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The alarm has been raised: we must act on fire safety

22 June, 2017

Grenfell Tower

IT is to be hoped that within days the council will be able to say the cladding fixed to tower blocks in Adelaide Road is not the same as that which led to the Grenfell Tower disaster.

However, the council, as a landlord with a duty of care for its thousands of tenants, must immediately reassess fire safety measures throughout its estates.

Are fire doors fitted in every corridor? Are front doors fire doors? Smoke alarms and other alarm systems, are they in place? Fire extinguishers? Corridors kept uncluttered.

Without wishing to finger-point or to probe the past, the council should now learn from the Kensington disaster.

But the installation of proper equipment and ensuring that there is daily good quality maintenance is a massive and costly project. Caretakers may have to be re-introduced on a large scale. Councillors can only think of their legal and moral responsibilities now that Grenfell has sounded the warning bell. To our knowledge they have not invited a public discussion on this. They should be willing to make urgent overtures to Whitehall, send deputations to ministers – ask, for instance, for special powers to borrow money on the open market to transform their estates and, especially, install sprinklers. This is a cross-party matter.

It can no longer be said: “We did not know.”

Ten minutes for a man’s life

Lawrence Bond

AN investigation by a coroner’s court is as thorough as the officers who conduct it.

The fact that an inquest into the tragic death of Lawrence Bond lasted simply 10 minutes, and was by any standards the most cursory imaginable, suggests something went terribly askew in the investigatory process.

We know that a middle-aged man, who was seriously ill with heart and lung conditions, was nonetheless expected to register as unemployed at the Kentish Town Jobcentre. He was told he was fit enough to work – and he then collapsed and died at a nearby bus stop.

These facts lead to all kinds of questions: How did the Jobcentre determine – despite the medical evidence, laid out by the coroner – he was fit to work? Who said what to him? Is it possible his interview at the centre brought on a seizure that precipitated his death? This wasn’t aired at the inquest.

The only personal note struck by the coroner was to describe him as a “retired” engineer, a description that didn’t fit the circumstances.

Is it possible the coroner’s briefing documents were inadequate? Did the Department of Work and Pensions supply all the informa­tion? Was anything kept back?

In an almost ghostly fashion the inquest seemed to bypass the publicity in the press and TV about the tragedy as if it hadn’t taken place.

Those concerned about the life and death of Lawrence Bond must feel the inquest begs too many questions.

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