CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

A welcome spark of defiance from the Town Hall

25 January, 2018

Cladding being removed at a Chalcots estate tower last year

IN putting a stop on payments to the company which put up the flammable cladding on the Chalcots estate the council is acting both sensibly and courageously.

It could be said that the council is acting on safe ground contractually in that the cladding and internal defects – according to the Fire Service – endangered the lives of the tenants, making it unlikely that the company in question would challenge their action.

Even so, the council’s decision showed a spark of defiance that some might think has not been in evidence in recent years.

The council hope to spend the millions of pounds saved on new and safer cladding.

But they should not have had to do this had the government kept its promises.

In the hectic days following the Grenfell disaster the panicking Mrs May and her ministers poured out all sorts of promises – they would rehouse all the tenants made homeless by the fire and would recoup the cost of new cladding local authorities felt necessary to instal.

Seven months later the promises lie broken and forgotten – by the government. But not by the Grenfell campaigners or the governing Labour group in Camden.

In the particular political climate of the past decade or so, governments seem to live by hunting for votes in what can be called “headline politics” – think of an idea, never mind whether it is feasible or not, and spin it for headlines in sympathetic newspapers, all for electoral consumption.

This would explain the hasty and unquantified promises made following the Grenfell inferno.

But the root cause of Grenfell as well as the cladding scandal in the UK – a stingy Conservative council in Kensington and Chelsea as well the Private Finance Initiative contracts, conceived by John Major, leapt on as a good financial wheeze by Gordon Brown – is now coming home to roost.

The PFI scheme that was used to refurbish the Chalcots estate in 2006 resulted in poor workmanship that has been exposed by this newspaper.

For more than 10 years the council – using taxpayers’ contributions – has been meeting payment demands under a questionable PFI contract for the Chalcots estate.

The tenants appear to be seeking answers to some very awkward questions which they are fully entitled to do. For instance, who “signed off” the work once it had been completed?

Whoever it was, would have been – hopefully – in the employ of the council.

And if the standard of workmanship was so bad why was this not noticed by the plethora of council officials involved in the scheme or the political representatives responsible for the project?

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