My tribe’s so much better than yours!

On Friday evening, outside Camden town hall, council leader Georgia Gould defended the decision to evacuate the nearby Chalcots estate due to safety concerns. Gould seemed genuinely worried, and told the BBC that Camden had been first in the queue to test its cladding, finding on Thursday that the panels fitted were “not to the standard that we had commissioned” and announcing they would be removed. At a public meeting the same night, Gould says residents raised other safety concerns she’d been unaware of: Camden council and the London fire brigade assessed the block, and the council was advised to evacuate.

The contrast to the actions of Kensington and Chelsea council following the fire at Grenfell Tower the previous week could hardly be more stark.

Rather missing the point that this Labour council did in fact install the same cladding. So, you know, it’s not all about evil Tories, is it?

20 comments on “My tribe’s so much better than yours!

  1. Sajid Javid said in parliament that 1,000 fire doors were missing from five tower blocks in Camden.

    http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/hundreds-of-fire-doors-were-missing-from-tower-blocks-evacuated-in-camden-a3573551.html

    There seem to be only a couple of reasons so many doors could be missing.

    They were never installed. In which case Camden Council are attempting to murder their vibrant residents.

    They were installed but then stolen, presumably by the residents to sell on, and then the council didn’t bother replacing them as they knew they would be stolen again. That would make the council appear to be blaming the residents, and perhaps by extension the Grenfell residents, as being complicit in their own troubles. That they can’t be trusted with nice things.

    Either way Camden Council is going to come out of this looking bad and John McDonnell an even bigger twat than he already is.

  2. @ Magnus,

    You’re assuming rather rashly that the “tories” will be able to make political capital out of it.

    “not to the standard that we had commissioned”: how is that even possible? Who signed it off? Those words are so damning, the mind just boggles. It is either incompetence of the highest order or corruption (my money is on the latter).

  3. “There is an opportunity now for councils to widen their hollowed-out remit, properly caring for people in need and avoiding the immiseration that austerity and closed services bring. Councils can and should be bigger, and more involved in people’s lives. “

    Councils failed in their main duty, so let’s have bigger councils!

  4. “not to the standard we had commissioned”?
    So you didn’t take a look see before you got your chequebook out?

  5. “not to the standard we had commissioned”.
    So you didn’t take a look see before you got your chequebook out?

    We are all assuming she is telling the truth here. Will anyone in the media bother to check, given its a Labour council?

  6. There’s a point in that excerpt that jogged a memory.
    ” London fire brigade assessed the block”
    I haven’t done building conversions for a fair while, but when I did them in Camden it was the Fire Brigade did the fire certification, not the council building control. I seem to remember it was the same for Westminster & possibly K & C. So the Fire Brigade may have been the ones OK’d Grenfell.
    Anyone know different? Fire certifications tend to be toughies. You can get dispensations on building control. Fire Cert is very rigorous..

  7. Rob: “We are all assuming she is telling the truth here. Will anyone in the media bother to check, given its a Labour council?”

    She is the daughter of the late Philip Gould, a leading Labour spin doctor and instrumental in the media manipulation leading to the 1997 election victory, so almost certainly not.

  8. The contrast to the actions of Kensington and Chelsea council following the fire at Grenfell Tower the previous week could hardly be more stark.

    RBK&C actions are in the wake of Grenfell Tower, whereas Camden actions are in reaction to Grenfell Tower.

    Stark contrast? Yes, starkly different situation.

  9. bis,

    Apparently you don’t need a Fire Brigade certificate anymore (I assume this applies to blocks of flats):

    All businesses must have a Fire Risk Assessment. This is the cornerstone of fire protection in your business and, along with your Fire Safety Log Book, is one of the first things that a fire authority inspecting officer will ask to see if they inspect your premises.

    Your Fire Risk Assessment doesn’t have to be written down unless you have more than 4 employees, however we would always recommend having it documented for easy reference.

