COMMENT: A towering mistake to backtrack on fire safety
The inferno that claimed 71 lives at Grenfell Tower on June 14 horrified the nation and gave us one of 2017's darkest hours.
Even as the flames burned, politicians of all hues vowed: This must never be allowed to happen again.
Our shock and grief was worsened as news emerged that Grenfell was a tragedy waiting to happen – that cladding on the tower block’s exterior may have hastened the fire and worsened the death toll.
We had taken high-rise living as a fact of life in modern Britain.
The ‘glamming-up’ of tower blocks with hi-tech cladding was seen as a good thing, adding colour and interest to the urban environment.
But the reverberations from the Grenfell Tower disaster changed that view forever.
Local authorities up and down the country, including Portsmouth, sprang into action, auditing their properties and drawing up comprehensive risk assessments.
It has been suggested that lax regulations and innefective monitoring may have been a contributing factor.
It was a national scandal created at a national level.
Now it appears that the same politicians who vowed a similar tragedy would never happen again are backtracking on their pledge to foot the bill to put things right.
Portsmouth’s tower blocks have been declared safe, but let’s be clear – this is effectively a matter of life and death.
For the government to lead local authorities to understant it would pay for safety improvements and then to do a U-turn is at best lacking in integrity, and, at worst, a scandal.
Local authorities are already scrabbling around for every penny and should not have to foot the bill to fix problems created at a national level.