It is probably far too early to learn all the lessons from the Grenfell Tower Disaster. The borough of Kensington & Chelsea has been widely criticised for their response to the tragedy, though some of this is the legitimate anger that the fire should not have spread in the way that it did. The cladding – cause of the fire spreading so quickly is now said to have been used in breach of building regulations.
Again the borough of Kensington & Chelsea appears not to have overseen the work properly – not ensuring that flame retardant panels were used – the cost difference being only £5,000. Furthermore, the council appears to have used rents in the last financial year (and previous years) to subsidise other services, including non-essential events, such as opera concerts. None of this looks good and smacks of a council that wished that North Kensington did not exist or could be just redeveloped out of its current existence.
The borough has been lambasted for its slow response to the disaster; it is hard to know if this is completely accurate or driven by the media pursuing a line of reporting. Whatever is the case the borough probably responded in the way any other council would respond – initially slowly as money and resources were put in place.
What is actually required is a coordinated central government response to such disasters. In these situations, central government should immediately step in with a dedicated team to guide all aspects, from the first rescue efforts all the way to providing food, clothing, shelter and subsequent re-housing. Some may think this excessive, but given the seemingly uncertain times in which we live this should be considered an effective use of money and resources. True, a lot of this already takes place, but the difference would be the immediate handover to central government; and also the use of local resources by central government. Such a response should be used in all significant events, from fire to flood. Also, the decision to deploy a central government should be taken by central government, not local authorities.
Some disasters cannot be prevented, (though sadly the Grenfell Tower Disaster was wholly preventable), but how we respond and the speed of the response can and should be strengthened.