FIRE Editor Andrew Lynch urges the Secretary of State for Levelling Up to sort out fire, sharpish.
The great Roman philosopher and politician, Cicero, proclaimed that the primary role of government is to protect its citizens. It appears a fundamental prerequisite that is both obvious and readily attainable, yet it has been an awful struggle of late, as anyone who has been awake during Covid will testify. Cicero also said: “We learn nothing from history except that we learn nothing from history” so his expectations were never that high.
The cynical side of this hack would concur, this government never quite hitting the remarkably low bar set by its predecessors. For the sake of clarity, I don’t have it in for this government in particular: I have it in for ALL governments; that’s my job.
New Secretary of State Michael Gove’s job “is to get things done.” Even his detractors say he “gets things done”, and they’re not just talking about throwing shapes on the dancefloor. This is a man that seriously “gets things done.” Funny, I always thought “getting things done” was a precondition of any job. Of course, getting nothing done is a perpetual stumbling block for those campaigners facing the obduracy of intransigent bureaucracy.
Take the Kafkaesque nightmare of obstinate, inanimate government writ large across the school sprinkler fiasco. In its infernal and eternal battle with the Department for Education to get the ‘recommendation’ for sprinklers (re)installed in all new school buildings in Building Bulletin 100, the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group recently drew the department’s attention to three major school fires in ONE day in February. The government’s response? ‘Don’t panic’ (that approach always backfires): one was in Scotland, and another was a boarding school in which they propose to include sprinklers in the new building. That’s alright then.
So back to Mr Goves, the man who can. He’s in listening mode at the moment. He should read as well. Our take down of the inherent contradiction of the guiding principle of the 18-metre rule in the Building Safety Bill is well worth a scan (see pg 19). It is basically this: the experts almost unanimously agree that 18 metres is not ideal but it is a place to start. We maintain that starting from a position that is not ideal is inherently not ideal, in fact it so far from ideal that it is fatally flawed.
“The government’s intransigence over cladding, in which it has somehow contrived to persecute the people it was elected to protect, needs untangling at a rapid rate of knots”
Speaking of which, the government’s intransigence over cladding, in which it has somehow contrived to persecute the people it was elected to protect, needs untangling at a rapid rate of knots. The solution, as ever, is deceptively simple for Mr Goves. He should listen to Dr Nigel Glenn from the Association of Residential Managing Agents, who told the select committee: “Let’s get people safe first by providing that funding and then figure out who should pay.” It is made easier still by the fact that if it isn’t resolved soon then we’ll all suffer, which is true democracy, of sorts. Martin Boyd, Chair of the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, added: “What we need is a solution to get us out of this mess. If we don’t, the housing market will stay in crisis for years.” Incentives a plenty.
That said, this hopeful hack is as naively optimistic as ever, on the off chance I’ll eventually become a small part of “getting things done”. I have high hope for Mr Goves and co. As Cicero said: “Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error."