Opinion: We need to work together to prevent more tragedies

Original article written by Stephen Fear for the Bristol Post on 4th July 2017 (also featured on SouthWestBusiness.co.uk on 4th July 2017):

Democracy is a great thing and I am by inclination a democrat but every time I put the TV on it seems there are rival politicians screaming at each other, often trying to make political capital out of disasters such as the Grenfell Tower tragedy, which is unforgivable.

Let’s face it, Grenfell can be attributed to failings by all political parties and maybe even individuals within those parties too?

Many of these towers were built in the 1960s under a Labour government and were then maintained (or not) throughout consecutive periods of Labour, Conservative, Lib/Labour and Conservative/Liberal Democrat administrations.

Nearly 60 years of neglect cannot clearly be attributed to any single political party.

The most important thing now is to rehouse the families affected and make sure that such a disaster never happens again.

I have been saying for over 30 years that all buildings over three floors should be fitted with sprinkler systems and that updated fire prevention should be at the very top of any refurbishment programme.

In my opinion, government must start building replacement apartment blocks immediately and demolish older, badly designed buildings ASAP.

If that means fast tracking planning approvals, so be it. We are talking about human life here, so let’s get on with it without any further delay.

Politicians from all parties would better serve the communities that voted for them by stopping politically inspired rhetoric and starting to work towards a solution.

Someone said to me the other day that “most names at Grenfell appeared to be foreign”, so what! Frankly, I was livid. What does it matter whether residents were born in the UK or not? Human life is human life whether that person is British, African, Asian, black, white, brown, or sky-blue pink! It doesn’t matter what religion they are either.

It is entirely possible to build attractive homes for people on lower incomes.

These homes do not have to be so dismally unattractive! We live in a supposedly enlightened age where we should all have access to modern healthcare and other life enhancing attributes and yet when it comes to the most fundamental thing of all, a home, many cannot find one, and if they do, are expected to live in depressing circumstances. Well, in 2017, in one of the richest nations on earth it just isn’t good enough. It is nowhere near good enough!

I was brought up on a council estate and I hated the ‘them & us’ emotion it created in me and others.

We need to accept that some of us own our homes and some of us rent. Either way home should still be home.

There is a place for privately rented homes but we also need many more affordable homes on regulated tenancies built for long-term occupation, where people can put down roots and become ‘part’ of the community rather than just ‘passing through’ that community.

All political parties are collectively responsible for the current housing crisis and must start working together to find a solution.

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