Organising for safe homes in Coventry
On Tuesday 1st August, Coventry Socialist Party held a public meeting in Hillfields about a new campaign for housing safety in Coventry.
Attendees included a number of local residents from tower blocks from a number of different areas of Coventry, all keen not just to highlight their own concerns and experiences but also to get involved and take action in organising a campaign on housing safety – an issue which has really come to the forefront in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy, which has left at least 80 people dead.
There was a very determined tone to the meeting – it was pointed out that what happened at Grenfell was a symptom of a capitalist system that puts profit before people, and holds working class people in complete contempt.
Local residents raised such issues as fire alarms being removed from tower blocks and housing provider Whitefriars charging tenants for repairs – up to £600 in some cases!
One of the main proposals of the meeting – to get local residents organised in tenants’ groups – was well received, with plans now underway to have tenants of three different tower blocks organise door-knocking and petitioning of other residents in their own flats.
The demands mentioned discussed include the fitting of sprinklers in all tower blocks – a recommendation consistently made by coroners following three different tower block fires nationally since 2005. As also mentioned in the meeting, the vital importance of a fully-functioning sprinkler system was starkly shown by the difference between the fire in Grenfell Tower and in a hotel in Dubai – a very similar structure but for a sprinkler system – in 2016. In the latter, nobody was killed.
It was clear that pressure must also be put on local landlords to fully enforce the highest safety standards across all housing in Coventry – private or social – and pressure should be put on local councillors to help tenants organise and fight for our rights. This is far from an impossible demand – Birmingham City Council, owning the majority of tower blocks in the West Midlands, will be carrying out the installation of sprinklers in all tower blocks across the city!
As we have made clear in a previous article, “We cannot afford a system which treats our lives with such contempt, and gives them so little value in comparison to those whose interests it was created solely to represent”. We have to link these issues to the overall demand to bring all housing back under public ownership. This is also linked to our demands to change society along socialist lines: to bring all infrastructure and the economy into the democratic control of working class people. For a society run for people, not profit!
Are you a tower block resident and want to get involved? Fill in the form below!