Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

Posted on 20 March 2020 at 13:42 GMT

'Worst crisis in housing since World War Two' - Barking Riverside inquiry into fire

Pete Mason, Chair, Barking Reach Residents Association and East London Socialist Party
London firefighters putting out the fire on Barking Riverside estate, 9.6.19, photo Pete Mason

London firefighters putting out the fire on Barking Riverside estate, 9.6.19, photo Pete Mason   (Click to enlarge)

Our residents-led inquiry into the Samuel Garside House fire on the Barking Riverside estate in east London met for an interim review of its findings on 4 March.

We now have 20 video interviews of residents on the estate, with many emotionally charged ones of residents who fled the building bare-footed, still today suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the fire, and being constantly pressured to return.

We are witnessing the worst crisis in housing since World War Two, I said, vividly demonstrated by the Grenfell Tower disaster in which 72 people died.

World War Two marked the turning point in housing for working-class people, with mass council housing building providing a welcome escape from the decaying private slums - council housing which set higher standards than the old private estates.

Now we are heading back to the dark days of the 1930s - of reliance on private housing and callous landlords.

An expert witness at our meeting, a longstanding critic of the government, Dr Jonathan Evans, condemned building companies for lobbying the government to relax regulations.

This led to the following government guidance: "Timber cladding at least 9mm thick is also acceptable" on the first 18 metres of tower blocks. The fire in Samuel Garside house, of wooden balconies, he stated, was instrumental in exploding that 'advice'.

996 days after Grenfell, we called for all flammable cladding to be removed - and the government to 'cough up' rather than leaving leaseholders to face crippling charges.

Our treasurer and convener of the inquiry, Venilia Amorim, detailed how residents and their residents' association had warned again and again of the dangers of the wooden buildings and the cladding on the estate.

Yet the builders, the managing agents (and standing behind them, we must assume, the landlords, like Adriatic in our case) responded that everything conformed to building regulations.

They are still doing so now. Building regulations state that the external walls must resist the spread of fire. The wooden balconies, by contrast, were the means by which the fire spread.

So the interim meeting also affirmed our most far-reaching conclusions: the need for resident control over our homes and estates.

We reaffirmed our resolution, passed unanimously at our mass meeting after the fire: "We believe Adriatic has forfeited its right to ownership of this property. It should pass as commonhold to the ... residents".

The inquiry findings will be presented on the anniversary of the fire, 10 June 2020, and we will invite all those involved in the management, regulation and ownership of Samuel Garside house to defend themselves against the charges we will present.

Several days after our inquiry, the local news reported that Barking and Dagenham council has launched a review into fire safety, which aims, like ours, to interview residents affected by the Samuel Garside fire.

It hardly seems a mere coincidence, but we will do all we can to get the council inquiry to reach the same conclusions as ours.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


Related links:


triangleThree years on: No justice for Grenfell, no peace from BLM

triangle20 years of housing failure

triangleGrenfell watch: Unions challenge 'mockery of justice'

triangleCladding scandal: Government steps up defence of landlords

triangleSurrey firefighters to ballot on Christmas industrial action


triangleBarking: Anger at landlord's inaction after park stabbing

triangleBarking: protest brings pledge to remove dangerous decking

triangleTV: The Accident - Will capitalism be exposed in upsetting, true-to-life drama?

triangleBurnt-out Barking residents picket builders' sales day


triangleA-level results day 2020: Fight for our future!

triangleHousing crisis: what now and after the pandemic?

triangleTV: Ross Kemp - Living with Forced Out Families

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns


Young Socialists

Young Socialist day of action


Socialist Party

Campaign stalls on jobs, pay, NHS and racism


Black Lives Matter

North London: Socialist Party speaks at BLM protest



Engage for Change Hull - trade union youth festival goes online


Socialist Party

Why I joined - Covid changed my outlook


Socialist Party

Socialist Party meetings: Online and in-person


Young Socialists

A-level results day 2020: Fight for our future!



GE Aviation workers march to save jobs



80 years since the murder of Leon Trotsky rally



Fighting to end racism and capitalism



Doncaster: Vigil for murdered women


The Socialist

The Socialist summer schedule



Unite union branch pledges to support socialist candidates who oppose cuts



Oppose BT site closures - national strike ballot needed



Sick pay victory at Homerton hospital!

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041



Alphabetical listing

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020