Almost exactly one month after the Grenfell disaster, Kensington and Chelsea Momentum held a meeting to commemorate the disaster’s victims, to discuss the political questions surrounding it, and to resolve on what action to take. It was our largest ever meeting.
The past two months have been an intensely political time for this borough, which has been transformed. In the general election, Momentum activist Emma Dent Coad won an historic victory in this borough, to the shock of many. But residents like myself were not surprised: in the pores of this rich man’s playground lie huge council estates, such as Grenfell. The appearance of uniform wealth is illusory, since fewer rich people take up much more space; frequently their vast mansions don’t even contain a single person!
The Grenfell disaster brought this reality crashing home to the whole country in a traumatic way. Campaigning with Momentum in the wake of the disaster has been a privilege, but also very upsetting, meeting many who’ve lost relatives and friends in the fire.
This all culminated in the Momentum meeting this week. We discussed the political context of the disaster, and the conclusions of this discussion are summed up in the resolution below, which was passed. Now we will attempt to pass this resolution in CLPs in order for it to be sent to the Labour national conference in September.
We also all agreed that we should get in touch with other Momentum groups and visit their meetings so that we can speak in them and seek solidarity. Comrades active in Momentum should raise this idea in their local group, and try to get a speaker from K&C Momentum to discuss the Grenfell disaster and the lessons from this tragedy. Comrades should also move the resolution below and explain it's already been passed by K&C.
Conference notes, that the Grenfell Action Group had been warning of the dangers to Grenfell tower for years, writing in November 2016 that:
“Only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO, and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders.”
However, no action whatsoever was taken by Kensington and Chelsea council, nor by the landlord Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, and residents were systematically ignored.
Conference also notes that:
- Kensington and Chelsea council has stockpiled £274m reserves, part of its policy of saving money through austerity cuts to fund tax rebates to residents in the highest council tax band, instead of investing in social housing
- Housing officials in the borough took roughly £55m in rent in 2016, but invested less than £40m back in council housing.
- Following the Lakanal House fire in 2009, none of the resulting fire safety recommendations have been implemented, and the promised review of fire regulations has never materialised.
- Four separate government ministers, including Gavin Barwell, then minister for housing and planning and now Theresa May’s top aide, received letters warning of inadequate fire regulations, all of which were ignored.
- Tory MPs voted against a Labour amendment to 2016 legislation that would oblige landlords to make their properties fit for human habitation, 72 of whom were landlords.
- Three fire stations in the vicinity were recently closed down as part of Boris Johnson’s cuts. Momentum KC notes firefighters were sent in with ‘inadequate equipment’, a high ladder arriving 30 mins after the first responders.
- The market and successive governments have totally failed to provide and build social housing, resulting in an acute housing crisis and that the acute shortage of housing has meant some victims of Grenfell have been reduced to sleeping in parks and cars.
Momentum Kensington and Chelsea therefore resolves to:
- Demand that the KCTMO be disbanded and all their properties brought back under public ownership and management.
- That the entire borough leadership resign.
- A criminal investigation begin immediately and all those responsible be brought to swift and severe justice. We believe that the victims be given legal representation paid for by the government.
- The immediate replacement of Judge Moore-Bick whose historic rulings have attempted to green light London's social cleansing and has stated he will conduct a limited inquiry
- That the long awaited fire safety review promised after Lakanal be immediately carried out and its decisions implemented. We also believe that the Fire Brigades Union should be represented in such a review.
- The immediate requisitioning of empty properties in the borough, with no compensation, to rehouse those made homeless.
- Full immigration amnesty for the undocumented survivors, with no time limits or data harvesting for later inhumane punishment.
- The nationalisation of the major construction companies and the concentration of their resources to rapidly refurbish existing social housing to an excellent fire safety standard and to build 500,000 extra social housing units per year to address the housing crisis, under the oversight and control of the construction trade unions and the tenants associations.
- The resignation of all four ministers who received letters warning about fire safety and did nothing, including Gavin Barwell.
Furthermore, we demand the resignation of the government.
In conclusion, Momentum K&C believes that Labour in the upcoming election should stand on an explicitly socialist programme, pledging to nationalise the construction industry and the major corporate landlords in order to ensure excellent housing for all.