Housing | The Guardian

Latest news and features from theguardian.com, the world's leading liberal voice

24/06/2017 03:28 AM
Grenfell Tower survivors evicted from hotel accommodation

Kensington and Chelsea council writes to people affected by fire saying they must leave as hotel does not have availability

Survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire have been evicted from their emergency hotel accommodation at short notice after the local council was unable to extend their booking.

In a letter from Kensington and Chelsea council to the families affected, it said people needed to urgently leave their rooms by 4pm on Friday.

Continue reading...

24/06/2017 12:48 AM
Dozens of families in unsafe Camden tower blocks refuse to leave

Authorities try to convince Chalcots estate residents to evacuate while offering advice from fire service for those deciding to stay

Authorities in Camden were working to convince dozens of families to leave their homes on Saturday after they refused to evacuate, despite concerns the tower blocks they are living in were at risk of a Grenfell-type blaze.

More than 80 households, including elderly people and others with disabilities and vulnerabilities, refused to leave the blocks on the Chalcots estate, which is home to almost 4,000 people.

Related: Have you been affected by the Camden tower block evacuations?

Related: 'Why did they wait for people to die?' Grenfell survivor tells of anger

Continue reading...

24/06/2017 12:43 AM
Cladding on 27 tower blocks fails fire safety tests

High-rises in 15 local authority areas have failed tests prompted by Grenfell Tower blaze in which at least 79 people died

Cladding on 27 tower blocks in 15 local authority areas has failed fire safety tests, the government has said.

The announcement by the Department for Communities and Local Government comes as a nationwide operation continues to identify buildings with cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower in north Kensington.

Continue reading...

23/06/2017 09:18 PM
Have you been affected by the Camden tower block evacuations?

Hundreds of residents of Chalcots estate were evacuated overnight. Tell us if you are one of those who were asked to leave

Hundreds of residents of the Chalcots estate in Swiss Cottage, north London, were evacuated overnight after Camden council asked them to leave because of the risk of a Grenfell Tower-style fire.

Georgia Gould, the leader of Camden council, said the decision was taken after a review of five blocks found cladding similar to that thought to have contributed to the spread of the blaze at Grenfell, as well as fire risks on insulation surrounding gas piping.

Related: Tests on 600 tower blocks find seven with Grenfell Tower-style cladding

Continue reading...

23/06/2017 08:09 PM
London tower blocks' residents tell of 'chaos' of overnight evacuation

People question ‘shock’ move by Camden council to evacuate hundreds of people from homes over fears of Grenfell-style fire

Residents of five London tower blocks evacuated overnight because of fire safety concerns following the Grenfell Tower blaze have spoken out about the “chaos” of having to suddenly leave their homes.

As people prepared to spend Saturday night in temporary accommodation, including a leisure centre and library complex in Swiss Cottage, north London, they questioned the council’s decision evacuate up to 800 households late on Friday.

Continue reading...

23/06/2017 07:47 PM
Hundreds evacuated from London tower blocks over fears of Grenfell repeat

Chalcots estate residents moved overnight into temporary accommodation after council said it could not guarantee safety

Hundreds of residents of a housing estate in north London have been evacuated overnight after fire inspectors said five tower blocks were at risk following the Grenfell Tower blaze.

People living on Chalcots estate in Swiss Cottage were woken during the night and told to leave their homes immediately after Camden council became the first in the country to order an evacuation of blocks at risk of a similar fire.

Related: Cladding on 27 tower blocks fails fire safety tests

Related: Two Shelter board members quit after Grenfell Tower fire

Related: 'Why did they wait for people to die?' Grenfell survivor tells of anger

Continue reading...

23/06/2017 07:09 AM
Two Shelter board members quit after Grenfell Tower fire

Chairman Sir Derek Myers and trustee Tony Rice resign amid internal disquiet over charity’s response to disaster

Two board members of the housing charity Shelter, including its chairman Sir Derek Myers, have resigned amid reports of internal disquiet over the organisation’s allegedly muted response to the Grenfell Tower fire.

Myers is a former chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea council, which owns Grenfell Tower, while trustee Tony Rice is chairman of Xerxes Equity, the sole shareholder in Omnis Exteriors – the company that sold the cladding used in the tower.

Continue reading...

23/06/2017 06:26 AM
Fears for residents as cladding on 14 tower blocks fails fire tests

Camden, Manchester and Plymouth among nine local authorities where buildings failed safety tests after Grenfell Tower blaze

Cladding panels from 14 tower blocks in nine local authorities have failed urgent fire safety tests being carried out after the Grenfell Tower blaze, raising concerns for the safety of thousands of residents.

Councils announced plans to rip down cladding on buildings in Salford, Portsmouth and two London boroughs, Islington and Hounslow, as a precautionary measure. The emergency steps were taken as thousands of local authority tenants were warned that their homes were enveloped in potentially flammable materials.

Related: Grenfell Tower: 16 council inspections failed to stop use of flammable cladding

Related: Thousands warned their blocks clad with same panelling as Grenfell Tower

Continue reading...

23/06/2017 05:57 AM
Grenfell Tower fire: police considering manslaughter charges

Detectives say building’s insulation and cladding tiles failed fire safety tests and they are establishing if use was illegal

Police have said they are considering manslaughter charges in relation to the deadly Grenfell Tower blaze as they revealed that the insulation and cladding tiles at the building failed safety tests.

Det Supt Fiona McCormack, who is overseeing the investigation, said on Friday that officers had established the initial cause of the fire was a fridge-freezer and that it was not started deliberately.

Related: The problem is not tower blocks: it's capitalism and cost-cutting | Dawn Foster

Continue reading...

23/06/2017 04:39 AM
'Why did they wait for people to die?' Grenfell survivor tells of anger

Khalid Ahmed, who escaped the eighth floor, is still in shock as he watches the political fallout and tries to rebuild his life

In the streets around Grenfell Tower victims are instantly identifiable by coloured wristbands which allow them access to support services in a relief centre, located in a gym underneath the motorway. Khalid Ahmed, 20, who escaped from his eighth-floor home, has slipped his off and folded it into his pocket.

“Everyone can see it, and people were stopping me in the street, asking the same questions again and again. Where did you live? What floor were you on? How did you get out? It gets tiring,” he says.

Continue reading...

23/06/2017 03:30 AM
Grenfell tenants 'not exempt from bedroom tax or benefit cap'

Ministers say residents hit by welfare reforms should get discretionary payments to protect them from benefit shortfalls

Former residents of Grenfell Tower will not be exempt from the bedroom tax and the benefit cap, the government has confirmed – although ministers have ordered that any tenants affected are prioritised for special payments to offset any losses.

Guidance from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says councils should ensure Grenfell tenants hit by welfare reforms should be given so-called discretionary housing payments (DHPs) to protect them from potential housing benefit shortfalls of hundreds of pounds a month.

We have already relaxed benefit rules for anyone affected by the Grenfell Tower fire

Continue reading...

23/06/2017 02:26 AM
Donald Tusk says May's offer on EU citizens is 'below our expectations' - as it happened

Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen

That’s your lot today. Here’s a summary:

One year on from Britain’s vote to leave the EU, the anniversary of the referendum was overshadowed by fresh outbreaks of doubt.

The problem – as both Brexiters and remainers unite in pointing out – is that once you start contemplating the need for a transition that is both half in and half out of Europe, the arguments in favour of staying put quickly mount. The lengthy transition phase desired by Hammond and others would retain many of the economic benefits of EU membership but with even less of the political freedoms said to motivate voters than the country enjoys now.

Related: As the Brexit vote turns one, leaving has never been more uncertain | Dan Roberts

Portsmouth City Council is removing cladding from two high-rise buildings as a precautionary measure, it announced.

Following independent testing, cladding on Horatia House and Leamington House in the Somerstown area is being removed to ensure the highest safety standards, it said.

Theresa May has reaffirmed the importance of controlling migration to the UK from other EU countries as a central aim of Brexit, after a meeting with other EU leaders in Brussels.

At a dinner with the other 27 EU leaders on Thursday night, the prime minister outlined the broad principles of what she called a “fair and serious offer” to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK – before leaving to allow them to continue discussions without her.

