly conservative but is also complicated by exemptions and modifications within the Acceptable Solutions and Verification Method for surface finishes for different types of use.

    The rigidity of this Code clause caused concerns for multiple stakeholders. In particular, suppliers of surface finishes such as timber linings considered this rigidity to be prohibitive.”

    Maybe this needs some attention?! We have heard such talk before, in the 1990s, have we not? Or are they a bit better advised by experts now?

  13. Mike in Auckland says:

    Besides of the political and social issues, some stuff to study:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grenfell_Tower_fire

    Materials that appear to have been used:
    https://www.celotex.co.uk/products/rs5000
    http://www.arconic.com/aap/europe/en/product_category.asp?cat_id=1843
    http://www.arconic.com/aap/en/home.asp (little detail) – made by:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arconic

    But apparently a different kind of composite to this one:
    http://www.symonite.co.nz/products/reynobond/

    Or not?
    http://www.symonite.co.nz/media/files/reynobond/Reynobond-Catalogue.pdf

    So it is being used here in NZ Inc. also it seems!

    I trust our media are asking the hard questions to builders, suppliers and local authorities now?!

    • David says:

      Bit of a problem,our media is pretty superficial with the exception of the witch hunt s to sell copy.The complexities of the Buiding Act and the C documents ( fire regs) are less than black and white as compliance is a minimum standard and performance based.The Building practitioners professionalism varies greatly, most builders struggle with fire requirements some don’t even read or understand a fire report.Building Consenting Authorities are patchy as well, approving consents without basic information regarding fire protection systems.The she’ll be right is alive and well.