After fire, govt vows to protect Britons

Paul Sandle and Emily G Roe
AAP
After fire, govt vows to protect Britons

Britain will act on any recommendations from a probe into a fire that ripped through an apartment block and killed at least 58 people, ministers say, responding to a tragedy their critics say shows something has gone "badly wrong" in the country.

Prime Minister Theresa May, under pressure for keeping a distance from angry residents on a visit to the charred remains of the 24-storey block last week, said on Saturday the response to the disaster was "not good enough".

Her government is trying to make up ground in reacting to a fire that trapped people in their beds in the early hours of Wednesday, with many unable to escape as the flames raced up the building, cutting off exit routes and forcing some to jump.

Both May and her ministers have said they will do all they can to help those left homeless after the blaze and make sure other high-rise buildings, usually home to poorer people, are checked and safe.

But with Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, emboldened by a better-than-expected result in an early election that wiped out the Conservatives' majority, May's government has been forced to justify spending cuts at a time when talks to leave the European Union are beginning.

"If something needs to be done to make buildings safe, it will be done," finance minister Philip Hammond told the BBC's Andrew Marr show.

May has announced a public inquiry into the fire which would be fast-tracked and said on Sunday that every household affected by the blaze would receive a minimum payment of STG5,500 ($A9,214) from a STG5 million emergency fund.

A "Grenfell Fire Response Team", pooling resources from local and national government, the British Red Cross, police and fire brigade is also being set up, to focus primarily on finding new homes for survivors as quickly as possible.

On the streets, there is anger over whether the block's renovation project purposefully did not include safety devices, such as sprinklers, or used banned flammable materials to clad the building and make it more attractive for neighbours in the upmarket Kensington and Chelsea region.

After a church ceremony to pay respect to those who died in the fire, London mayor Sadiq Khan said he found "a community frustrated and angry".

"Angry not simply at the poor response in the days afterwards from the council and the government, but the years of neglect from the council and from successive governments."

But the Conservative leader of the local council, Nick Paget-Brown, said he and others had been working hard.

Labour's Corbyn, who unlike May was quick to meet local residents and was praised for showing empathy, led calls for the government to drop its cuts - demands that Hammond said he was listening to.

"In the wake of (the) Grenfell fire we have to recognise that something has gone badly, badly wrong in this country, that predominantly poor people die in a towering inferno because possibly in the long term (there had been a) lack of public investment," Corbyn told ITV's Peston on Sunday programme.