Related: Theresa May reaffirms migration controls as key aim of Brexit

Theresa May’s proposals on the rights of EU citizens in the UK do not represent a “breakthrough” in the Brexit negotiations, Angela Merkel said.

Here are the key points to emerge from May’s press conference:

Do the plans on citizenship amount to taking back control?

What voters voted for when they voted to leave the EU was to ensure that outside the EU, the UK could establish our own rules on migration, on movement of people from the EU into the UK. And that is exactly what we will be doing.

I remain of the view that it is a fair and serious offer. Those citizens from EU countries who have come to the UK … will be able to stay and we will guarantee their rights. I think that is a very serious offer. There are some differences between that and the proposals of the European commission. The matter will now go into the negotiations. I said all along that I wanted this issue of citizens’ rights to be one of the first issues addressed in the formal negotiations and indeed it will be.

That is certainly not my recollection. I have been very clear it should be addressed at an early stage of the negotiations. We have made a fair and serious offer giving reassurance to all those EU citizens living in the UK. But I also want to see that certainty given to UK citizens living in the EU.

If you look at what happened in the general election, over 80% of British voters voted for parties who were committed to the UK leaving the EU and that’s exactly what we are going to do.

That’s exactly what we are working for. I have every intention of ensuring that we get a good deal for Britain and that not only will we be able to see a good, new, deep and special partnership with the EU, but we’ll also be able to take opportunities for global Britain to be out there trading across the globe, forming new trade agreements.

Leaders have reacted positively to me on the offer that we made. The question of enforcement is one that will be taken into the negotiations. From our point of view these [rights] will be enshrined in UK law. They will be enforced through the highly respected UK courts.

We have had a good, constructive start and we want to continue the negotiations in exactly that way.

If you look at the election over 80% of people voted for parties that were committed to respecting the vote that took place a year ago, that the UK will leave the EU. I have always been very clear that the UK will be leaving the EU. We will not be leaving Europe.

We want a deep and special partnership to continue with the EU. And we remain committed to playing our role in ensuring Europe’s security and defence.

Here’s audio of May’s statement and brief press conference.

Last night I was able to update other leaders on the UK’s proposal to give reassurance and certainty to EU citizens who have made their homes and lives in our country.

After the constructive start to our Brexit negotiations earlier this week, I wanted to briefly set out to my fellow European leaders the UK’s approach to giving reassurance and certainty to EU citizens living in the UK. I want all those EU citizens who are in the UK, who have made their lives and homes in our country, to know that no one will have to leave. We won’t be seeing families split apart. People will be able to go on living their lives as before.

Q: Will Brexit be good for Britain?

That is exactly what we’re working on, May said.

May is asked whether the UK would go further on EU citizens. She repeated that the she thinks the offer is “fair and serious”.

Asked about George Osborne’s claim that she blocked a guarantee to EU citizens after the referendum, May said: “That is not my recollection.”

Theresa May is also giving a press conference in Brussels. On security, she said recent terrorist attacks in the UK and in Europe strengthened the need to work together to keep our citizens safe.

On defence, May said the UK would always be committed to the defence of Europe.

Tusk also said the remaining 27 countries agreed on the relocation of two EU agencies currently based in the UK.

Here’s audio of his comments:

The European council president, Donald Tusk, is giving a press conference in Brussels. He said EU citizens’ rights is the number one priority of the EU. The UK’s offer was “below our expectations” and risked worsening the current situation for EU citizens.

He said the EU would review the full details of the offer when they are released by the British government on Monday. He said Brexit did not take up much time during the summit.

The Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld, who is at the vanguard of the European parliament’s campaign for EU citizens’ rights, described Theresa May’s offer as “possibly the least generous” the UK could have come up with. She said:

This is not a matter of May doing any special favours for people, but it is a matter of rights which cannot be taken away or restricted arbitrarily. The UK is still a member of the EU until Brexit, so citizens must still be able to exercise their right of free movement until Brexit day. It is difficult to see how this offer could be viewed as “generous” or even “fair”. It is probably the least generous proposal the UK government could have constructed within the confounds of international law.

What May seems to propose is not granting rights to citizens, but actually retroactively restricting the rights they have acquired to date. These rights were acquired under EU law, so it is only natural that the ECJ [European court of justice] should remain competent. The retroactive restriction of rights is contrary to the democratic rule of law. Is this what Mrs May wishes to obtain for British citizens in Europe too?

Nicola Sturgeon has strongly hinted again she is preparing to postpone a new Scottish independence referendum in favour of striking a far better Brexit deal, after the Scottish National party lost 21 Westminster seats at the election.

“The issue of a independence referendum is exactly as I have set out: it’s about not know, but when the time is right offering people a choice over whether when we know what Brexit looks like, whether that’s right for the country or whether an alternative path is right for the country.

“But in everything we do, a year on from the Brexit referendum, in my view should be about trying to limit that sense of uncertainty. For example, if we can get to the position which I hope, but I’m not certain that we can, of clarity around the transitional arrangements when the UK leaves, I think that starts to help to give that certainty

Jeremy Corbyn says Labour would offer a full rights guarantee to EU citizens living in the UK.

Speaking at Unison annual conference in Brighton he said:

Yesterday the prime minister put down her first offer in Brussels on the rights of EU nationals after Brexit but as our shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, has said, people should not be used as bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiations.

And what she has floated falls far short of the full guarantee Labour would make. That isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also the best way to guarantee the rights of British nationals living in the EU.

.@jeremycorbyn speech to UNISON annual conference https://t.co/dbGDBNPJyQ

Chants of "Oh, Jeremy Corbyn!" greet the Labour leader on his arrival to @unisontweets conf in Brighton pic.twitter.com/I06yOANICL

Officials at Kensington and Chelsea council are withdrawing documents sent to Grenfell Tower survivors that they feared could have waived their legal rights in return for receiving emergency payments, the Guardian has learned.

A letter sent from the council this week to families affected by the fire asked survivors to sign a form confirming receipt of the emergency “compensation” money. The form, which would release the £5,500 pledged by the government to each survivor, stated: “I confirm that this is required to compensate me for expenses I have incurred or need to incur as a consequence of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.”

Related: Grenfell survivors were told to sign council form that 'could waive rights'

The European parliament’s Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt has become the latest senior European to dismiss Theresa May’s offer on EU citizens living in the UK.

Mays "generous offer" does not fully guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK (1/2)

Hopefully the UK position paper, expected on Monday, will deliver what we are looking for (2/2)

The Grenfell Tower refurbishment used Celotex RS5000 insulation which sits behind the cladding panels.

The material is made from polyisocyanurate (PIR) which is combustible and produces toxic fumes when it burns – notably hydrogen cyanide.

Islington council has confirmed that cladding is to be removed from Braithwaite House, a high-rise block within the borough, after tests revealed the presence of aluminium composite material.

Councillor Diarmaid Ward, Islington council’s executive member for housing and development, said:

As a landlord, safety is our number one priority and we will do whatever it takes to ensure people are safe in our estates.

Last night, we received results of tests on cladding on the side of Braithwaite House, and they have confirmed the presence of Aluminium Composite Material (ACM).

Downing Street has said private landlords will not be compelled to carry out testing for flammable cladding on tower blocks, but local authorities will be advising them to have the materials submitted for testing.

The prime minister’s spokesman said the Department for Communities and Local Government had spoken to local authorities about private sector residential blocks. “The testing facility is available to them and we expect many will use it,” she said.

George Osborne’s London Evening Standard has more on the “problem with Theresa May’s position on European citizens living in Britain.”

He claims May blocked a plan to guarantee EU citizens’ rights after Brexit.

Once again, this morning, millions of families wake up among us not knowing whether they will be allowed to remain in the country where they have chosen to make their lives. There has to be a very strong reason of national interest even to contemplate causing such upset. There isn’t.

It seems very unlikely Spain would kick out our expats on the Costa del Sol, or that France would depopulate the Dordogne. But even if they did, no one really believes that Britain would deport the three million European citizens who live and work here. Why not? Because it would be a massive act of self-harm. As Mrs May said in February: “EU citizens living in the UK make a vital contribution to our economy and society and without them we would be poorer and our public services weaker.”

