An Open Letter to James Brokenshire, signed by over 100 organisations, MPs, councillors, architects and other relevant experts, and by residents of blocks affected by this national disaster, will be delivered with a demonstration at Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government between 1 and 2 pm on 17 October. The letter will demand immediate recladding of flammable homes, and that residents must be kept safe both from fire and from cold, until this work is completed. During the re-cladding process tower blocks can be left freezing without cladding and insulation for months or even years.
The letter will be delivered by tower block residents from both social housing and private blocks, including residents of social housing blocks in Salford that have been denied access to government funding.
They will be supported on the day by Fuel Poverty Action, who initiated the Open Letter and organised this Day of Action,and by members of the Grenfell community, trade unionists, housing organisations, and many others who fear more deaths this winter.
Demonstrators will then go on to an event at the House of Commons from 3 - 5 pm hosted by Grenfell MP Emma Dent Coad.
Also part of the Day of Action are a solidarity demonstration outside the UK embassy in Brussels, organised by the Right to Energy Coalition, and a public meeting organised Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations focusing on how residents’ organisations are being bypassed and disempowered, even as everyone acknowledges that residents’ voices are key to keeping buildings safe.
Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action says:
No one can claim that tower block residents are responsible for the cladding on their buildings, yet they are the ones who are paying for this disaster in UK housing, with their health, with their food money or savings, and with their lives. No wonder so many people are saying ‘No - never again! No more deaths from fire, no more deaths from cold!.’ The pressure on the Secretary of State will only increase until the government fulfills its promise to keep people safe in the homes where they live and put their children to sleep.
Matt Wrack, of the Fire Brigades Union has supported this initiative:
The Fire Brigades Union called for a universal ban on these flammable materials. Many firefighters and residents of high rise residential buildings wanted more comprehensive action taken against flammable cladding. Flammable cladding needs to be removed and banned. But it also needs to be replaced before winter. If insulation is removed without being replaced, some of the most vulnerable members of our society will be left freezing, in poor health or in poverty due to extortionate heating bills. That’s why this Open Letter is so crucial.
Elizabeth Okpo from Spruce Court in Salford says:
We still have the cladding on our building and other issues just the same as Grenfell Tower and we are living in terror. I look at the children in our block, and I can’t bear to think of what could happen. I go to bed with a bible, and wake up thanking God I am still alive. They have only taken the cladding off the bottom three floors, and on those floors people were freezing last winter because there was no insulation.
The Open Letter can be seen online here; the final list of signatories will be available on Tuesday 16 October.