Grenfell: a site of contempt

A decision to save £293,000 led to the loss of 72 lives and some former residents of Grenfell Tower are still struggling to get the help they need.

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Grenfell tower burns by Natalie Oxford, under Creative Commons BY 4.0 licence.

As the Chair of Grenfell United noted, “For the survivors and affected families it seems like one broken promise after another”.

Failures which led to a disaster

One aspect of this contempt was the complete lack of effective immediate response or leadership in the aftermath of the disaster — what Theresa May was to refer to, one week after the fire, as the failure of the state , local and national, to help people when they needed it most. This is the context of the observation that absence of clear strategies breeds lack of trust in authority , loss of confidence and a fear of the future that, sadly, is often well founded.

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Grenfell graffiti, taken by Duncan C, under Creative Commons BY-NC 4.0 licence.

The contempt displayed towards the residents before the fire has been maintained and reproduced after the fire.

The continuing contempt on the part of central and local Government has also been repeatedly evidenced in the series of lies, half-truths and broken promises made to the affected households in the aftermath of the fire.

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Grenfell logo by Carcharoth under Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0.

Breaking promises

Moreover, the promise of being offered like-for-like tenancies was repeatedly broken . As the Chair of Grenfell United noted, “For the survivors and affected families it seems like one broken promise after another”. Shortly By the end of May 2018, almost one year after the fire, it was stated only a third of the 210 families who had lived in the tower were in new, permanent accommodation, with another 72 neither in permanent nor temporary, but emergency, accommodation .

For the survivors and affected families it seems like one broken promise after another

A further focus of contempt is to be found in the struggles between survivors and residents on the one hand and central government on the other around the Inquiry. First, contrary to assurances from Government, local residents were not consulted before the appointment of Judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick to lead the Public Inquiry, in the light of which Justice4Grenfell concluded that this further compounds the survivors and residents sense of distrust in the official response to this disaster — and had they been consulted would likely have objected to the appointment.

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Close- up of Grenfell on fire. Copyright by Donna on Adobe Stock.

Fighting to be heard

Following this was the protracted process in which the limited initial Terms of Reference of the Inquiry were challenged and then largely confirmed, itself followed by the Inquiry’s formal December 2017 opening, at which the lack of direct or indirect representation of residents was the key point of contention . Only on the virtual eve of its opening did Teresa May confirm that there would be a Phase 2 of the Inquiry what which two panel members would be appointed. Of this partial, last-minute concession, Deborah Coles of INQUEST stated, at every stage, bereaved and traumatised families have had to fight to be at the centre of the inquiry .

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