Our @EveningStandard editorial on why PM's threat isn't credible: we should unilaterally let EU citizens stay in UK https://t.co/qExngLVW8N

Manfred Weber, chair of the centre-right European People’s party, of which Angela Merkel is a leading light, has given a scathing assessment of May’s offer on EU citizens.

If PM May cannot come up with a more concrete proposal it is quite worrying for the rest of the #Brexit negotiations. #EUCO #EUcitizens 2/2

Number 10 said technical experts were undertaking urgent tests on the Hotpoint fridge model that was found to have started the Grenfell fire. The model may yet be recalled if tests prove that there are flaws and any decision to recall will be taken shortly.
“Following the Met’s statement, the government has ordered an immediate examination of this unit by technical experts to establish the cause of the incident,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

“This testing will establish if further action if required.”
Consumers who believe they may own a Hotpoint fridge freezer model number FF175BP (white) or FF175BG (grey) are being advised to contact Whirlpool Corporation, the fridge’s manufacturer, but the government said at this stage there was no specific reason for consumers to switch off their fridge freezer pending further investigation.
In a statement, business secretary Greg Clark said: “The safety of consumers is paramount. The device is being subject to immediate and rigorous testing to establish the cause of the fire. I have made clear to the company that I will expect them to replace any item without delay if it is established that there is a risk in using them.”

Hotpoint has issued this statement:

“Words cannot express our sorrow at this terrible tragedy. We offer our most profound condolences to the victims, those who have lost loved-ones, homes, and possessions, and to their friends and families. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those involved, including the emergency services who risked their lives to extinguish the blaze and rescue those in the building.

“We have just been informed that the fire may have originated in a Hotpoint fridge freezer (model number FF175BP).

Britons in Europe have vented their anger at May’s offer to EU citizens in the UK, saying she has “spun” the offer as something “generous” when it falls far short of the offer the EU made to Britons on 12 June.

Dave Spokes, a spokesman for the Ex Pats Citizens Rights in Europe said:

“We are not surprised that Mr Junker has described Theresa May’s offer on citizens rights as ‘not sufficient’.

“This reflects our own assessment. It seems a very odd strategy for the UK to offer less support for citizens than that being offered by the EU. Should they not be encouraging the the EU to give more?

Nicola Sturgeon has welcomed Theresa May’s offer to allow EU citizens rights to stay in the UK after Brexit, but condemned the long delay in offering reassurances.

Here are the main points from McCormack’s statement and press conference:

79 people missing and presumed dead

The number that we have of presumed, confirmed dead, or missing still remains at 79, with nine people being formally identified as dead.

I know that there is a fear that that number is a lot higher and I do not want any hidden victims of this tragedy. We are prioritising establishing exactly who is was in Grenfell Tower that night.

The Home Office has assured us that they will not use this tragedy to check people immigration status, and neither will the police. I urge people now who now people who were in that tower that night, either as resident of people visiting to phone the incident room on 0800 032 4539.

This is one of the largest and most complex investigations that the Metropolitan police has ever undertaken. There are currently over 250 specialist investigators working on all aspects of this investigation. It will establish how the fire started and the speed and spread that it took hold of that building.

There are two points of priority for me: the speed that it spread through the building but also the internal safety aspects of that building. On the first point: we are examining with experts the aluminium cladding and the insulation behind the cladding; how the tiles were fixed to the building; and how it was installed.

Preliminary tests on the insulation samples collected from Grenfell Tower show that they combusted soon after the test started. The initial test on the cladding tiles also failed the safety tests. Such are our safety concerns on the outcome of those tests, we have shared our data with the department of communities and local government, and we have ensured that that information data has been shared with every council.

We are also concerned about the fridge freezer in this matter and we have been working with the department of energy, business, and industrial strategy who are working with Hotpoint on the safety of that fridge. We know this fire wasn’t started deliberately and we know that the fridge freezer in this matter has never been subject of a product recall before.

We have seized a huge amount of CCTV and we have received over 70 images and moving footage following our appeals.

On the night we received over 600 999 calls made to fire, ambulance and the police and we have listened to everyone of those to truly understand the fire and how it took hold that night. Some of those calls are over an hour long and truly harrowing in their content.

In terms of seizing relevant material from a number of organisations I can confirm that that has already started.

If I find out that individuals or organisations have committed offences then I must be in a position to prosecute without prejudice to any proceedings. We are looking at every criminal offence from manslaughter onwards. We are looking at every health and safety and fire safety offences and we are reviewing every company at the moment involved in the building and refurbishment of Grenfell Tower.

Our search of Grenfell Tower to recover all those inside and return them to their loved ones continues. The working conditions are difficult and distressing in many ways. Such is that devastation this may take at least until the end of the year. And there is a terrible reality that we may not find or identify all those who died during the fire. Which is why I appeal to people who know people who are still missing to please come forward.

It is dangerous scene and so the investigation has to be done extremely sensitively. Working with the coroner, Dr Fiona Wilcox on this and her and my absolute wish, is that we recover everything we can from that scene, and that we treat everybody there with integrity and dignity.

Here’s audio of the Scotland Yard press conference on the Grenfell Tower fire.

McCormack says she fears more people were killed in the fire. She warns that some bodies may never be recovered and that the search of the building could take the rest of the year.

Police have said they are considering manslaughter charges in relation to the deadly Grenfell Tower blaze as they revealed that both the insulation and tiles at the building failed safety tests.

Det Supt Fiona McCormack, who is overseeing the investigation, said officers had established that the initial cause of the fire was a fridge-freezer and that it was not started deliberately.

Speaking outside Scotland Yard, McCormack said 79 people are still missing presumed dead after the Grenfell fire.

The Grenfell Tower fire started in a faulty fridge, and insulation and tiles on
the block have failed safety tests, according to Metropolitan olice Det Supt Fiona McCormack.

EU leaders have described the UK’s opening offer to protect EU citizens’ rights as vague and inadequate, suggesting the British government needs to go further.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, struck a dismissive note as he arrived at an EU leaders’ summit on Friday. “That is a first step but this step is not sufficient,” he said.

Related: EU leaders: UK plan for citizens' rights is vague and inadequate

Theresa May’s offer on residency rights for EU citizens has been dismissed as “pathetic” by a group campaigning for an estimated three million European expats in the UK, the Press Association reports.

Co-chair of the 3Million movement, Nicolas Hatton, said: “There is something slightly pathetic about the prime minister’s proposal which makes no reference to the detailed, comprehensive offer tabled by the EU. The Prime Minister described her proposal as fair and serious. It’s neither fair nor serious.”

Cladding is being stripped from a Manchester tower block as urgent tests are taking place on dozens more around the city, the Manchester Evening News reports.

Work was being carried out last night to strip material from a residential block in the Village 135 development in Wythenshawe after concerns were raised about the cladding.

Wythenshawe Community Housing Group (WCHG) which run the block however, say they were taking no chances and work to remove the material began this afternoon.

Cladding being removed from Village 135 development in Wythenshawe, Manchester in the wake of Grenfell Tower fire. pic.twitter.com/Gts7kshTQN

Police are due to give a briefing on the Grenfell Tower investigation at New Scotland Yard in the next few minutes.

For students of sibling rivalry, this could fun: Ed Miliband is due to interview his brother David, on Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine show at 1pm.

On today's show, I'll be talking to my brother David about the refugee crisis---the problem, solution and our own family's refugee history.

A scoop for @Ed_Miliband today: he's interviewing brother @DMiliband on the @theJeremyVine show. Goes live at 1pm - public reconciliation?

Labour MP David Lammy, whose friend Khadija Saye died in the Grenfell fire, is concerned that the current focus on cladding is diverting attention from the “criminal” failures at Grenfell Tower.

(2/?) Yes, we are uncovering a national problem. But that doesn't mean that Grenfell is not a crime, or should be brushed under the carpet.

(4/) Grenfell victims tried to raise these issues. Fire alarms didn't work. People were told to stay in their homes as their homes burned.

(6/) We still haven't heard from the police investigation. If the debate moves on from Grenfell, those responsible will get away with it.

