UK Government cover up of dangerous cladding ‘one of the major scandals of our time’ and further evidence of why we’re not better together

Stephanie Barwise delivers her opening statement to the inquiry (picture: Grenfell Tower Inquiry)

In Inside Housing today and featuring across news media:

In shocking opening statements delivered by lawyers acting for the bereaved and survivors today, governments stretching over a 30-year period were accused of repeated “deliberate cover ups” of the risks of dangerous cladding.

Painting a picture of more than 40 years of failures to act on potential warnings, lawyers said that the fire came as a result of “an unintended consequence of a political ideology” where “deregulation… enabled industry to write its own rules”.

https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/news/government-cover-up-of-dangerous-cladding-one-of-the-major-scandals-of-our-time-lawyers-tell-grenfell-inquiry-73592

In Scotland, there has been no Grenfell, nor will there be.

We get the evidence for that now and again. On August 1st 2021, BBC Scotland reported:

Residents of a multi-storey block of flats in Glasgow had to be evacuated after a fire broke out on the 17th floor. Fire crews were called to the block on Lincoln Avenue in the Knightswood area of the city at 04:08. Residents were safely removed from the building by the fire service and there were no casualties. A total of nine fire appliances attended the incident which took about five hours to bring under full control. A spokeswoman for Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said: “Operations control mobilised nine appliances to Lincoln Avenue where the fire was affecting the 17th floor of the multi-storey block of flats.” The spokeswoman said residents from the 17th and 18th floors were removed and the fire has been extinguished.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-58046347

There’s been some confusion regarding Grenfell. The Glasgow flats above also had flammable cladding, one floor did burn, but crucially, it did not surge up and produce a towering inferno.

Why?

The avoidance of the ‘Chimney Effect’ in Scotland:

Reader Gordon Darge wrote for us in January 2020:

As a chartered architect in Scotland for 40 years I can confirm that the Building Regulations Technical Standards Scotland have for two decades required cavity fire barriers

2.4 Cavities
Mandatory Standard
Standard 2.4
Every building must be designed and constructed in such a way that in the event of an outbreak of fire within the building, the spread of fire and smoke within cavities in its structure and fabric is inhibited.

This includes for example, around the head, jambs and sill of an external door or window opening, at all floor levels and building corners etc. to prevent the spread of fire in building cavities. This would have prevented the spread of the fire at Grenfell Tower.

This is difficult and expensive to achieve and I can only guess that in England they did not follow the Scottish model because Westminster and the Tories were led by the vested interests of big business, property developers and large construction firms.

For anyone wanting more info see:

https://www.gov.scot/publications/building-standards-technical-handbook-2019-domestic/2-fire/2-4-cavities/

And in December 2019, we were able to report:

In a parliamentary question at Holyrood on Monday, David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Labour) asked the Scottish Government what plans it has to ban combustible materials on the outside of high-rise or high-risk buildings.

The answer was reassuring contrast to the lack of comparable action in England:

From 1 May 2005, Scottish building regulations have required cladding on domestic buildings with any storey over 18 metres to be non-combustible or to pass a large-scale fire test (BS 8414 and BR 135).

The Scottish Government have just completed a review of building regulations. Advice from the national and international panel of experts was that there was no need to change mandatory standard 2.7 that requires fire spread on the external walls of a building to be inhibited. Guidance that came into force on 1 October embraces a range of measures to improve fire safety which will make Scotland’s high-rise buildings even safer. These include:

• Further restricting the use of combustible materials on taller buildings, applying provisions that previously applied to buildings over 18 metres to all buildings over 11 metres to align with fire-fighting from the ground;

• Tighter controls over the combustibility of cladding systems on hospitals, residential care buildings, entertainment and assembly buildings regardless of building height;

• Introducing evacuation sound alerts, floor and dwelling indicator signs and two escape stairs in all new high-rise domestic buildings.

We have also made a commitment to introduce a mandatory requirement to install sprinkler systems in all new build flats, certain multi-occupancy dwellings and social housing from 2021.

And before that:

  1. From the Scottish Government news website in February 2019:

‘New rules to reduce deaths in household fires have been announced today, with improved standards introduced for fire and smoke alarms in Scottish homes.  The improved standards will mean every home in the country must have a smoke alarm fitted in the living room or lounge, and in circulation spaces such as hallways and landings. The changes also mean every kitchen must have a heat alarm, and the alarms will have to be interlinked so they can be heard throughout the property. There must also be a carbon monoxide alarm where there are fixed combustion appliances. The new rules mean the standard which currently applies to private rented property and newbuilds is being extended to all homes in Scotland. The regulations come after a consultation carried out following the tragic events at Grenfell Tower in London in June 2017.’

https://news.gov.scot/news/new-fire-safety-standards-for-scottish-homes

  1. From BBC UK News in December 2018:

‘Fire safety checks across England have fallen by 42% over the last seven years, according to the new watchdog for fire and rescue services. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services says brigades do a good job in emergencies, but amid cuts have reduced “vital” prevention work. The watchdog said the number of audits carried out by firefighters dropped from 84,575 in 2010-11 to 49,423 in 2017-18.’https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-46627987?ns_mchannel=social&ocid=socialflow_twitter&ns_source=twitter&ns_campaign=bbcnews

  1. From the Scottish Government, published in August 2018:

‘The number of fire safety audits carried out in 2015/16 was 9,829. Most of the premises audited by the SFRS have relatively adequate fire safety measures and are categorised as ‘broadly compliant’ (9,180 audits: 93%). While 79% (7,779 audits) of the premises audited have average or low levels of relative risk.’

