Grenfell police carry out three interviews under caution
Met considers whether offences including corporate manslaughter were committed
18 July 2018
Detectives investigating the Grenfell Tower fire have conducted three interviews under caution over potential offences relating to the disaster – including manslaughter.
“The police investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire has moved to a new phase with a planned programme of interviews under caution,” Scotland Yard said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that more interviews would take place in the coming weeks.
The interviews, carried out since late June, came as detectives investigated possible charges of gross negligence manslaughter, corporate manslaughter and breaches of the Health and Safety Act relating to the fire last summer that killed 72 people.
A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan police said the force would not confirm whether three separate suspects had been interviewed, or whether the same suspect had been interviewed more than once.
No one has been arrested for offences relating to the fire itself, though individuals who allegedly falsely claimed to have lived in the tower to receive compensation have been arrested on suspicion of fraud.
Yvette Williams from the campaign group Justice4Grenfell said she welcomed the development in the investigation.
But she added: “It’s unfortunate that it’s taken months after it happened, because if it had been somebody responsible like a member of the public, they would have been called in in June last year.
“But we do look forward to the police doing a thorough investigation and that they are already thinking ahead in terms of gross manslaughter charges can only be a positive thing.”
Officers have spent the last year scouring the tower for forensic evidence and plan to hand back control of the building to Kensington and Chelsea council in early August.
Commander Stuart Cundy said: “The handover of Grenfell Tower by the police will only occur once we are entirely confident that all police work has been completed at the tower and handing the tower over to the responsible body will have no bearing on the ongoing criminal investigation.
“The concerns of the bereaved, survivors and residents as well as the wider community will be central to how the handover takes place. We recognise this will be a significant milestone and one that is bound to stir a range of emotions for all those affected by this tragedy.”
Grenfell Tower insulation ‘never passed fire safety test’
21 May 2018
The insulation that burned out of control on Grenfell Tower had never passed the required safety test and should never have been on the building, a BBC investigation has discovered.
Panorama understands the manufacturer, Celotex, used extra fire retardant in the product that qualified for the safety certificate.
A more flammable version was then sold for public use, the programme believes.
Celotex said it is co-operating with the police investigation and inquiry.
The company said it could not comment further but wished to express its deepest sympathies to everyone who was and remains affected by the fire. But it has not denied any of Panorama’s allegations.
Panorama also accused Celotex of mis-selling the insulation with misleading marketing.
The programme has been advised that the way Celotex tested and sold the insulation could amount to corporate manslaughter.
Megan Markle’s wedding dress cost the taxpayer £300,000. It would’ve cost £220,000 extra to clad Grenfell Tower in non-combustible material.
Grenfell locals are demanding to know the whereabouts of an ex-councillor
Protesters disrupted a Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) council meeting on 7 March. And a poster was held up demanding the whereabouts of an ex-councillor responsible for the tower’s refurbishment. But plans for new houses in Norfolk hint at what he’s been up to.
Rock Feilding-Mellen oversaw Grenfell Tower’s refurbishments, including the flammable cladding believed to have accelerated the fire’s spread. Documents suggest the decision to use cheaper but more flammable cladding was made to satisfy the councillor and the planner. But on 24 June 2017, the Mirrorreported he “fled his home” following backlash from residents who were angry at his role in the fire.
Six days later, on 30 June 2017, Feilding-Mellen resigned from his £48,000 a year [pdf, p2] council position. He has since left the public eye. And this led one person at RBKC’s recent full council meeting to hold up a poster featuring Feilding-Mellen’s face and the question, “Where?”:
Socially Conscious Capital (SCC) is a property development firm listing Feilding-Mellen as its director. In 2017, The Timesreported [paywall] that he is also the company’s majority owner. The developer designs and develops housing estates with “distinctive character”. And it claims to base its work on a principle of “responsibility” by:
Genuinely listening to local residents. Awareness of the sensitivities of the site and its surroundings. Becoming a real part of the community.
But one of SCC’s projects suggests otherwise.
‘Not interested in the views of local people’
Racecourse Plantation is a proposed housing development located on the edge of Norwich, Norfolk. Designs were submitted in 2011, 2013 and 2016. Each was rejected by the local authority. The plan has faced controversy because of its location inside woodland that Norfolk Wildlife Trust describes as a “key biodiversity asset” for the city.
The 2016 proposal was rejected by local authority Broadland District Council in June 2017 for a number of ecological reasons including the size of woodland that would be removed. But Friends of Thorpe Woodlands, a group of locals opposed to the plans, were worried SCC would appeal.
These fears came true when SCC appealed [pdf] in October 2017. The appeal claims [pdf, p12] that “all of the reasons from the Council and Consultees are unwarranted or unfounded”. But Friends of Thorpe Woodlands says this shows SCC “are not interested in the views of local people or their councillors”. The appeal is due to be heard in May this year.
SCC claimed that more than 70 people support its 2016 proposal. In 2013, 2,440 letters of opposition were made to the local authority, alongside statements from conservation charities. These included the RSPB, Norfolk Wildlife Trust and Natural England. And now, the local opposition group is asking the public to “make a big difference” by sending letters of opposition to the latest appeal.
Continuing to profit
Grenfell Action Group had written a number of posts about Feilding-Mellen and Socially Conscious Capital. The group, made up of local residents, had blogged about the tower’s safety risks for months before the fire. And in a post on 6 March 2017, it said:
Given the record of Feilding-Mellen’s ‘Socially Conscious Capital’… one has to seriously question whether this man can be trusted with the ecological and environmental protections to which the RBKC Council is supposedly committed and whether he is fit to manage the so-called ‘regeneration’ of the social housing estates of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Despite SCC’s claims of responsibility, impacts on local residents and ecology appear to mean very little. And its director continues to profit from housing development as hundreds remain homeless after the Grenfell Tower fire. This lack of accountability cannot continue.
The Canary repeatedly contacted Socially Conscious Capital for comment but received no response by the time of publication.
The company that turned Grenfell Tower into a deathtrap reports profits up 50% and anticipates no downside from the disasterhttps://boingboing.net/2018/03/08/blazing-profits.html …
Profits up. Rydon investor disclosures indicate the company anticipates no downside at all from the fire, apparently believing that the lawsuits will come to nothing.
Grenfell MP says the inquiry into the fire which killed 72 is ‘beginning to look like a stitch up’
2 MAR 2018
The Grenfell Tower public inquiry is beginning to look like a stitch-up, Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad has said.
The MP made the claim because she and other Labour members of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council have not been granted core participant status in the investigation headed by Sir Martin Moore-Bick.
Labour councillors have complained there is a “clear conflict of interest” if they are represented at the inquiry by lawyers acting for the Tory-run authority.
Asked if she thought the inquiry was a “stitch-up” because of this, Ms Dent Coad said: “It’s beginning to look like that. We are feeling marginalised and neutralised. That’s not good.
“I really object to being represented by the lawyers of a discredited organisation which is under criminal investigation.”
Labour leader on the council Robert Atkinson said: “We will be witnesses for the prosecution. We will be hostile witnesses. And yet we are being forced to share council representation for the defence.”
Mr Atkinson said that if Labour had the same representation at the inquiry as the rest of the council “there will be guilt by association”.