(7/7). So I will try to use my voice to speak up for the victims and survivors of Grenfell, and I hope that others will join me.

Juncker also said he was no clearer about the kind of Brexit the UK wanted.

EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker didn’t seem that impressed with May’s offer on the rights of EU citizens living in the UK.

Arriving for the second day of the summit he said it was a “first step, but not sufficient.”

.@JunckerEU #EUCO doorstep "PM May's offer on #citizens' rights is a first step, but not sufficient." pic.twitter.com/dXftTNCfRD

This doesn’t end uncertainty facing EU citizens who have made their home here. Shameful @theresa_may still using them as bargaining chips https://t.co/FU9XDidKkb

Too little. Too late. https://t.co/P7Xq5kaSqV

#bbcnews #TheresaMay offer on #rights of EU citizens already living in #Britain is not so generous: pic.twitter.com/SglWg3rl3t

Police would face “real challenges” tackling a repeat of the 2011 riots following years of budget cuts, one of Britain’s most senior officers has warned.

A series of major incidents to hit the country in recent weeks had laid bare the strains faced by forces under financial pressure, Dave Thompson, chief constable of West Midlands police said.

Related: Police would struggle to deal with repeat of 2011 riots, says senior officer

The leaders of Camden Council faced a stormy meeting with residents of the five tower blocks on the Chalcots estate after their homes were found to be clad in a flammable material similar to that used at Grenfell Tower, the Camden New Journal reports.

Work has already begun to organise the removal of the cladding, but Camden’s lead Georgina Gould was unable to say when the panels would be taken down.

Camden Council leader Georgia Gould says residents in Chalcot tower blocks are safe - but cladding must come down as a 'precaution' pic.twitter.com/dlhxrqZK9t

Leave campaigners are wishing their followers happy independence day on the first anniversary of Britain’s vote to leave the EU.

They include Sammy Wilson, one of the 10 DUP MPs which the government is still trying to reach agreement with; the Tory MEP Daniel Hannan; and Ukip MEP Patrick O’Flynn.

One year ago we voted to #TakeBackControl and leave the EU. Happy #IndependenceDay to you all! pic.twitter.com/LPbBsMnDmR

This was what I found at the polling station in my little Hampshire village a year ago. I began to get a good feeling. #IndependenceDay pic.twitter.com/6gTo2oWcRR

Happy Independence Day UK. Attempts continue to subvert our vote to become a proper nation again. We will not let them succeed.

This time last year we dared to dream and then won an historic victory. Happy Independence Day! pic.twitter.com/dURYiB8MqM

The hotel chain Premier Inn has become the latest organisation to express “concerns” about the cladding used on some of its buildings in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Three of its properties - in Maidenhead, Brentford and Tottenham - have been investigated during a “detailed assessment” of its estate.

“Although we have concerns that the fire retardant cladding used may not adhere to recognised government guidance on compliance with the building regulations for use in high rise buildings, an independent fire expert has assured us that these hotels are safe and that they are entirely satisfied that there are robust fire safety measures and evacuation procedures in place to protect our guests and team members.”

Hotel chain Premier Inn tells #newsnight that it is “extremely concerned” about the cladding on three of its hotels pic.twitter.com/SseQA1JNfl

Here’s a readout of what May told reporters in Brussels

Q: The EU says that the cut of date for EU citizens arriving in the UK to get settled status must be March 2019 when we actually leave. Do you think you’ve got any realistic chance of getting anything better than that?

“Well last night I was pleased to be able to set out what is a very fair and a very serious offer for EU citizens who are living in the United Kingdom and the Government will set out more detailed proposals on Monday. I want to reassure all those EU citizens who are in the UK, who’ve made their lives and homes in the UK that no one will have to leave, we won’t be seeing families split apart. This is a fair and serious offer. And I want to give those EU citizens in the UK certainty about the future of their lives but I also want to see that certainty given to UK citizens who are living in the European Union. Of course there will be details of this arrangement which will be part of the negotiating process but we’ve made what I believe is a very serious, a very fair offer which will give reassurance and confidence to EU citizens living in the United Kingdom about their future.”

There was a very constructive start to the talks at the beginning of the week. We’ve set out the issues that we want to start talking about. – early in the negotiations. I’ve said right from the beginning that I want citizens rights to be one of those early negotiations and it will be. We‘ve set out what I believe is a serious offer, a fair offer that will give the reassurance to EU citizens living in the UK, they’ve made their homes, they’ve made their lives in the UK and they will be able to stay and continue to do so. Thank you.”

EU citizens living in the UK should take “reassurance and confidence” from proposals for their post-Brexit status, Theresa May said on the second day of the EU summit in Brussels.

Jeremy Corbyn has overtaken Theresa May for the first time on the question of who voters think would make the best prime minister, a poll suggests, PA reports.

The YouGov/Times poll showed the Labour leader on 35%, ahead of the Prime Minister on 34%. Nearly a third (30%) said they were unsure.

It comes with May under intense pressure following a disastrous general election in which the Tories lost their majority and her authority was severely diminished after her highly personal campaign appeared to backfire.

A YouGov poll for The Times reveals voters think @jeremycorbyn would make a better prime minister than @theresa_may https://t.co/o8cRnktRw8 pic.twitter.com/O5xuuntpy1

Welcome to a Friday edition of Politics live exactly a year after the UK voted to leave the European Union.

The main issues continue to be the fallout from the Grenfell Tower fire and the latest from the EU leaders’ meeting in Brussels.

Continue reading...

23/06/2017 01:24 AM
Grenfell wasn’t an isolated tragedy. Poverty destroys many lives in Britain | Kamran Ahmed
Working as a junior psychiatrist, I saw first-hand how policies that fail to protect the disadvantaged lead to ill-health, stress and reduced life expectancy

A tragedy as gut-wrenching as Grenfell Tower has scarcely been seen during peace time in the UK. The negligence and cruelty of the decisions that caused it have sparked justifiable outrage. Concerns raised by residents were ignored and there are allegations that dangerous materials were used to cut costs and make the building look nice for the rich folk. People understandably take to the streets to protest and seek justice.

Related: The Grenfell Tower tragedy should see off austerity. But don’t hold your breath | Patrick Butler

Poverty is a cause and consequence of accidents and ill-health

Continue reading...

23/06/2017 12:46 AM
With generation rent voting, could housing be a political game-changer? | Poppy Noor
At the mercy of largely unregulated private landlords, young people are unable to save for their future. No wonder they are backing Labour

There has been much interest in young people in the aftermath of the election. Reporters have focused on a youth surge that may be the reason May lost her majority, with increased numbers of young voters turning out who seem to have largely opted for the Labour party.

But could it be that this trend is in fact an indicator of the same old class politics? A YouGov study released last week suggested that class had been turned on its head – with results that showed that you were just as likely to vote Tory if you worked in a manual labour job as if you were upper or middle class. But the real indicator here was age – Labour outperformed the Conservatives in every age group until people reached their 50s.

Related: How Jeremy Corbyn turned a youth surge into general election votes

Related: At last, a plan to tackle the housing crisis – Labour may just have the answer | Owen Jones

Continue reading...

22/06/2017 11:50 PM
I was a devastated young remainer. Now I wish we’d just get on with Brexit | Josh Salisbury
As a generation facing a broken housing market, inequality and an uncertain future, we’ve had to move on from a politics defined by EU membership

Not much motivates me to stand in the rain with a clipboard, haranguing clearly uninterested strangers, but the remain campaign did. Along with the 64% of 16 -24-year-olds who turned out to vote, and who were largely remainers, I voted because I thought the EU referendum was the most important political exercise I would ever take part in. The choice seemed to be between an open, tolerant Britain and a campaign based on lies written on the side of a bus.

Related: Labour must keep marching left to appeal to the youth vote | Marienna Pope-Weidemann

Labour recognised what other parties didn’t: voting overwhelmingly against Brexit doesn’t mean we’re still hung up on it

Continue reading...

22/06/2017 10:00 PM
Lynsey Hanley: ‘Housing inequality kills’
After the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the author of Estates argues for a radical overhaul of housing policy

I have long believed in the necessity for radical housing reform, and the events of recent weeks have only proved its fundamental urgency. After Labour’s increased vote on a clear social-democratic platform, followed by the disaster at Grenfell Tower, the impossible seems not only possible, but essential to prioritise. The way we build, allocate, finance and perceive housing in this country has to be transformed utterly.

