28 August 2017

Of course, I blame Margaret Thatcher .............

Ever since Thatcher came to power (1979) and started the attack on state funded services, housing was probably very near or at the top of her list of targets. 'Right to Buy', gerrymandering by any other name, has steadily eroded the state owned housing stock and reduced competition in the rental sector along the way. The strictures placed upon Local Authorities with regard to building 'local' or 'affordable' housing has both increased pressure on housing supply, inflating prices, and turning the majority of the housing market over to the private sector which, again, has seen house price inflation at staggering levels (neatly excluded from the inflation calculations) in pursuit of profit.

Now, although Thatcher really started this process, almost nothing has been done by successive governments of any political persuasion, to return housing to the 'utility' sector rather than being seen as an investment, whose value should rise and fall but, in reality, only ever rises. And the net result of this process - Grenfell Tower.

Whilst funding towards state owned housing has been cut and cut again, the cost of both building or renovating housing has continued to rise. State funded housing, such as Grenfell Tower, simply cannot generate or attract sufficient funds (in rents + grants) to ensure that maintenance, including refurbishment, is carried out to anything but the most basic of standards. Local Authorities have bowed to government pressure by divesting themselves of direct control of state owned housing, into organisations like the KCTMO, but again, this does not mean that more money is available.

Thus, cost cutting in Local Authority housing remains the #1 objective and I suspect that this will have played a part in the Grenfell Tower incident where a single staircase building (circa 1970) was wrapped in a combustible material to achieve thermal performance levels sought today.

The names of those who died at Grenfell Tower should be chiselled on Thatcher's headstone.