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Four years on, has the government kept the promises it has made since the Grenfell Tower fire?

By 14/06/2021No Comments

“The legacy of Grenfell can and must be a whole new approach to the way this country thinks about social housing… It demands nothing less” – Sajid Javid, 19 September 2017

Has it been kept?

The promised reform of social housing has been glacially slow and – four years on from the fire – remains in its formative stages, if it is coming at all.

It took almost a year from former housing, communities and local government secretary Mr Javid’s speech to see the promised publication of a Social Housing Green Paper, with the headline promise of ‘league tables’ for social landlords. But after this idea was roundly panned, it was dropped.

More than two further years passed before the publication of a white paper last autumn, which promised changes to social housing regulation to focus more on services to tenants.

But there is no official timeline for bringing this into force. While the proposals in the white paper were referenced in the recent Queen’s Speech, there was no commitment to the ‘social housing bill’ that would be necessary to introduce it. This promise is, at best, on hold.

Verdict: on hold

“Let the legacy of this awful tragedy be that we resolve never to forget these people and instead to gear our policies and our thinking towards making their lives better and bringing them into the political process” – Theresa May, 22 June 2017

Has it been kept?

This pledge was Ms May’s clearest promise following the fire. It has, unfortunately, also fallen off the political agenda. Initial meetings were held with tenants’ group A Voice for Tenants in 2018, but as Brexit took centre stage, dialogue with ministers halted.

The group eventually wrote an open letter to ministers that expressed “disappointment” that there had been “next to no dialogue between government and our group since the end of 2018”.

It continued: “It is also the case that our group – which has had no financial resources – is now finding it hard to progress any further.

“Perhaps we were naive, but we never anticipated that it would take nearly two years for any progress to be made and that there would still be no resources to enable even our small group of tenants to debate issues.

“It is a fundamental democratic deficit that the views of the eight million people living in the four million social housing tenanted homes are being ignored. Most social housing tenants feel totally disregarded and disrespected by politicians and their landlords alike. Unless we start to take steps to address their alienation and powerlessness, there will be long-term negative consequences for society as a result of it.”

No further steps towards establishing such a group have been taken since Ms May was replaced with Mr Johnson.

The government says there will be “ongoing ministerial engagement during the implementation process” of the Social Housing White Paper proposals, but as we hit the fourth anniversary this promise has certainly not yet been kept.

Verdict: promise not kept

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