I knew from experience, having grown up on a peripheral postwar estate, that treating council housing as a distinct, nominally “separate but equal” entity from private housing reinforces social stigma and the sense that you’ve been sent to live out of sight of those with power. Now we know that housing inequality kills.

Related: Home ownership in England at a 30-year low, official figures show

Related: Quarter of households in UK will rent privately by end of 2021, says report

Continue reading...

22/06/2017 07:23 PM
Sajid Javid: Grenfell fire has 'shaken my comprehension of being in office'

Communities secretary wrote to MPs confirming that 11 tower blocks have cladding similar to Grenfell Tower and pledging to ‘seek justice’ for all affected

The communities and local government secretary, Sajid Javid, has said that the Grenfell Tower tragedy has “shaken his comprehension” of what it meant to be a cabinet minister.

In a letter to MPs in which he confirmed that the number of tower blocks with cladding similar to Grenfell Tower has risen to 11, Javid said: “As a minister, I have always been prepared to make tough decisions. I understood the pressures that come with public life but this disaster has shaken my comprehension of what it means to be in office.

Continue reading...

22/06/2017 06:08 PM
The problem is not tower blocks: it's capitalism and cost-cutting | Dawn Foster

Ignore the calls for tower blocks to be pulled down in the wake of Grenfell. The real problem is safety and how willing companies are to risk lives to save money

After the Grenfell tragedy, understandably the conversation has turned to safety in preventing such avoidable devastation occurring again. Tower blocks in particular have come under fire for being unsafe, having few fire escape routes and housing so many people in a dense space. Some of the calls for tower blocks to be pulled down or for no more to be built come from a political revulsion towards tower blocks and what they represent in facets of society.

Critics claim they are eyesores, magnets for crime and terrible to live in. But most people I’ve spoken to in tower blocks enjoy living in their home, and would do so more if repairs and improvements were carried out promptly. This is key: the people calling for tower blocks to be pulled down do not live in them, even though they believe their demand comes from a place of altruism and concern. If tower blocks are properly maintained, with all structural work properly carried out, they are perfectly safe.

Related: Tests being carried out on 600 English tower blocks with cladding

Related: Grenfell Tower: 16 council inspections failed to stop use of flammable cladding

Continue reading...

22/06/2017 09:54 AM
Number of tower blocks with combustible cladding rises to 11, government says – as it happened

Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen

This live blog is now closing. Here is a summary of the evening’s events:

The communities and local government secretary, Sajid Javid, revealed that the number of blocks found to have been clad in combustible material has risen from seven to 11. In a letter to MPs, he said the disaster had changed his understanding of what it is to be a cabinet minister.

In his letter to MPs confirming the new total of buildings with combustible cladding, Sajid Javid said Camden, Manchester and Plymouth were three areas where buildings had failed the test but stressed he could not reveal more because local residents in the others have not yet been informed, despite landlords being alerted to results. He wrote:

I also want to reassure colleagues that you will be made aware if any sites are in your constituency by the local authority in the first instance - my department stands ready to assist colleagues if further information is required.

To ensure that local authorities and housing associations know how to respond where tests do show action is needed, my department has today written to every one of them to ensure they know what immediate steps they should take if the testing shows cladding material is unlikely to be compliant with current building regulations, and I attach a copy of this for your information.

As a minister, I have always been prepared to make tough decisions. I understood the pressures that come with public life but this disaster has shaken my comprehension of what it means to be in office. I have met some of the victims of Grenfell, I have witnessed for myself the grief and anger of those who have lost so much - more than just their possessions but also their loved ones, their security and their memories.

This government will do everything possible not just to replace houses and provide immediate relief, but to seek justice for those people who have been failed. This tragedy should weigh on the consciousness of every person tasked with making a decision so this can never happen again.

Nick Paget-Brown, the Conservative leader of Kensington and Chelsea council, has admitted the body failed in its response to the Grenfell Tower disaster. He faced calls to resign earlier today, though the prime minister declined to add her voice to them. Paget-Brown apologised, saying:

Council workers have been on duty around the clock since 1.30am on the day of the fire, helping local residents and the families of the victims. I have nothing but praise for their truly heroic efforts

However, although individual council officers have worked so hard and delivered so much, it is clear that there has been a failing in our collective response. We could have done a better job at co-ordinating what happened on the ground and we weren’t able to re-home people as fast as we would have liked. We are truly sorry for that.

Work is under way to assess the housing needs of all Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk families to identify suitable accommodation. All the identified properties are in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, or a neighbouring borough, and none will be in towers.

People rightly have many questions about this tragedy, and they will be answered. Lessons will be learned from the Grenfell Tower fire and the government has launched a full public inquiry. We will cooperate in full with this and all other investigations.

The number of high-rise blocks of flats found to have combustible cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower has risen to 11, across eight local authority areas in England, the communities and local government secretary, Sajid Javid, has said in a letter to MPs.

The Conservative party has said it did not break the law by contracting a company to call voters during the general election campaign after Channel 4 News obtained secret footage of the call centre.

According to the programme, the Tories may have broken data protection and election laws by using Blue Telecoms, a firm in Neath, South Wales, to directly contact voters in marginal seats.

It was reported in the Daily Mirror in September last year that Jeremy Corbyn is not concerned about the numbers of people coming to live in the UK and it was reported on Sky News this year that Theresa May has restated her pledge to reduce net migration.

Just thinking about these reports in the media and the reports that you live in a marginal constituency that may determine who is prime minister... Does that make you more likely to back Theresa May or more likely to vote for Jeremy Corbyn?

Political parties of all colours pay for market research and direct marketing calls. All the scripts supplied by the party for these calls are compliant with data protection and information law.

Related: Conservative party call centre 'may have broken election law'

Here's one of the nine recently-refurbished Salford tower blocks that uses cladding similar to that on #Grenfell pic.twitter.com/Oj5jKxgryM

Following the news that nine tower blocks in Salford have similar cladding to that used on Grenfell Tower, residents in one of the buildings have told the Guardian that fire officers had been carrying out checks on each of its 22 floors earlier on Thursday. Many residents had also received a card from Pendleton Together marked “Urgent - please could you get in touch with us as soon as possible,” which said it referred to a fire survey.

Salford tower block residents got this leaflet today. Some told me fire officers have been carrying out checks today on all 22 floors. pic.twitter.com/CuZJBw4PGO

Dozens of residents here have signed petition outlining concerns about fire safety - and this was before the cladding news today pic.twitter.com/XP3hcc7Ycd

I’m horrified. It’s a hell of a situation, I’ve been here 14 years and I’ve been happy here but this business in London has frightened the life out of everybody. There’s three disabled people on this floor - I’m worried sick in our situation.

There’s no sprinklers, no fire alarms, the front doors are automatic – imagine if there was a fire.

Victims of the Grenfell Tower fire disaster have had their outstanding energy bills written off by by power companies, the government says.

Those who have been resettled will not be put on more expensive tariffs, while direct debit payments will be put on hold and people will not be charged for energy “for the period after the fire”. The business and energy secretary, Greg Clark, said:

Businesses should play an active role in society and I am pleased that all the energy companies supplying Grenfell Tower have come together and agreed to a set of principles in support of families who have already lost so much.

EU leaders have taken a “historic” step towards closer defence integration, the European Council president, Donald Tusk, has announced.

All members of the 28-nation bloc will be invited to join a permanent defence structure. The step has become possible only because of the expected withdrawal form the EU of the UK, which has long opposed such co-operation.

Leaders agreed on the need to set up permanent EU co-operation on defence. It is a historic step because such co-operation will allow the EU to move towards deeper integration in defence.

Our aim is for it to be ambitious and inclusive and every EU country is invited to join.

European Union leaders have threatened to pass legislation to force internet companies to take down extremist and terrorist material if they fail to act voluntarily.

Theresa May and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, agreed in Paris last week to press social media and tech firms to move forward with the establishment of an industry-led forum to develop tools to automatically identify and remove unacceptable material, with the threat that regulatory or legislative action could follow if they fail to do so.

