The Grenfell Tower fire exposed the “disastrous effect of austerity” and should act as a “wake up call” for the Tories who have been responsible for years of council budget cuts, Jeremy Corbyn said.
The Labour leader faced Tory shouts of “shame” in the House of Commons on Wednesday as he said years of Conservative government cuts to local authority budgets had put public safety in jeopardy and played a part in the fire that engulfed a tower block in Kensington, killing at least 79 people.
He cited a “disregard for working class communities” and “the terrible consequences of deregulation” as he clashed with Theresa May during the first Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) since the general election.
“When you cut local authority budgets by 40 percent, we all pay a price in public safety. Fewer inspectors, fewer planning inspectors – we all pay a price.
“Those cuts to the fire service have meant that there are 11,000 fewer firefighters. The public sector pay gap is hitting recruitment and retention across the public sector. What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effect of austerity.”
May responded by saying “calm determination” not “pointing fingers” was needed. She said we should “all come together” to find answers.
However, she also appeared to shift the blame to former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, who she said changed fire regulations.
“The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government.
“In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a ‘responsible person.’”
The heated exchange came as May revealed the cladding on Grenfell Tower was not compliant with regulations.
She also announced that a total of 120 tower blocks across 37 local areas in England have so far failed fire safety tests and have combustible cladding.