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Private greed, political negligence and housing policy after Grenfell

As the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire of 14 June 2017 has slowly revealed a shadowy background of outsourcing and deregulation, and a council turning a blind eye to health and safety concerns, many questions need answers. Stuart Hodkinson has those answers. Safe as Houses weaves together Stuart’s research over the last decade with residents’ groups in council regeneration projects across London to provide the first comprehensive account of how Grenfell happened and how it could easily have happened in multiple locations across the country. It draws on examples of unsafe housing either refurbished or built by private companies under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) to show both the terrible human consequences of outsourcing and deregulation and how the PFI has enabled developers, banks and investors to profiteer from highly lucrative, taxpayer-funded contracts. The book also provides shocking testimonies of how councils and other public bodies have continuously sided with their private partners, doing everything in their power to ignore, deflect and even silence those who speak out. The book concludes that the only way to end the era of unsafe regeneration and housing provision is to end the disastrous regime of self-regulation. This means strengthening safety laws, creating new enforcement agencies independent of government and industry, and replacing PFI and similar models of outsourcing with a new model of public housing that treats the provision of shelter as ‘a social service’ democratically accountable to its residents.

Regeneration meets the Private Finance Initiative
Stuart Hodkinson

. This additional cost falls onto the public purse yet it is completely unnecessary, as government gilts already offer fixed interest rates. The National Audit Office estimated in 2015 that swap liabilities across the entire PFI programme were around £6 billion and reported that it cost Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust £24 million in swap breakage costs alone to buy out a PFI contract in 2014.16 The other main driver of PFI’s inflated cost – and where the label ‘rampant profiteering’ can be used without fear of contradiction – are the returns on offer to the

in Safe as houses
Concepts and practice
Lucy Rose Wright and Ross Fraser Young

the remaining plots were not privatised. Concurrently the National Health Service (State-​owned) needed land to promote a ‘five a day –​ fruit and vegetables’ initiative. It perceived a need to increase healthy food consumption, access and education. The NHS gained access to two acres of unused land. Volunteers and residents –​helped by the State –​planted trees. Subsequently, the NHS lacked financial resources and withdrew support. Julie describes flux as ‘sink or swim’ (Julie, interview, 2016). The State recommitted until the group ‘became self-​sufficient’ (Julie

in Urban gardening and the struggle for social and spatial justice
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Safe and secure homes for all
Stuart Hodkinson

and buildings over 18 metres high, which ignores other flammable building parts and fire safety problems2 in the majority of England’s 1,584 social housing tower blocks, and which excludes the tens of thousands of smaller multi-storey buildings believed to be covered in some form of cladding.3 Then there are the wider health and safety threats from dangerous housing and disempowered tenants. In 2015, 8.4 million homes in England were said to have a ‘significant’ hazard to residents’ health, costing the NHS an estimated £2 billion each year.4 While some social

in Safe as houses
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The Myatts Field North PFI horror show
Stuart Hodkinson

washing dishes in hot water, or using electric or oil heaters, or of simply turning off the heating and hot water altogether while paying to be connected. Households reported living in fear of their next E.ON bill, having to challenge their erroneous bills on a monthly basis with the threat of disconnection constantly present, or being intimidated into paying by the threat of £10 late-payment penalties. Councillor Jacqui Dyer MBE, local ward member and vice-chair of NHS England’s Mental Health Taskforce, told me how this had a particularly bad impact on vulnerable

in Safe as houses