Terrorism is still a major threat. We are fully determined to protect our people. To that end, the European Council agreed to deepen our efforts against foreign terrorist fighters.

We are calling on social media companies to do whatever is necessary to prevent the spread of terrorist material on the internet. In practice, this means developing new tools to detect and remove such material automatically. If need be, we are ready to also adopt relevant legislation.

The Scottish government has said no publicly-owned high rise blocks in Scotland use the aluminium composite cladding implicated in the Grenfell tower disaster, after checks were carried out by all of the country’s 32 councils.

Ministers have set up a new working group chaired by Angela Constance, the Scottish communities secretary, to review building and fire regulations with the fire brigade, building standards and housing officials.

Scottish building regulations state that cladding on high rise domestic buildings built since 2005, and cladding added to existing high rise domestic buildings since 2005, should be made of non-combustible materials or a cladding system that has met stringent fire tests.

External cladding on high rise domestic buildings built before 2005 has to meet a Class 0 classification which was the most demanding anti-flame spread classification at that time.

Sprinkler systems and other fire suppression measures are to be fitted to residential tower blocks in Birmingham, the city’s council says.

Its leader, John Clancy, said the 213 blocks of flats the council owns would be looked at “as a matter of urgency ... to assess what work needs to be undertaken to reassure tenants that their homes are safe”. Clancy said he was prepared to find up to an estimated £31m to retrospectively put in place safety measures.

Nine tower blocks in Salford use similar cladding to that on Grenfell Tower, Salford city council has confirmed. The recently-refurbished buildings near the Salford Lad’s Club in Pendleton use aluminium composite material (ACM).

A council spokesman said samples of the cladding had been sent to DCLG to check whether or not they were combustible, but that it had not received the results.

We are aware that our residents are asking a number of questions about the cladding used to refurbish the Pendleton blocks. We appreciate that this is obviously a matter of real concern to Pendleton residents and their families.

The cladding used in Pendleton is Aluminium Composite Material (ACM). This was fitted correctly to the manufacturer’s specification and certified by an independent expert.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba), which represents architects across the UK and Ireland, says it has been raising concerns for years about the new regulatory regime in construction which allows “fire risk self-assessment”.

It also says it was not happy with developments that mean the lead designer is no longer responsible for oversight of specification of materials and products.

The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, has demanded greater transparency from the government over the measures being taken to make tower blocks safe.

From the very first taskforce meeting I attended I said we have got to provide the reassurance that people need because, not unreasonably, if you live in a tower block you are worried, if you have got friends and family who live in a tower block you are worried.

We need to make sure that even if they have got cladding that’s safe, has it been properly installed?

I’m pleased there’s been an improvement. They have definitely raised their game, but they have got to do even better.

They have got to make sure that on the ground in north Kensington there is swifter information, more information to the residents, outreach work is done to make sure there’s bespoke help given to every single family, every single resident.

We have set up the inquiry to get to the cause of this. It’s very important we understand the facts. There are a number of theories around about cladding but it’s very important we get to the bottom of what actually caused the fire to spread so quickly and so devastatingly.

We are going to make sure we get those lessons learned as quickly as possible in the investigation.

I think it’s clear that any changes in the wake of this tragedy shouldn’t just be technical, or to legislation.

What happened at Grenfell Tower also showed us all that we need a change in attitude.

Here is more on the latest figures for the number of tower blocks with combustible cladding. This is from the Press Association:

Combustible cladding has been found on seven high-rise blocks of flats in four local authority areas in England, Downing Street has said.

Samples taken from the buildings failed government tests to determine whether the cladding is combustible but that does not mean the tower blocks are unsafe, with that to be determined after more checks by the fire and rescue services, Theresa May’s deputy spokeswoman said.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has updated its figure for the number of tower blocks now found to be covered with combustible cladding of the type used on Grenfell Tower. A spokesman said seven high-rise buildings have now failed the test.

The seven buildings are in four local authority areas, No 10 said.

Norman Lamb has written an article for the Guardian explaining why he is not running for the party leadership. Here is an excerpt.

I have just fought a gruelling campaign to win my North Norfolk seat. Attempting to win a seat for the Liberal Democrats in an area that voted quite heavily to leave the EU was bound to be a challenge. Not only was the party’s position on Brexit toxic to many erstwhile Liberal Democrat voters in North Norfolk, but I found myself sympathising with those who felt that the party was not listening to them and was treating them with some disdain.

I abstained on article 50 because I felt it was wrong in principle to vote against, given that we had all voted to hold the referendum in the first place. For many in the party that abstention was an act of betrayal. I have been accused of supporting a hard Brexit – the last thing I want – while a Lib Dem source told the London Evening Standard this week that the abstention “looks like he can’t make a tough call”. It is actually quite tough to go against your party, and I did it on a matter of principle.

Related: Why I won’t be the Lib Dems’ next leader | Norman Lamb

Georgia Gould, the leader of Camden Council, said she was “shocked” when she got the phone call last night to tell her the cladding on the five high rises in the Chalcot Estate in Swiss Cottage was the same as in Grenfell Tower.

The council launched an immediate review of its 13 clad towers in the borough following the inferno in west London and found the five in Chalcot used polyethylene cladding rather than fire resistant cladding as it had specified when it commissioned the refurbishment 10 years ago. Gould said:

Money is not the problem here. Our tenants living in these blocks are our priority and we will deal with the money, discuss it with the government later.

According to the BBC’s Norman Smith, Norman Lamb has decided not to contest the Lib Dem leadership.

Understand @normanlamb not standing for @libdem leadership cos of party's stance on Brexit.

On Sky News this afternoon the Labour MP David Lammy called for Nicholas Paget-Brown, the Conservative leader of Kensington and Chelsea council, to resign.

[Paget-Brown] should go because of the awful situation the people of Kensington have found themselves in. It is clear that he has lost the confidence of significant tracts of his own community. It is clear that people made complaints and did not get significant response. It is clear that the management of this situation doesn’t just go to the chief executive [who has resigned], it goes to him. And the decent thing for him to do is to step aside. And I think there are real questions about how decent this man [is] ...

The situation in Kensington and Chelsea ... is a scandal, frankly. How can you have huge reserves and be spending that on giving money back to your wealthier citizens, but not supporting your poorest and actually putting sprinklers in the building. It is for those reasons he should go.

Related: My council tax rebate from Kensington and Chelsea is blood money | Letters

Bob O’Toole, chairman of the residents association of the Burnham block, one of the five high-rises on the Chalcots estate in Swiss Cottage, London, was called to an emergency meeting at Camden council to be told the news on Thursday morning about the cladding being replaced. (See 12.09pm.) He said:

The cladding is going to be changed on all the blocks. They are looking at starting in about six weeks. In the meantime we are going to have 24/7 fire safety patrols in all the blocks.

Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Nottingham city councils confirmed that none of their high-rise blocks had cladding like that on Grenfell Tower. All five said they did not yet know about privately owned buildings in their areas.

A spokeswoman from Newcastle city council said they were now checking building regulation application records for older residential buildings the local authority did not own. “This is to establish if similar cladding works have been carried out as part of historic refurbishments,” she said.

Theresa May is at the EU summit in Brussels. The last two weeks haven’t exactly gone very well for her, but she seems to have found something to laugh about with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor.

As she arrived at the summit, May said she would be setting out “how the United Kingdom proposes to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and see the rights of UK citizens in Europe protected.”

Tenants in 700 flats in the five tower blocks that make up the Chalcots estate in Swiss Cottage in London received a hand-delivered letter from Camden council this morning advising them that the cladding was the same as that in Grenfell Tower and would be removed immediately. (See 12.09pm.)

Rydon, the company that won the contract for refurbishment in both Swiss Cottage and Grenfell, is now facing potential legal action.

I have been very worried ever since the fire and I feel better now the cladding is coming off.

When there was a fire here a few years ago it didn’t spread. But with the refurbishment they changed the windows and they don’t open fully they just tilt out, so I don’t know how you could even jump out if you had to.

Samples are being taken of the cladding used on three high-rise blocks within Barnet borough by specialists using abseiling equipment.

