SHAC Condemns Failure to Safeguard Barking Riverside Residents following Leaked Report

Submission to the Barking Riverside Fire Inquiry from Suzanne Muna

Suzanne is a Unite the Union National Executive Committee member, London and Eastern Regions, 2017-2020.

Suzanne is also the Social Housing Action Campaign (SHAC) Communications Officer, and specialises in social housing issues.

SHAC is a network of housing association and coop residents.

I would like to submit the following statement from SHAC to the Barking Riverside Fire Inquiry. I wholeheartedly endorse the findings of this Inquiry as reported on this website at this date. In particular, I support the Conclusions section of the report.

Suzanne Muna, Unite the Union

Statement for the Inquiry into the Barking Riverside Fire from the Social Housing Action Campaign

Social Housing Action Campaign (SHAC)
Social Housing Action Campaign (SHAC)

SHAC condemns the failure of housing associations London and Quadrant (L&Q) and Southern Housing to safeguard the lives of tenants and leaseholders in Samuel Garside House on the Barking Riverside estate, for which L&Q is the superior landlord.

The revelations in the recently leaked Bureau Veritas report into the Barking Riverside fire in June 2019 (part of the London Fire Brigade Report) demonstrates that once again, major housing associations have callously disregarded tenant and resident safety. Its findings are quite correctly highlighted by the Barking Riverside Fire Inquiry report on this website. It is a failing all too evident within the housing association sector.

As Inside Housing reported (“Leaked Barking fire report reveals ‘significant risk to life’ from blaze”, 6 May 2020), the cladding used actually aided the fire’s spread, instead of barring its path. The focus of developers and managing agents however was erroneously on an assumed exemption from regulation arising from lower levels of regulations applicable to buildings under 18 metres tall.

L&Q are the majority shareholders of the superior landlord and developers Barking Riverside Limited, of the Barking Riverside private estate. Southern Housing holds a sublease for 32 flats for social housing within the block.

SHAC Chair, Niall Mulholland said

“The penalties against housing associations for such breaches remain woefully inadequate, even as we reach the third anniversary of the tragic Grenfell fire. While the Barking fire did not fortunately result in the loss of life for residents, nonetheless the impact on the families affected has been devastating, with the shock and trauma of the incident, the loss of their homes, and the destruction of their entire belongings in some cases.”    

In a further echo of the Grenfell fire, residents have evidence showing that they raised concerns with their landlords of the fire risks from cladding long before the incident in 2019. It is clear to SHAC members that the social housing sector will not voluntarily take responsibility for the safety of tenants and residents. New legislation needs to be introduced which divests power over building design and maintenance and grants it to those living in housing association properties.

27 May 2020

SHAC is a campaign to defend social housing, with a focus on housing associations and co-operatives. Fighting alongside members in the Unite Housing Workers Branch it aims to improve the lives of workers and residents, highlighting and opposing increased commercialisation.