‘We need to talk about safe housing’

The horrific tragedy at Grenfell tower pushes safe housing up the agenda at UNISON’s local government conference

The horrific tragedy at Grenfell tower pushed safe housing up the agenda at UNISON’s local government conference on Sunday.

Delegates spoke of the avoidable deaths of scores of working class people at the Grenfell tower, and lamented that it took a tragedy to push safe housing up the government’s agenda.

They called for UNISON to work to make sure that proper, secure, safe housing is prioritised by the government.

Tony Philips, of London fire and emergency planning branch, pointed out that the Conservatives were warned about housing safety, but that “for them, nothing must get in the way of private landlords’ profits.”

Emma Eyre, a housing adviser from Preston local government branch told conference that in 2001 she was part of an effort to evacuate a 14-storey block within 24-hours.

They had been able to rehouse people quickly then because they had short-term housing available, but now that would not be the case, she said.

Ms Eyre stressed the difficulty of rehousing tenants when there is little housing available and said: “My heart goes out to my colleagues being vilified in the news – the stress and the strain that housing staff must be under must be appalling.”

Conference discussed the significance of housing costs and affordability and their impact on living standards.

It called for the local government service group executive to work with UNISON’s policy and public affairs department and the community service group executive to:

  1. examine the impact these changes have had, and will have, on the public and social housing workforce with specific reference to terms and conditions, job roles, training and skills, and to develop recommendations for the changes that are needed for the next 30 years;
  2. examine the impact of housing costs and affordability on the public sector workforce and the implications for the delivery of public services, the economy, the environment and other social consequences;
  3. continue to contribute to the development of an alternative manifesto for housing such as the Autumn Statement for Homes.