Councillor Pat Mason said the inquiry had “less and less credibility on the ground”, adding: “We don’t believe the inquiry is credible either. We don’t believe that it’s a fair process. If you are excluding people and using obscure rules in the Public Inquiry Act to block out evidence, then you are not going to get all the evidence.”
John Cooper QC, who is representing the Labour group on the council, said core participant status would mean having full disclosure and being able to question witnesses.
Mr Cooper said: “If we do not get core participation status in this inquiry, then I’m very convinced at the moment justice will not be done.”
The public inquiry into the tragedy which claimed 72 lives last June has proved controversial.
More than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to take action to build public trust in the probe.
Grenfell Tower 💚 @Still_I_Rise_GT
Grenfell – inquiry has HIRED KPMG as its adviser despite the accountancy firm earning millions of pounds auditing three of the main players being investigated over the tragic blaze and its aftermath. STUPID & UNBELIEVABLE DECISION number ?????????????
Questions over KPMG role in Grenfell Tower probe
Jan 4 2018
The Grenfell Tower inquiry has hired KPMG as its adviser despite the accountancy firm earning millions of pounds auditing three of the main players being investigated over the tragic blaze and its aftermath.
KPMG has lucrative and long-standing relationships as auditor to Rydon — the main contractor in charge of the refurbishment widely blamed for the fire’s spread — Celotex, the maker of the insulation which police said failed safety tests, and the much-criticised Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
News that the inquiry is paying a firm so closely linked to the organisations under scrutiny is bound to anger survivors and victims’ families. They have already voiced concerns that the investigation is lacking in diverse voices.
KPMG was hired by the Cabinet Office to help plan the inquiry and monitor its progress.
The three-month, £200,000 contract (recently extended to February) was awarded in a fast-track process with no other bidders considered.
David Lammy @DavidLammy
Expelling a Lab Councillor from the board of KCTMO for speaking to journalists is not exactly a great message to send out on transparency as the Grenfell inquiry starts.. What exactly are they trying to cover up and who are they trying to frighten/silence?
Whistleblower sacked from Grenfell board
12 Dec 2017
London Tory council to charge tower block residents £4,000 to fit sprinklers
Independent report: response to Grenfell ‘disjointed and rudderless’
The council’s response to the Grenfell Tower disaster was “disjointed and seemingly rudderless” and it failed to engage with tenants before and after the fire, a damning independent report has said.
Grenfell: report criticised ‘inadequate’ management 12 years before fire
Highly critical independent report into emergency lighting system at tower made public after long campaign by residents
A negligent approach to residents’ safety by the body responsible for managing Grenfell Tower was highlighted in a highly critical independent report 12 years before the fire, according to a document that has finally been made public after a protracted campaign by residents.
The report, compiled by Capita Symonds, suggested that torches with rechargeable batteries should be installed in every flat, wired to the mains to recharge, so that residents could use torches to escape. Neither Kensington and Chelsea council nor Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) would say whether the recommendation was followed, but residents say the torches were never installed.
The independent report into problems with the emergency lighting system at the tower was commissioned by the KCTMO in 2005 after two-thirds of the tower’s emergency lighting units failed a routine inspection.
It criticised the KCTMO and the contractor responsible for the block’s fire escape lighting, documenting “inadequate management”, “inadequate installation standards”, a “failure to acknowledge the importance of undertaking urgent remedial works” and a “lack of communication” between the block’s management and residents.
Khalid Ahmed, who escaped from the eighth floor, said not all the stairwell lights were working on the night of the fire. Other residents’ accounts suggest darkness compounded by thick smoke made escape difficult.
Francis O’Connor, the co-author of the Grenfell Action Group blog, which repeatedly warned of fire safety issues before the fire in June, said the problems identified in this report indicated “that a culture of complacency, negligence and incompetence was rife within the TMO and was not confined to fire safety issues. Complaints from tenants were legion.”
He said he was shocked to read the report, which provided the “most authoritative and comprehensive forensic evidence I had seen of how pervasive the maladministration was at the TMO”.
The report noted that because the tower’s emergency staircase had no natural light, the emergency lighting system was vital. It criticised the KCTMO for failing to prepare risk assessments that recognised that “residents and members of the public were continuously at risk” when the lighting system was defective.
The KCTMO’s response to the ongoing problem with the broken system “unfortunately did not reflect any urgency”, the report stated.
The document is significant because it provides an independent third-party assessment of management failures by KCTMO, which residents claim were problematic in 2005 and still ongoing in 2017.
The campaign to have it released also reveals a longstanding refusal by the KCTMO to make public documents concerning their management of the tower. It states that as a private organisation, it is not obliged to make information public.
Campaigners are angry that the KCTMO, which was the country’s largest tenant management organisation, looking after all of Kensington and Chelsea’s social housing stock – 10,000 properties – should have been able to shield itself from public scrutiny. Repeated requests from residents to see minutes of meetings where plans for the tower’s refurbishment were discussed were rejected.
O’Connor, who until 2013 lived on the Lancaster West estate, which encompasses Grenfell, and continues to co-author the Grenfell Action Group blog, first made a formal request for the lighting report the day after the fire. His request was refused by the TMO, then granted in principle on appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office, then appealed by the KCTMO on the grounds that it was not subject to the FoI rules, a decision later upheld by the ICO. He only received it at the end of October after turning to an official at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, who released it under freedom of information legislation.
O’Connor points out that the KCTMO’s insistence that it was not required to release information meant that he and fellow Grenfell Action Group campaigners were unable to scrutinise minutes of critical meetings where plans for the refurbishment of the block were discussed.
A request to see minutes of one refurbishment meeting was rejected in 2014. The meeting would have “contained references to the decision to replace the approved cladding and insulation with cheaper alternatives. This would have caused us to research the qualities of the alternative products and to discover that they were highly flammable and highly toxic when burning,” O’Connor said. “We would have raised hell about this, and who knows what the outcome of that hellraising might have been? This bitter truth is hard to live with.”
The KCTMO’s contract to manage social housing in the borough was terminated last month. Kensington and Chelsea council said: “This is a matter for the public inquiry and for the TMO. The council has recently taken responsibility for the Lancaster West estate following the Grenfell fire.
“We are working with residents and independent experts to ensure that we are making necessary improvements, and that all homes are safe and secure.”
A KCTMO spokesperson said: “Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation is a private company limited by guarantee and is therefore not a body which is subject to the Freedom of Information Act.”
The hypocrisy of the Daily Mail for all to see for themselves.
£370 Million to restore a Palace
Making Citizens houses fit for habitation,
@IsabelOakeshott says people on benefits shouldn’t live in the most desirable parts of London.
Scott Nelson @SocialistVoice
The Queen has £10m stashed away in offshore accounts. Only this year she was given an £8m rise because £74m a year isn’t enough to live on.
Woman wearing a £1m hat with £10m stashed away in offshore accounts tells Britain to live within its meanshttp://m.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/queens-speech-2016-state-opening-of-parliament-jokes_uk_573c4a00e4b03f08843ddc40 …
Queen’s estate invested $13 million in offshore tax havens
Leaked documents published on Sunday suggest that the private estate of Queen Elizabeth II invested in offshore funds.
Revelations from the leak, which has been dubbed the Paradise Papers, were reported by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and outlets including The New York Times.
