The independent London newspaper

Landlords should revive robust systems for the involvement of tenants

30 June, 2017

• WOULD tenants really want to trust some of the same contractors to return to install sprinklers without a sea-change in the way these projects are managed (Our towers must have sprinklers, July 23)?

Early indications are that the public inquiry will itemise shortcomings in design, materials, “detailing”, workmanship, unstopped penetrations through firewalls, unprotected gas services, outdated building regulations and, above all, a lack of supervision in a number of boroughs.

Already it is clear that the fire in Grenfell Tower would not have taken so many lives had the recent private spending of public money not been made.

The underlying fault was not “years of neglect” but years of neoliberalism, the prevailing regime under which work to Grenfell Tower and others across the land was carried out.

Thirty-seven years of neoliberal governments have brought us privatisation, deregulation, cost-cutting and the atomisation of tenants under which they cease to be respected as a community and are downgraded to isolated “customers”.

Under this regime, decision making, power, responsibility and risk are concentrated, wherever possible, in the hands of a few, mostly private, individuals in exchange for monetary rewards.

When things go wrong scapegoats are paid off and companies are simply junked, then new individuals are headhunted to be paid at a yet-more-exorbitant rate. It suits such executives, having trousered the pay-off from one failure, to simply move onto another at an increased salary.

The alternative, democratic culture used to spread the decision-making, power, responsibility and risk among democratically accountable councillors and tenants for the benefit and satisfaction of all.

The one thing we know for certain about the circumstances that led to the Grenfell tragedy is that the documented warnings of the tenants were repeatedly ignored.

Surely, it has been brought home to us now that decisions concerning our homes are too important to be left to the “few”, motivated only by greed.

Landlords should revive robust systems for the involvement of tenants. The next government should put in place a legislative framework that establishes the right of all tenants, both public and private, to hold their landlords to account.

Tollington Park, N4


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