Two workers in helmets were seen dangling on climbing rope off the edge of Harpenmead Point, removing panels with drills. Similar samples are to be taken from neighbouring blocks Templewood Point and Granville Point.

Specialists using abseil equipment are removing samples of cladding from this tower block in Barnet, to be sent off for further testing. pic.twitter.com/Y3pxyhi6Jq

The government is working with local authorities. We will ensure that any essential works that are necessary, in terms of remedial action for safety of these blocks in relation to fire, are taken. There will be different circumstances in different local authorities. We will ensure that the work can be undertaken.

I have made it clear that where work is necessary, resources will be available to ensure that that work can be undertaken. But it is for the government to work with the local authorities to ensure that that takes place.

At least 79 people are dead. It is both a tragedy and an outrage because every single one of those deaths could have been avoided.

The Grenfell Tower residents themselves had raised concerns about the lack of fire safety in their block.

The government has now clarified the line given out at the No 10 lobby briefing about 600 tower blocks having cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower. (See 11.53am.) The spokesperson used the word “similar”, but that was misleading. The government is now saying 600 is the figure for the number of tower blocks with cladding of some kind.

A communities department spokesman said:

The situation is that 600 buildings have cladding. It is not similar; it is all types of cladding. Of these 600, we want landlords to check if they have aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding. Of those 600, some of those would have ACM; we want to test them to see if they have ACM.

Here is the full text of Theresa May’s Commons statement this morning on the Grenfell Tower fire.

In the Commons (see 10.24am) the Labour MP David Lammy spoke about his friend Khadija Saye, a talented artist killed in the Grenfell Tower fire. Lammy has also been encouraging people to support the campaign to raise money for the Khadija Saye Memorial Fund, set up “to support young artists like Khadija to realise their potential”.

The London borough of Camden said it would immediately remove cladding from five tower blocks in the borough because it is similar to that which burned rapidly on Grenfell Tower.

Following independent testing of cladding on the Chalcots estate by the Building Research Establishment, the council leader, Georgia Gould, revealed the outer cladding panels on the blocks were also made up of aluminium panels with a polyethylene core.

Camden council has decided it will immediately begin preparing to remove these external cladding panels from the five tower blocks on the Chalcots estate. Camden council will do whatever it takes to ensure our residents are reassured about the safety of their homes.

To ensure such a tragedy is not repeated in Barnet, we have a responsibility to our community to make sure that safety systems are of the highest standard – including investigating whether sprinklers would be appropriate in our high-rise tower blocks. We will be calling on our housing committee to oversee a programme of investment, based on advice from the London fire brigade, to provide added safety and reassurance to our residents. If sprinklers are needed, they will be fitted.

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, has called for residents in hundreds of tower blocks with flammable cladding to be rehoused immediately unless the government can reassure them that their homes are safe.

His comments came after the government confirmed that councils estimate that 600 high-rise buildings have similar flammable exterior cladding to that used on Grenfell Tower.

There is now a huge amount of work to urgently do to ensure that it is safe for people to remain in properties affected. If not, the government must support people being rehoused immediately while cladding is being removed.

The government needs to ensure all resources necessary are made available to local authorities for the testing process, for checking those tower blocks and for rehousing local people in their local community.

Govt must ensure resources needed for testing tower blocks for combustible cladding & rehousing people locally are urgently made available. pic.twitter.com/rrEVW00zcx

Here is more on the latest No 10 statement about the prevalence of Grenfell Tower-type cladding. This is from the Press Association.

Hundreds of tower blocks in England could be covered in similar cladding to Grenfell Tower, councils have estimated.

So far tests have revealed that combustible cladding has been found on at least three tower blocks across the UK, the government has said.

The situation is that 600 buildings have cladding. It is not similar, it is all types of cladding. Of these 600, we want landlords to check if they have aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding. Of those 600, some of those would have ACM; we want to test them to see if they have ACM.

The Press Association has just snapped this, from the No 10 lobby briefing.

Councils in England estimate that 600 high-rise buildings have similar cladding to Grenfell Tower, Downing Street said.

The Liberal Democrats are demanding the resignation of Nicholas Paget-Brown, the Tory leader of Kensington and Chelsea council. Earlier Theresa May refused to back calls for Paget-Brown to go, even though the council chief executive has been forced out. (See 11.07am.) But the Lib Dem MP Tom Brake put out a statement saying:

The prime minister notes that the chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea has resigned, but what about the Conservative political leader? It was a political decision to stockpile huge cash reserves while apparently skimping on safety measures to protect disadvantaged members of the community.

No one is looking for a witch hunt, but if heads are starting to roll, they should be the right ones. There must be political accountability.

Responding to Amber Rudd, Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, asks if Rudd accepts that austerity has contributed to weakening security. And she asks if Rudd accepts the police need more resources.

Rudd says Abbott should wait for the outcome of the Anderson review before concluding that police cuts were a factor.

Amber Rudd, the home secretary, is making a statement now about the recent terror attacks. She says 36 people have been killed, and more than 150 people were hospitalised.

She says these acts of terrorism represent the very worst of humanity.

From Home Secretary's statement in Parliament just now. A remarkable if rather daunting privilege. pic.twitter.com/PA7rS3Z7jd

Theresa May’s statement is over.

Amber Rudd, the home secretary, is making a statement now about the recent terror attacks. I will cover the opening of this before coming back to a summary of what we’ve learnt from the Grenfell Tower exchanges.

The Press Association has more on the discovery of combustible cladding on more tower blocks.

Combustible cladding has been found on at least three tower blocks across the UK, the government has said.

The at-risk buildings are not being identified until the landlords have had the opportunity to inform tenants, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Labour’s Toby Perkins asks if May thinks the Conservative leader of Kensington and Chelsea council should resign.

May says that is a matter for the Tory group on the council.

Labour’s Chris Williamson asks why May does not accept fire service advice and install sprinklers in all tower blocks.

May says it is not as simple as that. In some blocks, that might not be helpful, she suggests.

Vicky Ford, a Conservative, asks if the inquiry will look at the safety of people working in tower blocks, as well as people living in them.

May says she does want the inquiry to look into this.

Labour’s Jack Dromey says there are 213 tower blocks in Birmingham, housing 10,000 families. He says May is wrong about the Lakanal House inquest. It did recommend the installation of sprinklers.

May reads out from its recommendation. It said providers should consider installing sprinklers in all tower blocks.

Labour’s Anneliese Dodds asks if the government will now abandon the “one in, two out” rule for regulation (saying two regulations must be scrapped for every new one introduced) for fire safety.

May says the government has always taken fire safety very seriously. This will be an issue for the inquiry, she says.

Labour’s Vicky Foxcroft says May has not said the government will pay councils to enable them to carry out work to make flats safe. Will it?

May says, where work is necessary, resources will be available to ensure that that work can be undertaken.

Labour’s Alison McGovern asks May who she thought has forgotten “these people”. Was it George Osborne, who imposed cuts, or ministers who ignored fire safety warnings, or May herself, who is treating “these people” as others?

The prime minister, in concluding her statement, said that we should resolve never to forget these people. I would like to ask her who she thinks forgot these people?

Was it the former chancellor of the exchequer, who defunded local authorities, including my own, still struggling with the consequences of the New Ferry explosion?

Pressed by Labour’s Rachel Reeves on whether the government will pay for councils to remove dangerous cladding, May says the government is working with councils. There will be “different circumstances” in different places, she says. But she says the government will ensure that the work gets done.

I have been updating some of the earlier posts with direct quotes from the exchanges. To get them to show up, you may need to refresh the page.

Labour’s Karen Buck says she is still waiting to hear May say that the government will underwrite the costs to councils of dealing with dangerous cladding.

May says the government is providing the testing. And it will work with councils to address this matter, she says.

Labour’s Maria Eagle asks what is being done to ensure landlords can swiftly deal with combustible cladding.

May says that work is under way already. Buildings can be made safe in a number of ways.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Conservative, says surveys show people do not want to live in tower blocks. Can we get rid of them so they are a thing of the past?

May says some people don’t like living in tower blocks. But others are comfortable living in them. We do need to look at social housing, she says.

