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Deep Dives

Will Kherbek
art critic
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piqer: Will Kherbek
Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Austerity And Fires: A Warning From The UK

Private Eye Magazine is the UK's best known satirical publication, but it is also perhaps the country's best resource for in-depth reporting, particularly on issues of infrastructure, the kinds of stories that don't make headlines until, for example, a West London tower block like Grenfell Tower bursts into flames and dozens of lives are needlessly lost. The reference to Grenfell is anything but gratuitous for this episode of Private Eye's podcast, Page 94, in which the presenter, Andrew Hunter-Murray speaks to the reporter, Jane Mackenzie, about the issuing of an audit of the fire safety standards through the UK by the Fire Services Inspectorate. 

The findings Mackenzie cites make for disturbing and necessary listening. Covering the period from 2010 to the present, the report finds fire services even in wealthy areas of the country like Surrey in such desperate straits that they don't have enough firefighters to staff their engines. Durham's fire services, for example, have lost 58% of their funding during the austerity period. Closures and outsourcing are key culprits in the lack of readiness, Mackenzie notes, not least in London, where the Grenfell fire remains a bitterly contentious issue; there, attempts were made to privatise the ownership of the city's fire engines (happily this nostrum came to nothing). The information Mackenzie presents isn't glamourous or eye-catching but it is the product of the kind of serious engagement and willingness to dig that is sadly very rare in contemporary British (and global) media. Ironic, perhaps, that a satirical magazine provides better coverage of life-and-death issues than most other ostensible 'news' resources. Or perhaps it makes perfect sense as humourists are often most aware that a joke frequently comes at someone's expense. Thus, Private Eye remains vital for anyone wondering who is laughing all the way to the bank in contemporary Britain.    

Austerity And Fires: A Warning From The UK
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