In Britain, the BBC said it had seen documents that show the Duchy of Lancaster, which provides the Queen with an income, had invested £10 million ($13.1 million) into funds in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.
The documents have not been reviewed by CNN.
The Queen has not been accused of any wrongdoing. But the investments are potentially embarrassing for a royal family that closely guards its reputation.
“We operate a number of investments and a few of these are with overseas funds. All of our investments are fully audited and legitimate,” the Duchy of Lancaster said in a statement.
The Duchy added that the Queen, who is officially exempt from U.K. tax laws, “voluntarily pays tax” on income she receives from the estate.
The £519 million ($680 million) Duchy, which provides the Queen with an income to cover official expenses, says it invests primarily in commercial, agricultural and residential properties.
In the most recent fiscal year, the Duchy generated £19.2 million ($25 million) in net income according to its website.
One of the Duchy’s offshore investments has generated some controversy.
The BBC reported that the Duchy invested $7.5 million in Dover Street VI Cayman Fund LP in 2005. The fund, which invested in medical and tech companies, later put money into U.K. retailer BrightHouse.
The Duchy said its investment in the company is worth £3,208 ($4,200).
BrightHouse, which gave customers credit so they could buy its home furniture and appliances, was later forced to compensate consumers after the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority found it was not a responsible lender.
“We sincerely apologize to those customers who were affected,” the company said in October. “We’re absolutely determined that this doesn’t happen again and have made significant improvements over the last 18 months.”
The Duchy said in a statement that the investment in BrightHouse was made “through a third party,” and equates to just 0.0006% of the Duchy’s value.
The ICIJ noted in its report that “there are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts,” and it was not suggesting that any people or companies it named either broke the law or acted improperly.
David Pitt Watson, an executive fellow at the London Business School who focuses on responsible investments, said he “very much” doubts that the Queen knew where her money was invested.
Instead, she’s like “so many others who have a pension, or an investment account,” he said. “We just don’t know what is being done with it.”
The Paradise Papers reporting is similar to the Panama Papers, which in 2016 exposed cases involving celebrities and business executives who reportedly moved large chunks of their wealth into offshore tax havens.
The new project, which is based on more than 13.4 million documents dated from 1950 to 2016, covers a large number of global corporations and prominent people and their use of offshore accounts.
The London Economic @LondonEconomic
James Melville @JamesMelville
Lost revenue in offshore tax havens is costing over £100bn a year – enough to eliminate extreme global poverty twice over.
Theresa May says no Government cash for sprinklers in tower blocks despite promises made after Grenfell
18 Oct 2017
‘How safe would she feel living on the 20th floor in my constituency with one staircase and no sprinklers?’ Prime Minister asked
Theresa May has confirmed there will be no Government cash to fit sprinklers in tower blocks, triggering accusations she has broken a promise made after the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
It is “up to the council to make decisions”, the Prime Minister told MPs – amid a growing furore over the multi-million pound bills that town halls face.
Nottingham, Croydon and Wandsworth have all had multi-million pound requests turned – even after being advised to carry out works by their local fire brigades.
Nevertheless, until now, ministers had said they would consider help “where works are essential”, even as they resisted applications.
However, during Prime Minister’s Questions, Ms May gave a firm no after a plea for assistance from a Labour MP in Nottingham
Grenfell Tower fire was a ‘crime’ that should bring down the government declares head of the firefighters’ union
26 Sept 2017
Matt Wrack said ministers should have to give evidence to the public inquiry into the “atrocity” – and warned his members could boycott it
Kensington and Chelsea council terminates contract with Grenfell Tower landlord
28 Sept 2017
Body ‘no longer has the trust of residents,’ says deputy council leader
The decision came on the same day it emerged that at least 18 children died in the fire, many of whom were siblings.
The Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) manages 9,760 homes in the borough, including the Lancaster West Estate, of which Grenfell is part.
The council has faced fierce criticism over the speed of its response to the fire and there was growing concern that only a small proportion of the residents had been rehoused.
The most recent victims of the fire to be identified include two sisters, two three-year-old girls, a boy aged six, a teenager and a woman in her 30s.
A number of the dead were siblings, with the fire wiping out complete families.
Grenfell Tower Survivors Accuse Authorities Of ‘Serious Concerted Cover-Up’ 100 Days After Tragedy
Death toll debate rages on.
Grenfell Inquiry: Experts Fear ‘Broken’ Fire Safety Laws Put Millions At Risk
One hundred days has done nothing to quell the anger felt by Grenfell Tower survivors who on Friday accused authorities of being engaged in a “serious, concerted cover-up” over the death toll.
As residents prepared to mark the milestone with a candle lit gathering this afternoon, the group fighting for their rights, Justice4Grenfell, issued a strongly worded statement taking aim at authorities for “doing everything in their power to downplay the scale of the disaster and to dehumanise the victims and the survivors”.
Austerity and slashing red tape has rendered self-regulation ‘useless’,
One day in… and Grenfell judge sparks ‘respect’ row
Discontent had begun brewing when the retired judge rejected calls for residents to be included as one of his team of assessors, telling the hearing it would ‘risk undermining my impartiality’.
…survivors branded the process a ‘whitewash’ and some stormed out of a community building near the tower in north Kensington, where the opening address was being live-streamed.
Mr Ethical @nw_nicholas
Where are the Grenfell donations? HSBC
Just 30% of Grenfell tower fire funds have reached victims
18 Aug 2017
Those entitled to payments include next-of-kin of those missing or dead and people who required hospital treatment
It should not have required a calamity like Grenfell for people to start calling foul on this re-engineering of the city’s demography. Long before the country found itself discussing Grenfell’s dereliction — and of the contemptuous council response to a catastrophe of its own making, and the continuing imbroglio over the rehousing of survivors despite their borough’s surfeit of empty homes — the ramifications of London’s trajectory should have been the animating subject of its politics for the last decade.
Names of wealthy empty-home owners in Grenfell borough revealed
Kensington and Chelsea council list shows foreign royalty, financiers and offshore firms leaving London properties vacant
Duke’s Lodge mansion block, which used to house 26 flats, is owned by an offshore firm that is part of Christian Candy’s luxury property business
1 August 2017
Owners of the 1,652 properties listed as unoccupied by Kensington and Chelsea council include a Ukrainian billionaire fighting extradition to the US, a former mayor of New York, a high-profile luxury property developer and a senior television executive.
They include the distinctive former Brompton Road tube station building, once used as a top secret command centre for Winston Churchill, but which has been vacant since it was bought for £53m by the Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash in 2014.
The list of owners of vacant properties includes the former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who bought a seven-bedroom grade II*-listed mansion for £16m in 2015. Once home to the writer George Eliot, it boasts a baroque ceiling mural of Venus by James Thornhill, who painted the interior of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.
The names were revealed in a list that appears to have been accidentally sent by the council to multiple recipients, including the Guardian, and details the council tax information of the vacant homes and their 1,197 owners.
More than a third of the vacant homes (603) are recorded as having been empty for more than two years, with the owners paying a 50% premium on their council tax. A further 1,010 are classified as unoccupied and substantially unfurnished, while the other 39 have been unoccupied for less than a year, with building work in progress.