    Your Fire Risk Assessment must:

    – Be reviewed regularly
    – Be documented if there are 5 or more employees in the business or
    – the premises require a licence or
    – the fire brigade has issued an alterations notice saying you must do so
    – The fire risk assessment document must record main findings and any action to be taken

    You don’t have to use a professional fire risk assessor if you choose not to, but anyone who carries out a Fire Risk Assessment in your business needs to be confident they can:

    And guess when this came in:

    All fire safety legislation in England and Wales is gathered under ‘The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005’, which was designed to simplify the existing legal requirements at the time. All premises used for non-domestic purposes, with a few small exceptions, fall under these regulations.

  10. Finally- we are getting to the bit in the Grenfell farrago that is interesting: Irrespective of the works done and the certification of the cladding, any issues that impacted on fire safety should have been picked up by the risk assessment.

    These happen on a regular basis (dependent upon the risks posed by the building- in a tower block my old place managed it was every six months), and they are expected to cover the finishings and fittings as well as the structure.

    Regular items seen on inspections I’ve seen are:
    > fire door edge strips need replacing
    >Release mechanisms for same
    > replacement doors where they are behind standards
    >Edge strips for bin chutes
    >Signage
    > review of refurbed units within blocks
    and so on.

    These checks are commissioned on behalf of the landlord. Now, who is responsible for completing actions identified (and you get them graded by urgency- ‘consider’,’please do’, ‘must do now’ etc.) is usually straight forward. In Grenfell, where it appears that the managing agents (this TMOP shower) and the asset owners (the council?) are different, this may not be the case.

    I suspect, that if responsibility for actions is divided in any way- there will have been a bunch of remedial actions that have failed to be addressed.

  11. I thought the reaction of Camden Council was rather a panic. Couldn’t they have started the evacuation the next morning, giving people a bit of time to prepare? They could always have had safety people patrolling the building overnight.

  12. On reflection: the point of Camden’s action was presumably the search for party advantage by encouraging an atmosphere of panic over the whole business: more grist to the Beeb’s mill.

  13. Evacuating buildings because they have unsafe cladding is the equivalent of putting passengers into lifeboats because the sister ship has sunk, rather than making for the nearest port. It’s madness.

  14. ” the point of Camden’s action was presumably the search for party advantage by encouraging an atmosphere of panic over the whole business”

    I don’t think thats likely to be the case, I think its more that people no longer have a sense of perspective about risk. Everyone has been treated like a moron by H&S culture for so long now, they are unable to assess actual risk any more. As said, allowing the residents of Camden’s tower blocks to stay in situ for a few more days until arrangements could be made for the buildings to be evacuated would not be a serious risk. Especially if extra fire safety measures were put in place for that short period.

    But no-one can make that call any more they just panic and assume the worst will happen in 5 seconds time. Plus they’ll have lawyers screaming in their ears about insurance and liability etc. And again, no one wants responsibility any more. The responsible thing for a leader to do in such circumstances is make a sensible call, and assume the responsibility for it. No one will do that nowadays, and look to offload responsibility immediately onto someone else. That is what the Camden response is, a massive case of pass the risk parcel as quickly as possible, regardless of what is best for the actual people on the ground.

  15. Jim: I think its more that people no longer have a sense of perspective about risk.

    Good point.

    It’s the obverse of Timmy’s post recently about the overturned Bangla-tanker. We here have become so hag-ridden by the precautionary principle (and its stable mate, arse-covering) that evacuating buildings at dead of night doesn’t seem disproportionate.

  16. “We here have become so hag-ridden by the precautionary principle (and its stable mate, arse-covering) that evacuating buildings at dead of night doesn’t seem disproportionate”

    A dispassionate risk assessment would conclude that a panicky evacuation at night is far more likely to end up in loss of life and/or limb than a couple of extra days in a potentially fire risk building.

  17. Better still, treat people like grown ups, explain the risks and steps being taken to mitigate those risks and let them decide if they want to be evacuated. Let’s stop this infantilisation of society.

  18. @BiND

    And let the devil take the hindmost.

    The more I see of the news of late, the more I think Darwin needs to thin our herd

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