Statement: Grenfell Tower

The fire at Grenfell Tower was horrific and the extent of personal tragedy which had affected so many families is appalling and heart-breaking. My thoughts and prayers go out to all those who are affected and it must be our number one priority to account for those who have lost their lives, look after the survivors and give them whatever support and comfort they need and get to the bottom of exactly what happened. I would particularly like to praise the heroic work carried out by the emergency services who reached the scene within minutes and risked their own lives to save the hundreds trapped in the building. As we know from the experience of the Shoreham Air Show tragedy the effect on those in uniform from whom we expect so much can be significant and long-lasting and need support. The response of the local community and countless volunteers from all walks of life was humbling and one of the few positive highlights of this tragedy.

It is far too early to determine the cause of the fire and it is essential that immediate work is urgently progressed to assess whether there are appropriate safety considerations for others living in similar accommodation and I welcome the work that central and local government is doing on that front. WE do not have comparable structures in east Worthing & Shoreham but I have discussed what precautionary work can be carried out with local councillors.

It is an unfortunate feature of tragedies like this and the immediacy of social media that certain people have sought to point the finger of blame as certain individuals, organisations and politicians often to further political agendas. In the light of the sensitivity of this appalling event and the magnitude of the loss of life this is a particularly crass thing to do and does the victims no favours. Their families are entitled to the truth not partisan speculation and I urge them to desist casting ill-informed and often abusive accusations.

It is unhelpful therefore for certain politically motivated people to try to allocate blame based on an obscure amendment to the Housing & Planning Bill which is just not relevant here. There are already rigorous standards that landlords must meet, whether in private rental or for social housing. The Housing Health and Safety Rating System assesses the health and safety risk in all residential properties, and under the Housing Act 2004, following an inspection, local authorities can issue the landlord with an improvement notice or a hazard awareness notice. This is also an area that my Worthing colleague Sir Peter Bottomley has been closely involved in and we work together to make sure that the safety of local residents is paramount notwithstanding the pressures caused by social housing shortages in the area.

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