Some of the luxury properties identified as long-term empty are just a few hundred metres from the charred remains of Grenfell Tower, where at least 80 people died in June. Of the survivors only 12 households have been re-accommodated, with dozens still in temporary housing.
Other unoccupied properties are owned by offshore companies, including Dukes Lodge London Ltd, part of Christian Candy’s luxury property business, which is listed as owning 26 homes in a 1930s mansion block valued at £85m in 2015; and Smech Properties Ltd, owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice-president of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai.
Some of the information in the council’s records appeared to be wrong.
“There is a clear public interest in better understanding the issue of empty homes in London’s over-heated property market, why they are being bought and left empty, and where the money is coming from.”
An additional council tax payment, worth 50% of the normal rate, is levied on homes left empty for more than two years. But for most properties this amounts to an extra few hundred pounds a year, and no more than £1,500, according to the council data, despite some of the properties being worth tens of millions of pounds.
Anna Powell-Smith, of Who Owns England, who analysed the data, said: “This is about our broken housing system. Many of these people are leaving their homes empty because they don’t need the rent, and in that situation we could reasonably ask them to contribute more. But we can only have a proper debate about fair levels of council tax with full transparent data on ownership and housing use.”
There are 64 homes listed as vacant in Notting Dale, the ward where Grenfell Tower stood. Of those, six are recorded as having been vacant for more than two years, and the remainder fall in the category of unoccupied and substantially unfurnished.
The ward listed as having the highest number of long-term empty properties is Brompton and Hans Town, the area around Sloane Street, whose local councillors include the former council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown, who resigned after the Grenfell disaster. The ward has 100 homes listed as empty for more than two years and another 128 recorded as unoccupied and substantially unfurnished.
To date, Kensington and Chelsea has made 169 offers of accommodation to the survivors of Grenfell, 46 of which have been accepted. Only twelve households have so far been rehoused.
Grenfell fire: Terms of reference published
15 Aug 2017
The actions of Kensington and Chelsea Council are to be considered in the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry, the government has announced.
The inquiry will also look at the adequacy of regulations, the tower’s recent refurbishment, and the response of authorities in the aftermath.
The judge heading the inquiry, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, previously said its scope could be much more limited.
Broader questions on social housing will not be in its terms of reference.
At least 80 people are thought to have died in the fire in North Kensington, west London, on 14 June.
Sir Martin suggested in a letter that wider consideration of social housing policy should not be included, despite the protestation of survivors.
The full terms of reference for the public inquiry, which have been accepted in full by the prime minister, are:
- The cause and spread of the fire
- The design, construction and refurbishment of Grenfell Tower
- The scope and adequacy of the relevant regulations relating to high-rise buildings
- Whether the relevant legislation and guidance were complied with in the case of Grenfell Tower
- The actions of the local authority and other bodies before the tragedy
- The response of the London Fire Brigade to the fire and the response of central and local government in the aftermath
Residents and campaigners previously called for Sir Martin to resign from the inquiry, with the area’s MP, Emma Dent Coad, saying those affected needed “somebody we can trust”.
Shadow housing minister John Healey tweeted: “Deeply unsatisfactory for PM to set Grenfell Inquiry terms of ref to exclude housing policy failings – closing off criticism of govt policy.”
David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham whose friend was among the dead, said he was “deeply disappointed” that the “narrow” terms of reference did not include the provision and management of social housing in the UK.
The inquiry has now officially begun and will hold its first hearing on 14 September, with an initial report by Easter.
Peter Apps @PeteApps
Judge decided ‘after careful reflection’ not to include questions on broader social housing policy in Grenfell Inquiry
27 July 2017
Jail anyone found guilty of causing Grenfell Tower blaze, say survivors
Grenfell survivors and relatives of victims today welcomed a corporate manslaughter investigation but called for jail sentences for anyone found guilty of causing the blaze
Campaigners have urged police to also consider gross negligence manslaughter charges against individuals, which can carry prison sentences if convicted. The maximum sentence for corporate manslaughter is a fine.
“We want to see individuals who took the decisions which led to so many dying to face justice. We want individuals in the dock and for them to go to prison.”
Yvette Williams, of the Justice 4 Grenfell campaign group, said: “We welcome that there is enough information and evidence to go down the corporate prosecution route.
“However, what we would like to see running alongside that is individuals being prosecuted. We want individuals named and prosecuted.”
The Metropolitan Police said its letter to those affected outlining the investigation was “simply an update” and “should not be taken to conclude that the identified offences and organisations are the only offences, organisations or individuals that are being investigated”.
A statement circulated to those involved said an “initial assessment” of seized material and witness statements had allowed police to conclude that each organisation may have committed the offence.
Both organisations will be questioned under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.
“We have seized a huge amount of material and taken a large number of witness statements,” the letter to those affected by the disaster said.
“After an initial assessment of that information, the officer leading the investigation has today notified Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the Kensington and Chelsea TMO that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that each organisation may have committed the offence of corporate manslaughter under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.
“In due course, a senior representative fo each corporation will be formally interviewed by police in relation to the potential offence.”
It was unclear which senior figures will be interviewed by police and the legislation does not allow for the arrest of any individual.
A Met Police spokesperson told The Independent: This is a complex and far reaching investigation that by its very nature will take a considerable time to complete.
“As is routine, we will not give a running commentary on this investigation.”
Samia Badani, residents association chair for Bramley House – a block that overlooks the tower – told The Independent the move was a positive step forward for the community.
“I’m very pleased, I think over the years we have had a very good relationship with local police and the relationship with the council is the opposite,” she said.
“We are so bruised in the community that we needed some reassurances so it’s a step forward.”
It comes after a number of stakeholders from both RBKC and the TMO resigned in the wake of the tragedy over accusations they ignored a catalogue of warnings over fire safety.
RBKC chief executive Nicholas Holgate was the first to step down in the aftermath over the borough’s handling of the fire.
“Despite my wish to have continued, in very challenging circumstances, to lead on the executive responsibilities of the council, I have decided that it is better to step down from my role, once an appropriate successor has been appointed,” he said in a statement on 21 June.
A week later, TMO leader Robert Black stepped aside to “concentrate on assisting with the investigation and inquiry”, followed by RBKC leader Nick Paget-Brown and deputy leader Rock Feilding-Mellen just hours later.
Council leader Elizabeth Campbell said she would fully support the Met’s investigation.
“Our residents deserve answers about the Grenfell Tower fire and the police investigation will provide these. We fully support the Metropolitan Police investigation and we will cooperate in every way we can,” she said.
“It would not be appropriate to comment further on matters subject to the police investigation.”
The news comes after family and friends of five of those killed in the blaze, including two child victims, gathered to remember their loved ones.
The lives of artist Khadija Saye, her mother Mary Mendy, Berkti Haftom and her 12-year-old son Beruk, as well as five-year-old Isaac Paulos were being celebrated at the ecumenical service in St Helen’s Church.
The service opened with a recording of Michael Jackson’s “Heal The World”, and the Gospel For Grenfell choir later sang a number of well-known songs including “Something Inside So Strong”.
Ms Saye’s cousin Adelaide Mendy recalled the fear and panic on the night of the fire, and her desperate hope that her relatives would not be caught up in it.
