Sajid Javid: Grenfell Tower victims were failed by politicians and tragedy should not have been possible


Grenfell Tower victims were failed by politicians and the fire simply should not have been possible, Sajid Javid has admitted.

The Communities Secretary said there may have been public policy failings at all levels over several decades that contributed to the disaster. 

Mr Javid said the poor response to the fire created unnecessary extra suffering and that there was a looming crisis of trust between the people and local government.

In a speech to the Local Government Association conference in Birmingham, he said: “In Britain, in 2017, the fire at Grenfell simply should not have been possible”.

He said there were also “serious failings in the immediate aftermath, failings that created unnecessary suffering for residents who had already suffered too much”.

Mr Javid recalled meeting a wife who lost contact with her husband as they tried to escort their family through the smoke-filled tower block.

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Sajid Javed: The Communities Secretary visited the scene of the tragedy (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

“When I met her son, he was trying to find the words to tell his mother that his father’s body had been found in the stairwell. It’s not a conversation I’ll ever forget.

“I’m not afraid to say that it shook me to my core. Like my parents, that family had come to this country in search of opportunity, in search of a better life. And we, as a country, failed them. 

“Just as we failed all the victims of that terrible tragedy.”

Grenfell Tower aftermath – In pictures

He said the public inquiry would get to the bottom of what happened, but acknowledged “there may have been failures by individuals, failures by organisations and failures of public policy at all levels stretching back several decades”.

Mr Javid used his speech to highlight action needed to tackle the shortage of homes in the country.

Since the 1970s, an average of 160,000 homes had been built each year, “far below what’s needed”, leading to spiralling prices and young people unable to get a foot on the property ladder.

Mr Javid said every area will need to produce a realistic local plan and review it at least every five years.

He also launched the £2.3 billion housing infrastructure fund to pay for the roads, utilities and other facilities required for new developments.

And in an interview with Channel 4 News, he took a swipe at the Labour leader, accusing Jeremy Corbyn of using the Grenfell tragedy as a “political football”.

He said: “There have been mistakes and the inquiry will probably show this under successive governments of all political colours in both local government and national government, and if we are truly to learn the lessons of this, there’s no point in kicking this around as some kind of football.

“It’s actually understanding and being honest about what’s gone wrong.”

Second vigil in Notting Hill for Grenfell Tower tragedy

Nick Forbes, Labour’s leader in local government, said Mr Javid’s speech “went down like a bucket of cold sick.”

He said: “This was an utterly tone-deaf response to a national crisis.

“Kensington and Chelsea, a flagship Tory council, has colossally failed, but it is outrageous for Sajid Javid to attempt to tar every local council with the same brush.

“This was a shameless attempt to shift the blame for a decade of Tory cuts onto the very councils that have suffered most from them.”

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