In Scotland 2015/16, 9 827 safety audits were carried out. England has 10 times the population and so, all things being equal, might have been expected to have seen 98 270 fire safety audits. However, in 2017/18, England saw only 49 423 fire safety audits, just over half the number. Fire safety audits in Scotland are thus almost twice as common, per head of population, in Scotland as in England.

Why? Cost-cutting Tory local authorities? Cost-cutting Tory central government?

  1. Two earlier reports perhaps still of interest here:

‘Stricter [fire] safety rules leave Scotland out of danger’ The English media spot the difference. Did BBC Scotland?

‘High rise fires in Scotland at lowest level in eight years

Stephanie Barwise delivers her opening statement to the inquiry (picture: Grenfell Tower Inquiry)

11 thoughts on “UK Government cover up of dangerous cladding ‘one of the major scandals of our time’ and further evidence of why we’re not better together

  1. Ah but!!! This excellent article will I am sure be reported on the Scottish BBC 1830 news tonight as yet another example of good governance in Scotland. They have a good news report every day as you all know. (I must stop drinking it’s causing hallucinations). 🧚🏻‍♀️🧚🏻‍♀️🧚🏿‍♂️🧜🏾‍♂️Fairies, what fairies.

    Liked by 7 people

  2. With the greatest of respect John it is the “unintended consequence of a political ideology” where “deregulation… enabled industry to write its own rules” which is pivotal.
    It was was not the “rules” and technicalities of construction which mattered in the case of Grenfell but how they were policed and enforced.

    In Scotland, Fire Brigade involvement in the planning process in Scotland is rarely seen but is included in the entire process from initial building approval through consent and construction to final inspection to commissioning. This also used to be the case in England, irrespective of their differing building standards
    Meanwhile..
    Grenfell was not simply a victim of the Tory “We’ve had enough of red tape” mantra, the defunded LFB were bypassed, building inspectors were bypassed, the contractor was allowed to self-certify his own work, and Kensington Tory Councillors and “Friends” facilitated all of this despite being the client, then the unthinkable actually happened.

    There are Tories at National and LA level who would, were they anywhere else, be currently serving a lengthy prison sentence for their role in mass murder if not manslaughter, with their vast wealth confiscated to “compensate” the victims.
    Not in Tory Britain…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ‘It was was not the “rules” and technicalities of construction which mattered in the case of Grenfell.’

      Was it not the rules in England not requiring the prevention of the chimney effect. The lawyer was wrong?

      Like

      1. John & Bob
        One could argue that technically correct
        But as most of my adult life as a medium sized contractor
        I refrain from going into contractual and specification matters
        But will put in a simple lay man terms using 4 words only and i assure you governments and clients along with suppliers and contactors are well aware of the following 4 words
        ” Cat Away,Mice play “

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I realised what you were highlighting John, but you missed the point.
        More stringent requirements than Building Regs. may be imposed by the Fire Authorities to mitigate a perceived risk, they are not constrained by the Regs in Scotland or England.

        By strangling LFB and Building Inspectors, Kensington’s Tories were able to ride roughshod over the checks and balances they perceived as “Red-Tape” by dint of limits of time limits built into the planning process.
        By finally granting the cladding installer the right to self-certify their own work, the last checks were subverted, then all the risks came home to roost in a giant and horrendous inferno and loss of life.

        With having no guaranteed fire appliance access and an inoperative fire main, Grenfell should have been halted at the planning stage, irrespective of Building Regs. But this was the Tory Borough of Kensington, nod nod wink wink, and not one of them in a prison cell.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s just sickening to the core how the UKEngGov. have actively covered up the risks to peoples’ lives in order to keep private profiteers in business and for as long as 40 years, how utterly criminal. So this means that several governements, Labour, Tory and the LibDems are all culpable. Horrendous. The people are collateral, private profit before lives, and the terrifying things is, the current regime in WM in London still operate on that ideology, even more so.

    What a terrifying place the UK is and it’s getting worse not better. BREXIT means more DEREGULATION, that is the key here and any regulations that exist right now, are being destroyed before peoples’ eyes, my it’s really cold in the UKOK today. Brrr.

    Run Scotland, run for your life!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. From a 2017 BBC News article entitled ‘How 1999 Scottish tower block fire led to regulation change’ (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-40406057 ):

    ‘Following the Grenfell Tower, 60 high-rise buildings in 25 local authorities in England have failed fire safety tests so far. But no local authority or housing association tower blocks in Scotland have been found to use the same kind of cladding.

    ‘In Scotland, a change to building regulations in 2005 made it mandatory for builders to ensure that any external cladding “inhibited” fire spreading. The new regulations were introduced following a fatal fire in a Scottish tower block in 1999.’

    The BBC article tells us that the then local Labour MP, Brian Donohoe for Central Ayrshire, said at the time he believed there was something “quite wrong” in the use of the cladding. Mr Donohoe was also concerned that tower blocks across the UK which used similar cladding could be at risk, and pushed for a parliamentary inquiry into the extent of the problem.

    Mr Donohoe is quoted: “Of course, the chief executive here [North Ayrshire Council] and also the MSPs by that time were in a position to, and did, enforce change in Scotland”. The benefit of devolution!

    “Which is why we we’re in the position that we have no properties in Scotland that have been identified as being failures in that respect.”

    ‘Mr Donohoe added that a series of UK governments had been “remiss in their responsibilities and their duties” to people who lived in high-rise properties in England.

    “[The problem] was identified but nothing was being done. It’s really a disaster that has been created as a consequence of inaction of all government and I blame that as being the main reason why we had that fire at Grenfell.”

    Liked by 3 people

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