She told those gathered: “I felt an excruciating and an almost unbearable pain. I felt powerless at the thought that there was nothing else that I could’ve done.”
There has been a good deal of controversy lately over the proposed public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire which claimed an as yet undetermined number of lives and left many hundreds more homeless and traumatised. The controversy began with the appointment, despite widespread resistance in the Lancaster West community, of a retired judge, Martin Moore-Bick as head of the inquiry, an establishment figure whose previous actions revealed him to be seriously lacking in the empathy necessary to earn the trust of the local community.
The Moore-Bick controversy was further fed by statements he made (reported in the Independent on 29th June) that the inquiry would be “…limited to the problems surrounding the start of the fire and its rapid development in order to make recommendations about how this sort of thing can be prevented in future.” Judge Moore-Bick added that he was aware that local residents were demanding much wider terms of reference and expressed doubts that the the planned inquiry could satisfy those demands.
The controversy deepened with the appointment of a new panel of technical experts to advise the government on fire safety issues. Half of the members of this panel are tainted by their links to a company called BRE Ltd which, for many years, has been paid by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to provide advice on fire safety. The Building Research Establishment Ltd (BRE) was formerly a British Government research body, but was privatised in 1997. It appears that BRE Global has since been paid at least £250,000 by the DCLG for fire safety advice.
Dr Peter Bonfield, Chief Executive of BRE Global, will sit on the expert panel alongside Sir Ken Knight, who is a trustee of BRE’s charitable parent company, the BRE Trust. According to Sky News and the Mail online BRE raised concerns in April 2016 that the use of combustible cladding on buildings was increasing, but they considered the current regulations to be adequate.
We wanted to see this report for ourselves so we searched for it and found it online. The report was in two parts, the second more technical part of which described only limited controlled testing of single components of a cladding system but not of the entire system. Not exactly the rigorous and fully comprehensive testing one might expect given the risks involved in the widespread use of highly combustible cladding systems. The conclusions were presented in part 1 of the report and stated that:
“There is currently no evidence to suggest that the current recommendations, to limit vertical fire spread up the exterior of high-rise buildings, are failing in their purpose.”
However, to our great surprise, while searching for the 2016 BRE report, we stumbled upon another much earlier report, also commissioned from BRE by the Blair government in 1999/2000. The conclusions of that report were as follows:
Clearly the advice to government from BRE Ltd in 2016 had changed markedly from that offered in 2000, perhaps because the ‘worst case scenario’ had failed to materialise by that time, but as the whole world now knows, it did materialise, just a year later on 14th June 2017, in the worst fire disaster to strike the UK in living memory, with an undetermined number of fatalities, widely believed in the community to be in excess of 100 souls.
Alternatively, this latest BRE guidance may have been designed to accommodate a notorious policy of the current government commonly referred to as the ‘Bonfire of the Regulations’ – a policy of deliberate widespread deregulation designed to cut costs for business and industry regardless of its negative impact on public health and safety.
As reported in the Guardian on 14th June:
“A 2015 survey by the Fire Sector Federation, a forum for fire and rescue organisations, found that 92% of its members believed the UK Building Regulations were ‘long overdue an overhaul’, claiming that they do not reflect today’s design and construction methods and that research underpinning the guidance is out of date.”
The coroner in the Lakanal House case in 2009, in which six people died, including three children, also called for a thorough review as the evidence pointed to a risk of further deaths in the future unless changes were made, with about 4,000 tower blocks in the UK remaining subject to outdated regulations.
It seems from the above that BRE Ltd have been too closely associated with central government, both Labour and Tory, for far too long while calls from other interested parties for reform of the building regulationse have been ignored. Indeed BRE clearly became part of the problem, rather than the solution, when they declared in 2016 that the regulations were fit for purpose.
In our opinion BRE are not fit to advise the government on fire safety issues and neither Peter Bonfield, the CEO of BRE Ltd, nor Ken Knight of the BRE Trust, should have been appointed to the technical panel convened after the Grenfell Tower fire. Perhaps the Fire Sector Federation, which appears to have far more integrity, might be willing to volunteer some of its more highly experienced members to sit on the new panel. We believe the Lancaster West community would be more inclined to trust a reformed panel to provide the kind of competent technical advice that is so urgently needed.
Tower block owners can conceal failed safety tests
29 July 2017
Residents of dozens of unsafe tower blocks could be kept in the dark about failed fire safety tests because commercial interests mean that housing associations will not be forced to reveal which buildings are dangerous.
The government revealed yesterday that 82 buildings had been found to use the same combination of cladding and insulation as Grenfell Tower, which failed the fire safety test used under present guidelines.
The latest tests were more rigorous than those carried out previously, looking at the whole system rather than just cladding, which has been widely blamed for spreading the fire that killed at least 80 people. Cladding panels on 149 tower blocks had already been found to be combustible.
A review of building regulations and fire safety was launched…
Firefighters speak for the first time about the Grenfell Tower blaze in documentary
About Grenfell Tower A Report by Architects for Social Housing
In one of the richest boroughs in the country, in one of the richest countries in the world – children, fathers and grandmothers were crammed into a death trap.
Britain remains a country that murders its poor. When four separate government ministers are warned that Grenfell and other high rises are a serious fire risk, then an inferno isn’t unfortunate. It is inevitable.
What happened wasn’t a “terrible tragedy” or some other studio-sofa platitude: it was social murder.
Sam WolfsonVerified account @samwolfson
The richest borough in the UK let residents burn to death to save £5000. Michael Gove claimed £7000 in expenses to furnish his home.
Vicount Ian Kerr CGC @IanKerr
The Royal Borough Of Kensington and Chelsea. Grenfell
Grenfell Tower fire: Government’s safety advisers ‘are not neutral’, says academic
A fire science expert says the company testing cladding and insulation after the Grenfell Tower fire has a conflict of interest.
18 July 2017
The company testing cladding and insulation for the Government after the Grenfell Tower fire has a conflict of interest and is not neutral, according to a respected academic.
Professor Richard Hull, a chemistry and fire science expert from the University of Central Lancashire, has accused the Building Research Establishment (BRE) of having an “unhealthy” mixture of commercial and advisory roles.
He made the claim after Sky News established that the BRE wrote a report saying there was no case for regulating toxic smoke from plastic insulation, at the same time as being paid by plastic insulation companies.
Sky News revealed last month that the insulation on Grenfell Tower gave off deadly hydrogen cyanide gas, and at least three victims had been treated for cyanide poisoning.
There are currently no regulations on the volume of smoke produced by insulation or the danger it can pose.
BRE was recruited by the European Commission “to evaluate the need to regulate… on the toxicity of smoke produced by construction products in fires”.
Its final draft report says “there would be limited benefits” from any new regulations, which could “increase costs”.
It concludes that its study found no agreed case for regulating toxic smoke, which could “potentially remove some products from the market”.
BRE, a UK charity with a £48m turnover, is paid for fire testing by some of the biggest foam insulation manufacturers.
concerns from a lawyer acting for some of the Grenfell Tower victims about key BRE figures appointed by the Government to give building safety advice since the disaster.
Jolyon Maugham QC said BRE trustee Sir Ken Knight and chief executive Peter Bonfield were “tainted by association” through their links to advice given to ministers last year that combustible material on tower blocks was acceptable because building controls were “adequate”.
