Grenfell costs hit half a billion

Georgina Andrews, is a member of the YCL’s Birmingham branch

Nearly four years since the Grenfell catastrophe, the public costs have surpassed £500 million following the announcement that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea had spent £406 million on its response and recovery work.

The amount is on top of the costs to the taxpayer of the continuing public inquiry, which reached £117 million by the end of March 2021; the majority of which was used on lawyers’ bills.

Between 2014 and 2016, flammable aluminium panels were supplanted by non-flammable zinc on the exterior of the Grenfell Tower due to £300,000 saved in a cost-cutting action amid the renovation of the 24-storey council block. The disparity between the refurbishment costs and response and recovery is gapingly obvious.

The inquiry has before determined that the plastic-filled substitutes fueled the fire on 14 June 2017, killing 72 people.

Estimates now foresee a total cost of £1 billion as a consequence of saving £300,000 on cladding.

Businesses implicated in the manufacturing of components used on the block and the builders have spent tens of millions of pounds on lawyers defending their oversight during an unfinished Metropolitan police investigation. Arconic, the company that manufactured the flammable cladding panels, had spent £30 million on consultants and lawyers by the end of 2019 following the disaster.

In a report from the council’s audit and transparency committee, it was declared that £105 million was relieved by grants from central government after it revealed the costs increasing from the fire to the end of March 2021.

It illustrated that in the subsequent two years after the fire, £57 million was spent on rehousing residents from the block and neighboring estates, £13 million on mental health support encompassing counselling for people in the community suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and £13 million was awarded in grants to people driven into destitution by the fire.

The biggest bulk spent after the disaster (£221 million) went on capital costs comprising obtaining properties to permanently rehouse victims. Furthermore, the council spent £6 million on legal costs and £5 million on consultants for itself.

While poor and working class residents were being blamed for not having “common sense” by the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg, it was the council and companies involved putting profits before human lives who have blood on their hands.

Following the disaster, the Tory government quickly mobilised hundreds of millions of pounds to support the Tory council against the immense costs. But the government did nothing to ensure another disaster never happens again, with many more tower blocks around Britain still containing combustible cladding. We have since faced the obscene reality of hearing about victims still living in temporary accommodation years after the disaster.

The lack of regard for working class peoples’ safety is a clear example of the depravity underlying capitalism. Capitalists do not care about anything other than profit, and it is this greed that led to the horrific deaths of 72 people. Ultimately, every decision made by capitalists and their lackeys is measured as a cost-benefit analysis, disregarding the importance of human life.

Capitalists have made it clear that they will not address the issue of safe housing. Therefore, it is the goal of all socialists to ensure that another Grenfell ever happens again.

Georgina Andrews

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