‘Red tape’ that saves lives
Andrew Bosi says Grenfell Tower revealed living conditions that would shame a developing country
30 June, 2017 — By Andrew Bosi
FOR decades now, received wisdom has been to equate any form of regulation with unnecessary red tape. Planners have been standing in the way of development, the private sector is good and the public sector bad, and low taxation essential for the health of the economy. If money has to be raised the favoured means are the most regressive: VAT, insurance premium tax and even council tax.
When I paid income tax at 34p in the pound, rather than 20p, and before the nation began living so long into retirement, councils were funded well enough to employ planners who wrote planning briefs and building control officers who enforced standards of construction and maintenance. They also employed housing managers as social housing was all in council ownership – no leaseholders anxious to contain costs.
Nowadays, the only way a planning brief is written is if there is a developer to write it, with a view to setting out the development scheme he or she has in mind. No development interest, no planning brief. And no one to challenge estimates of viability when the costs just don’t quite stretch to providing affordable homes.
There is no one to draw up building control guidelines, let alone oversee their enforcement or even tip off the fire brigade. The idea that a new regulation must displace two or three old ones is like saying your super new fire door on the first floor must come at the expense of removing the fire doors on the second and third floors.
The result of the general election, in particular in London, demonstrated that younger people in particular have had enough of austerity. The government continued to preach the virtue of living within our means, until the fire.
The fact is that we were not living. We thought we were just about managing, until we found that conditions for the least well off in our society would shame a developing country.
It is time to call a halt to deregulation, and reinstate public sector control of regulation.
• Andrew Bosi was an Islington councillor and member of the planning committee from 1990-98 and of the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority from 1992-98.