BRE also sells access to an improved set of fire safety standards that could have prevented the Grenfell Tower disaster while advising the Government on building regulations.
The head of the Fire Protection Association, Jonathan O’Neill, told Sky News that the improved standards address shortcomings in the statutory regulations that Grenfell Tower relied on.
Truth Miner @truth_miner
Grenfell Disaster Supremo’s long association with Virgin Islands Tax-Haven.
Grenfell Residents suffer on.
@OwenJones84 @jeremycorby @RBKC
Police considering manslaughter charges over Grenfell Tower fire
This is one of the largest and most complex investigations that the Metropolitan police has ever undertaken. There are currently over 250 specialist investigators working on all aspects of this investigation. It will establish how the fire started and the speed and spread that it took hold of that building.
There are two points of priority for me: the speed that it spread through the building but also the internal safety aspects of that building. On the first point: we are examining with experts the aluminium cladding and the insulation behind the cladding; how the tiles were fixed to the building; and how it was installed.
Cladding failed test
Preliminary tests on the insulation samples collected from
Grenfell Tower show that they combusted soon after the test started. The initial test on the cladding tiles also failed the safety tests. Such are our safety concerns on the outcome of those tests, we have shared our data with the department of communities and local government, and we have ensured that that information data has been shared with every council.
Every organisation involved in refurbishment being investigated
In terms of seizing relevant material from a number of organisations I can confirm that that has already started.
If I find out that individuals or organisations have committed offences then I must be in a position to prosecute without prejudice to any proceedings. We are looking at every criminal offence from manslaughter onwards. We are looking at every health and safety and fire safety offences and we are reviewing every company at the moment involved in the building and refurbishment of Grenfell Tower.
We are not raiding. We have seized documents.
Here’s audio of the Scotland Yard press conference on the Grenfell Tower fire.
Theresa May’s refusal to suspend Gavin Barwell is an insult to the victims of Grenfell. Unforgivable behaviour.
Leigh Pickett @Leigh_Pickett
Not even a glimmer of remorse Gavin Barwell
He could have just stopped and talked to reporter, he could have showed some empathy surely? His lack of words speak volumes.
Ronnie King, who was chief fire officer for 20 years and is now secretary of the all-party parliamentary group on fire safety,
said requests for urgent meetings were repeatedly turned down by former housing minister Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s top aide.
Glyn Evans, a Fire Brigades Union Official, warned MPs that the fire will ‘spread vertically’ when cladding is on the exterior of a building.
Theresa May’s chief of staff Gavin Barwell replies to X-rated PORN tweets showing clips of graphic sex scenes
Married father-of-three Mr Barwell responded to the explicit tweet “in error”, a Downing Street source says
14 FEB 2018
Prime Minister Theresa May’s chief of staff Gavin Barwell “regrets” replying to a tweet that showed three porn videos with graphic sex scenes, a source says.
Married father-of-three Mr Barwell responded to the X-rated tweet “in error” at 9.21pm on Monday, a Downing Street source said.
The source said the tweet appeared in the former MP’s timeline and he “regrets the embarrassment this his caused”.
One of the videos features a sex scene with “two schoolgirls” and their “mum”. The clips on the thread were from porn websites called Illustrated Interracial, Blacked and Moms Lick Teens.
Mr Barwell’s reply – which didn’t have any text other than Twitter handles – was still on his account on Wednesday morning, but it was deleted shortly after it was discovered by journalists.
A Downing Street source said: “Gavin Barwell replied to this tweet, which was in his timeline, in error. He has deleted the reply and regrets the embarrassment this has caused.”
Mr Barwell, 46, a former Croydon Central MP who lost his seat in the 2017 general election, has a verified Twitter account with more than 22,000 followers.
The videos that he responded to were posted on Twitter in March last year by an account called Twinkystar.
The Twitter accounts quoted in the reply from his account also contained X-rated content.
Mr Barwell’s tweet was first reported by the website Guido Fawkes, which claimed that the reply was sent from an Android mobile phone.
It was unclear whether it was a personal or work phone.
Mirror Online has contacted Mr Barwell and the Prime Minister’s office for comment.
The reply was discovered amid a sleaze scandal at Westminster and claims that computers were used to access pornography.
In 2013, Mr Barwell, then a Tory MP, accused Labour of putting an “Arab dating” ad on a press release he read online.
But he was left red-faced when it was explained to him Google ads are based on the user’s “interests”.
He spotted the link next to a schools announcement put out on Twitter, and tweeted back: “I know you are short of cash but having an invitation to ‘date Arab girls’ at the top of your press release?”
Labour’s press team replied: “Oh dear.” It then posted a link to a Google Adsense help page.
The page stated: “In addition to seeing ads based on your interests, you may also see ads based on the types of sites you visit.”
July 21, 2017
Hard-hitting report calls for transparent investigation among the ‘links in the chain of culpability’, as it alleges a cover-up has already begun
Gavin Barwell, who until last month was the Conservative MP for Croydon Central, should be arrested immediately and his documents and computer records from his time as housing minister seized and investigated for any evidence of a role in the Grenfell Tower fire.
And “where necessary”, a hard-hitting report published today states, Barwell should be “put on trial in a criminal court”.
ASH – Architects for Social Housing – has campaigned long and hard against the social cleansing of council estates in Southwark, Lambeth and across the country. Today, they published their report, The Truth About Grenfell Tower, which includes a list of around 60 politicians, civil servants, local authority officials and private contractors and consultants, who it believes should be thoroughly and transparently investigated, or the country risks another disaster with another high death toll.
Barwell was housing minister for a year, during which time he gave an undertaking to “look at” recommendations from a coroner’s inquest, after a previous tower block fire in London, which in 2011 said that the retro-fitting of sprinklers in all tall residential towers could save lives. Barwell never did get round to acting on the sprinkler recommendation.
Despite such failure, since losing his parliamentary seat at the General Election Barwell has been handed another political job, as the chief of staff to the interim Prime Minister.
Now, his name is on the ASH arrest list, together with a predecessor as housing minister, Brandon Lewis, plus Eric Pickles, the former local government secretary, and three directors of Rydon, the company responsible for the cladding work conducted at Grenfell Tower, as well as Richard Blakeway, formerly the deputy mayor for housing under Boris Johnson, and most of the members of the housing committee at Kensington and Chelsea over the past six years.
ASH is particularly concerned that the public inquiry ordered by the government into the Grenfell tragedy will only serve as a cover-up operation. “The first thing the announcement of a public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire has done… is to have removed all transparency and accountability for the investigation from public scrutiny and placed it in the hands of the very people who are responsible for this crime.”
ASH says that the cover-up has already begun. “As we have indicated throughout this report, much of the information gathered here is no longer available on the websites of the private companies and public bodies involved. The same chain of corruption that led to hundreds of residents burning to death because rich people didn’t want to acknowledge their existence is being repeated in the chain of secrecy that will… absolve the links in that chain of all responsibility for those deaths.”
They draw a comparison with the inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster; it took more than a quarter of a century before those responsible for the 96 deaths at a football match in Sheffield were charged with their crimes.