Labour’s Angela Eagle asks if it was right for Kensington and Chelsea to be giving money back to council tax payers when their housing had these problems.

May says the inquiry will look at how the regulations were applied. The regulations date from 2006. It will also look at how they were applied, and it will get to the bottom of who was responsible.

Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts says those in government need to “search their souls” over their possible responsibility.

May says the government will do everything it can to ensure this never happens again.

May says she expects to announce the name of the judge leading the inquiry within the next few days.

In response to another question about the cladding, May says this is part of the criminal investigation. She says MPs will want to ensure that nothing that they do prejudices any prosecution.

Theresa May’s reluctance to say whether or not the Grenfell Tower cladding was compliant with building regulations is strange because on Sunday Philip Hammond, the chancellor, said it was illegal on buildings of that height.

Related: Cladding on Grenfell Tower is banned on UK high-rises, says Philip Hammond

Labour’s Yvette Cooper says the cladding used on Grenfell Tower is a standard product. She does not understand why May cannot say whether or not it was compliant with building regulations.

May repeats the point about the material being tested by the fire service.

Labour’s Hilary Benn asks if the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was compliant with building regulations.

May says the fire service is testing the cladding on the building. It expects to make the results available in the next 48 hours.

The Lib Dem MP Tom Brake asks if the government will ban the use of combustible materials.

May says building regulations set out what can and cannot be used. The inquiry will look at this, she says.

Kevin Hollinrake, a Conservative, asks if the government will provide encouragement to retrofit sprinklers when they are carrying out refurbishments.

May acknowledges that the Lakanal House inquest did say this should be encouraged.

The Labour MP David Lammy says a woman that he and his wife mentored died in the fire. He asks why more is not being said about the criminal investigation.

May says there is an ongoing police investigation. It is not for her to get involved. But if people should be charged, they will be.

Richard Bacon, a Conservative, asks the government to impose punitive taxes on owners who leave flats empty. He says in London foreign landlords buy luxury flats and never use them.

In recent years London has seen many high-quality high-rises being built, often financed with hot foreign money and then left empty for years, sometimes with the kitchens clingfilmed and pristine.

While we all understand there are occasions where a landlord will need to leave an apartment empty from time to time, when brand new properties are empty for many years does the prime minister think it’s right to discuss with (the chancellor) changing the taxation regime so that, as in New York City, these people face punitive taxation?

I understand, in fact, the number of empty homes is actually at low levels at the moment, and of course we always look to see what we can do. What we want to ensure is that people are housed and that properties are being used for the purpose for which they have been built.

Labour’s Harriet Harman, whose constituency includes Lakanal House, says the news that more tower blocks with combustible cladding have been found is chilling. She says May must get a grip on this. She should use Cobra to set a deadline for councils to check their cladding. She must also commit resources to replace that within a certain timetable.

Harman says the Lakanal House inquest recommendations have not been acted upon, contrary to what May said. The inquest recommended the installation of sprinklers, she says. If they had been acted upon, Grenfell Tower would not have happened.

It’s not good enough to just congratulate or encourage other councils. [May] must take a grip on it personally.

She said the Lakanal House coroner’s inquest findings had been acted upon. But I will tell her they have not.

Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative MP, says people in positions of authority will be fearing the public inquiry. He asks how will local residents get a proper say in the terms of reference?

May says it will be a judge-led inquiry. It will be completely independent. She wants people to know that, when it publishes its findings, they will represent the truth.

Emma Dent Coad, the new Labour MP for Kensington, says she is speaking on behalf of a frightened and traumatised community.

She asks if the goverment will reverse fire service cuts.

Ian Blackford, the new SNP leader at Westminster, is speaking now.

He asks if the government will make more money available if the £5m for the relief fund is not enough.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative former work and pensions secretary, asks if it is feasible to retrofit these old tower blocks. Would it be better to pull these buildings down and replace them?

Can I however, in the course of the public inquiry, ask her to add to the public inquiry one further remit?

And that is to look at whether or not this whole process of retrofitting these old tower blocks is in fact viable at all, and whether or not there is a better way to both house and support tenants in these areas, without the use of many of these incredibly badly designed and very faulty tower blocks.

He’s suggesting that the inquiry should in fact go a great deal further than looking into this particular incident.

I think what is important, and we will ensure that the survivors and local residents have an input into the terms of reference for this inquiry, to make sure it is an inquiry they can have confidence in, and that they know will produce the results that they need and the justice that they need.

May is replying to Corbyn.

She starts by joining Corbyn in praising the work of Emma Dent Coad, the new Labour MP for Kensington, for the work she has done following the fire.

Here is the start of the Press Association story about Theresa May’s opening statement.

Theresa May has said tests on tower blocks following the Grenfell tragedy have shown cladding on some blocks is “combustible”.

The prime minister said local authorities and fire services concerned are taking “all possible steps” to ensure buildings are safe and residents have been informed.

Jeremy Corbyn is responding now.

He says he is glad that the Kensington and Chelsea chief executive has resigned, but he asks why the political leaders of the council are not taking responsibility for what happened.

From Hillsborough, to the child sex abuse scandal, to Grenfell Tower - the pattern is consistent: working-class people’s voices are ignored, their concerns dismissed by those in power.

The Grenfell Tower residents and North Kensington community deserve answers and thousands and thousands of people living in tower blocks around the country need very urgent reassurance.

May says 151 homes were destroyed. Most of those were in the tower, but some were in the immediate vicinity.

She says people will be rehoused in equivalent homes. Some 68 flats have already been offered at cost price in a new block of flats, she says.

I know many others living in tall residential buildings will have concerns about their safety after what happened at Grenfell.

All social landlords have been instructed to carry out additional fire safety checks on tower blocks and ensure the appropriate safety and response measures are in place.

Theresa May is speaking now.

She starts by apologising to Jeremy Corbyn for the short notice he has had.

I would like to reassure people that we will not use this tragic incident as a reason to carry out immigration checks on those involved or on those providing information to identify victims or those assisting with the criminal investigation.

We will make sure that all victims, irrespective of their immigration status, will be able to access the services they need including healthcare and accommodation.

Theresa May is about to make a Commons statement on the Grenfell Tower fire.

My colleague Daniel Boffey, the Guardian’s Brussels bureau chief, says a four-year transitional deal would be unacceptable to the European parliament.

Hammond's 4 year transition period a year more than limit the European parliament said was acceptable in resolution https://t.co/8BAWOU2prK

One of the criticisms made of Theresa May over Brexit is that she has done little to prepare the public for the compromises it is likely to involve. For example, it has been clear for some time that there is likely to be a transitional period after Brexit during which some of the features of EU membership (payments to the EU budget, European court of justice jurisdiction, free movement) will continue to apply to the UK. Perhaps the Daily Mail will be perfectly happy with that, but one suspects not, and May has done little to argue why it might be desirable.

This morning the issue opened up on the Today programme when Philip Hammond, the chancellor, suggested the transitional period could last as long as four years. John Humphrys, who was interviewing him, did a good job of confronting him with the likely Mail reaction.

Companies in Germany who want to supply components to car manufacturers in the UK, if they are going to set up contracts that have three- or four-year terms, need to know the basis on which they will be supplying those concerns in years three or four.

JH: So we could have a transitional agreement that lasts for three or four years or perhaps even more? And that would be overseen by the European court of justice, wouldn’t it?

PH: Well, all these things remain to be negotiated.

Continue reading...

22/06/2017 07:56 AM
Thousands warned their blocks clad with same panelling as Grenfell Tower

Guardian inquiries suggests 25 buildings in London, Salford and Plymouth are covered in aluminium composite

Thousands of tower block residents around the UK have been warned that their homes are clad with the same flammable aluminium panels believed to have fuelled the deadly blaze at Grenfell Tower in London.

A day of frantic testing by local authorities began to determine how many people were living in potentially dangerous high rises, after Theresa May warned that some of the first tests had revealed combustible cladding on buildings.

Related: Cladding to be removed in Camden as councils scramble to check tower blocks

Related: Cladding on Grenfell Tower is banned on UK high-rises, says Philip Hammond

Related: Experts warned government against cladding material used on Grenfell

Continue reading...