Still reeling from the Grenfell Tower tragedy - and where it wasn’t before, the word ‘reeling’ is now apt - we have this week woken up first to the news of another terror attack and then just days later to a toothless Queen’s speech written without the guaranteed backing of the DUP (which, just to underscore how topsy-turvy everything is, many people now actually want).
It is hard to take it all in, and what makes it all the more depressing is that the lunatics really do seem to have taken over the asylum.
Darren Osborne, the man who mowed down innocent Muslims outside the Finsbury Park Mosque, is reportedly a drunken, racist loser who initially planned to target a Muslim march in London - but arrived too late having fallen asleep in the white hire van he used in the attack after being thrown out of a pub. You couldn’t make it up.
Then you’ve got the cast of incompetents who not only failed to respond adequately in the days after the Grenfell disaster but continue to assiduously swerve any responsibility. As our reporters who visited the scene this Monday discovered, there was no visible council presence.
The leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council Nick Paget-Brown even appeared to blame the residents, claiming “there was not a collective view that all the flats should be fitted with sprinklers”. What a disgraceful thing to say - and then, of course, there was the Maybot. Where’s the empathy, the moral backbone, the leadership?
People need to come out from under their rocks and address the critical issue of exactly what role the cladding played and how many other buildings could be fatally compromised. They must also urgently review fire safety regulations and building specification standards - and I am not just talking about those involved in the delivery and maintenance of social housing.
This is an issue for the property industry as much as the construction industry and housing associations. It is also an issue for government, which is why it was so disappointing that much of the housing white paper was abandoned in the Queen’s speech - so much for hopes that Grenfell might move it higher up the political agenda.
— CIH (@CIHhousing) June 21, 2017
And what of the industry’s role? Some have suggested that Berkeley boss Tony Pidgley’s criticism of affordable housing quotas as he unveiled strong profits this week was poorly timed and ill-judged. I for one am not going to accuse him of being ‘tone deaf’ over Grenfell when St Edward, Berkeley’s JV with Prudential, has just sold 68 flats to the City of London Corporation reportedly at cost price to rehouse survivors.
That is more than a nice gesture - that is a remarkable act of generosity and should be applauded. The critics are looking down the wrong end of the telescope in my view. The debate should be over whether it is time to establish a national housebuilder rather than what companies such as Berkeley should be doing - especially when they are not just doing well, they are also doing good.
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