“We believe that one of the ways we can honour the memory of the dead is to identify and change the system that caused their deaths. If we don’t, this will not be the last loss of life we see on London’s council estates,” ASH warns.
Like many of the Grenfell survivors, ASH wants a coroner’s inquest, as happened after the Lakanal fire in Southwark.
“It seems that, whether by public inquiry or coroner’s inquest, the truth about Grenfell Tower is unlikely to be revealed soon, if ever,” ASH states in its conclusions.
“While the public inquiry to which the public is barred deliberates on what terms of reference it feels inclined to investigate, now might be the time to set up a ‘People’s Inquiry’ in order to address in public the question so many people are demanding be answered: who is responsible for the Grenfell Tower fire?”
Warnings about the risks and dangers of a fire in Grenfell Tower, from residents, the parliamentary fire advisory group and the London Fire Brigade have all “fallen on the deaf ears of politicians and civil servants who have shown neither morality nor responsibility, each and every one of whom should be investigated and questioned about their role in this disaster”.
The ASH report is particularly damning of the regeneration policies of many local authorities – Labour as well as Tory – and how such policies tend to see private contractors constantly seeking to drive down costs in search of ever greater profit margins, all the while potentially compromising on safety measures. In the case of Grenfell Tower, that regeneration policy took on a particularly perverse form: “The appearance of the tower from the outside that had been identified as artificially depressing the potential residual land values in the area received nearly £8.7million for a face lift.”
What they call “the links in the chain of culpability” lead all the way to the Department of Communities and Local Government, where Barwell worked as housing minister.
ASH accuses the DCLG and its ministers of placing “the deregulation of fire safety standards – which in their eyes represented an unnecessary obstacle to the profits to be made from the UK housing boom – above the safety of residents”.
ASH describes this as “systemic corruption that threatens the homes and lives of hundreds of thousands of estate residents across the UK”, and they call for “every individual culpable in this lethal chain of greed and criminal negligence should be arrested, tried and, if found guilty, sentenced – rather than, as is currently happening, being allowed to resign on a severance package”, as has already happened at Kensington and Chelsea.
A stark warning
Why did you ignore the tower block fire risks report?
Tory minister Eric Pickles spends £500,000 on luxury limos in three years
The Communities Secretary spent £247,775 on two ministerial cars in 2012, £185,935 in 2013, and £103,091 in the first six months of this year
This Inquiry ‘MUST’ place the following at the centre of its investigations: Eric Pickles Part 1
Eric Pickles Part2
Sky News Newsdesk
The Fire Brigades Union has called for a full judicial inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire
Another safe pair of hands for the establishment...
Grenfell fire inquiry to be led by retired appeal court judge
Thursday 29 June 2017
The public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster will be led by retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick.
The appointment of Sir Martin, who was a commercial lawyer before becoming a judge, was officially confirmed on Thursday morning.
Theresa May insists residents will be given a say over the direction of the Grenfell inquiry.
Sir Martin Moore-Bick is a father of four who has held several high-profile positions over a career spanning five decades
Born in December 1946 and educated at Christ’s College, Cambridge, he was called to the bar in 1969.
Sir Martin began his legal career specialising in commercial contracts and went on to be appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1986.
He sat as a Deputy High Court judge before he was appointed to the High Court in October 1995.
The father-of-four had served in the Commercial Court of the High Court before he joined the Court of Appeal in April 2005.
There, he was an adviser to two Lord Chancellors: Lord Falconer and Jack Straw.
Sir Martin has handled prominent cases in the past – one of which saw him rule on a challenge brought by the family of Mark Duggan over police procedures following fatal shootings by officers.
He most recently held the title of Lord Justice of Appeal, retiring last December.
May picks controversial judge for Grenfell inquiry The Times 29-06-17, p1
Among his more controversial cases was a decision allowing Westminster council to rehouse a tenant 50 miles away in Milton Keynes. It was later overturned by the supreme court.
The former senior judge has in the past been praised by the justice minister, Dominic Raab.
There were reports that there had been a delay in announcing his appointment because of concerns in Downing Street over his record on the bench.
HRH Crafty Muvva @craftymuvva
Some would say it’s almost as if they’ve gone out of their way to appoint the most unsuitable person for the job.
Just as she did as Home Sec with the CSAinquiry – how many times does she get it wrong!? Must be deliberate, wants to scupper inquiry!
This is about something much, much bigger… And the reason for this is that it’s the government which is allowed to set the terms of the inquiry.
It is the government which is allowed to vet the chair of the inquiry.
We don’t allow defendants in a criminal trial to determine which charges they’re going to be tried on. We don’t allow them to vet the judge.
The government should have no role whatsoever in these decisions, because basically it is then being asked to judge its own failures. And that, it will never do.
The crack team tasked with ripping up public protections
… what happened at Grenfell Tower as “mass murder”, caused by stripping away “public protections, which prevent lots of people from being incinerated”.
And he says there are journalists, organisations, and government officials whose job it is to strip them away. Monbiot points to those sitting on the Red Tape Initiative (RTI) project as an example. This is a cross-party group with considerable Tory influence and dubious conflicts of interest:
- Sir Oliver Letwin, Conservative MP who set up the RTI.
- Charles Moore, former editor of The Telegraph and former chair of Policy Exchange. Also Letwin’s best man.
- Archie Norman, former Conservative MP and co-founder of Policy Exchange.
- Greg Clark, Conservative MP, Business Secretary and former Communities Secretary.
- Michael Gove sat on the panel prior to becoming Secretary of State for the Environment. And he was the first chairman of Policy Exchange.
HRH Crafty Muvva @craftymuvva
#GrenfellTower chose fire-resistant cladding during the initial stages. An alternative was fitted instead. WHY! @RBKC?
Grenfell cladding boss is a government adviser
01 July 2017
A senior executive from the company that made the insulation boards fitted to Grenfell Tower is an adviser to the government on building regulations.
Mark Allen, technical director of Saint Gobain UK, which makes Celotex insulation, is on the Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC), which advises Sajid Javid, the communities and local government secretary.
Scotland Yard said last week that its investigation into the fire, which claimed at least 80 lives, had found that the Celotex RS 5000 insulation boards fitted in a large refurbishment project had proved highly flammable. Although classified as “low risk” in terms of fire, police said “the insulation samples collected from Grenfell Tower combusted soon after the test started”.
Don’t tell anyone about the fire risks: Safety consultant hired to inspect Grenfell Tower urged council to hide failings – and he’s an ex-firefighter
- Carl Stokes was paid £250,000 to inspect Grenfell Tower for any risks of fire
- But former Oxfordshire Fire Service worker plotted with council to hide failings
- Fire safety expert Arnold Tarling said attitude of Stokes ‘absolutely stinks’
Carl Stokes, the fire consultant paid £250,000 to inspect Grenfell Tower
The fire risk assessor responsible for Grenfell Tower conspired with council housing chiefs to hide safety failings at the building in which at least 80 people died, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Fire consultant Carl Stokes, who was paid £250,000 to inspect the high-rise block, plotted with Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) to hide the failings from both residents and London Fire Brigade.
Remarkably, his advice not to disclose life-threatening fire risks was backed by housing chiefs, who were looking to avoid safety improvements which they considered unnecessary.
