Housing block fire Fire erupts in block housing UoB students. Photo: FBU

Ignored warnings show working-class lives mean nothing to the Tories, writes Lucy Nichols

Two and a half years after the Grenfell tragedy, another residential building wrapped in deadly cladding has gone up in flames. 

The fire started on Friday evening on the fourth floor of the Cube, a six-storey building that housed students from the University of Bolton. Within minutes the fire had spread to the roof, and residents were being evacuated and taken to safety. 

The Greater Manchester fire service deny that the cladding on the Cube was the same type as was on the Grenfell Tower. Unlike Grenfell, the Cube was cased in High Pressure Laminate cladding, made up of compressed sheets of wood and paper glued together. It is clear from video footage that this fire also ripped up the building by way of its cladding. Last July, government fire safety experts made calls to ban HPL from buildings over 18 metres tall. These calls were clearly ignored, as hundreds of buildings across the country are still cased in HPL, with 54 student accommodation buildings feared unsafe. 

Despite losing over 600 firefighters to cuts over the last ten years, responders from the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service managed to safely evacuate all 211 students. Adding insult to injury, even more cuts to the GMFRS were announced just a day after the fire. The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has made plans for the service to lose at least six fire engines across the region – possibly more, depending on funding from Westminster. Six stations are also to be closed, including two in Bolton alone. 

The devastating fire that has left 211 students in temporary accommodation is proof that the Conservative government has learnt nothing from Grenfell. It is naïve to think that another Conservative government will do anything to curb the policies of deregulation and austerity that have denied thousands of people a right to safe, decent and affordable housing. Only a socialist Labour government can reverse the ten years of harsh neoliberalism that has brought about a housing crisis, decimated the Fire and Rescue services and allowed private developers to put so many working-class lives at risk.