The Mail on Sunday has obtained a copy of a Fire Risk Assessment for Grenfell Tower, submitted by Mr Stokes to KCTMO in November 2012, in which he advises officials to exploit a legal loophole.
Under the heading ‘Legal Statement’, he wrote: ‘You do not have to give a copy of your fire risk assessment to anybody, not even the fire authority, if you do give them a copy this could be used against you at a later date.’
Mr Stokes, who served for many years with Oxfordshire Fire Service, then explained that withholding his report from London Fire Brigade was important because they ‘have the power to undertake an audit of the fire risk assessment to determine if it is suitable and sufficient or not’.
Remarkably, his advice not to disclose life-threatening fire risks was backed by housing chiefs, who were looking to avoid safety improvements which they considered unnecessary.
The Mail on Sunday has obtained a copy of a Fire Risk Assessment for Grenfell Tower, submitted by Mr Stokes to KCTMO in November 2012, in which he advises officials to exploit a legal loophole.
Under the heading ‘Legal Statement’, he wrote: ‘You do not have to give a copy of your fire risk assessment to anybody, not even the fire authority, if you do give them a copy this could be used against you at a later date.’
Mr Stokes, who served for many years with Oxfordshire Fire Service, then explained that withholding his report from London Fire Brigade was important because they ‘have the power to undertake an audit of the fire risk assessment to determine if it is suitable and sufficient or not’.
Mr Stokes was recommended to KCTMO directors by housing official Janice Wray as “willing to challenge the fire brigade on our behalf if he considered their [safety] requirements to be excessive.”
Mr Stokes is the director and sole shareholder of C S Stokes and Associates Ltd.
The TMO’s clerk of works will sign off Rydon’s work
Grenfell Tower The external cladding and window frames were passed on 15 May by the Council’s building control officer.
Grenfell Tower Tony Batty & Jon White monitored progress & ensured quality of work
The Government was told last year by its own fire investigators that tower blocks were covered in flammable material
June 26 2017
The Government was told last year by its own fire investigators that tower blocks were covered in flammable material – but were also told building regulations were “adequate”.
The advice was given by the same fire risk experts who are currently testing the cladding on 600 tower blocks – and so far failing every one of them.
The reports were sent to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in April 2016 by BRE Global, formerly the Government’s Building Research Establishment, which went on to reassure ministers that building controls, which BRE has influenced since 1948, were “adequate”.
The documents seen by Sky News show that in last year’s study of tower block fire safety it concluded: “With the exception of one or two unfortunate cases, there is currently no evidence from BRE Global’s fire investigations for DCLG to suggest that current building regulation recommendations, to limit vertical fire spread up the exterior of high rise buildings, are failing in their purpose.”
The documents go on to warn of “an increase in the volume of potential combustible materials being applied. A number of significant fires… have demonstrated the potential risks”.
BRE is now being paid to test cladding being removed from high rise buildings across the country in response to the Grenfell Tower disaster, in which 79 people are thought to have died after fire spread rapidly up cladding containing combustible insulation and plastic panels.
BRE has been paid by DCLG since at least 2007 to “investigate issues that may have implications for building regulations”.
Last week, DCLG said councils and housing associations must “immediately” take action if they have tower blocks with flammable polyethelyne (PE) panelling like that used on Grenfell Tower, which is “unlikely to be compliant with the requirements of the current Building Regulations”.
Krishnan Guru-MurthyVerified account @krishgm
Grenfell Tower was done without a Full Plans approval but was certified under Building Notice. Huge difference in scrutiny involved
‘One tower, 16 failed council inspections – then 79 died’
Grenfell Tower: 16 council inspections failed to stop use of flammable cladding
Exclusive: Officials tasked with enforcing strict fire regulations didn’t prevent use of material effectively banned on tall buildings
Four ministers were warned about tower block fire risks
Four separate government ministers were warned that fire regulations were not keeping people safe, in letters that have subsequently been seen by the BBC.
In the leaked letters, experts warn that those living in tower blocks like Grenfell Tower were “at risk”.
At least 79 people are dead or missing presumed dead after the fire at the London high-rise last week.
The department that received the letters said work to improve regulation and safety had already been under way.
The letters show experts have been worried about fire safety in tower blocks for years.
Following a fatal fire in Lakanal House in south London in 2009, a series of recommendations were made to keep people safe.
They were ignored. The government promised a review of fire regulations in 2013, but it still has not happened.
BBC One’s Panorama has obtained a dozen letters sent by the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group.
Informed by experts, it warned the government it “could not afford to wait for another tragedy”.
Four ministers – all from the Department for Communities and Local Government – received letters but did not strengthen the regulations.
Ronnie King, a former chief fire officer who sits on the group, says the government has ignored repeated warnings about tower block safety.
“We have spent four years saying ‘Listen, we have got the evidence, we’ve provided you with the evidence, there is clear public opinion towards this, you ought to move on this’,” said Mr King.
The government department promised a review in 2013, but it was soon delayed.
In March 2014, the parliamentary group wrote: “Surely… when you already have credible evidence to justify updating… the guidance… which will lead to saving of lives, you don’t need to wait another three years in addition to the two already spent since the research findings were updated, in order to take action?
“As there are estimated to be another 4,000 older tower blocks in the UK, without automatic sprinkler protection, can we really afford to wait for another tragedy to occur before we amend this weakness?”
After further correspondence, Liberal Democrat MP Steven Williams – who was then a minister in the department – replied: “I have neither seen nor heard anything that would suggest that consideration of these specific potential changes is urgent and I am not willing to disrupt the work of this department by asking that these matters are brought forward.”
The group replied to say they “were at a loss to understand, how you had concluded that credible and independent evidence, which had life safety implications, was NOT considered to be urgent”.
“As a consequence the group wishes to point out to you that should a major fire tragedy, with loss of life, occur between now and 2017 in, for example, a residential care facility or a purpose built block of flats, where the matters which had been raised here, were found to be contributory to the outcome, then the group would be bound to bring this to others’ attention.”
The letters were written before the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower.
One went to the-then Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, who received a letter about fire regulations from the parliamentary group in February 2014.
He had also been asked to look at fire safety in February 2013 and March 2013 by two separate coroners, investigating two tower block fires.
In December 2015, the all-party group wrote to Conservative MP James Wharton, another minister in the department at the time, and warned about the risk of fires spreading on the outside of buildings with cladding.
“Today’s buildings have a much higher content of readily available combustible material. Examples are timber and polystyrene mixes in structure, cladding and insulation.
“This fire hazard results in many fires because adequate recommendations to developers simply do not exist. There is little or no requirement to mitigate external fire spread.”
The last of the four ministers in the department to receive a letter was Gavin Barwell, who has since moved on to become Theresa May’s top aide. He received his letter from the parliamentary group in September last year.
In November, Mr Barwell replied to say his department had been looking at the regulations, and would make a statement “in due course”.
In April this year, Mr Barwell wrote to say he did “acknowledge that producing a statement on building regulations has taken longer than I had envisaged”.
The fire safety group pointed out that it had been “given a similar response by three successive ministers since 2010” and it “is now time to listen to what the Fire Sector is saying”.
The government has said there is still no timetable for a review.
The Department for Communities and Local Government said that a police investigation into the Grenfell Fire is already under way “but it will be some time before it is fully understood how the fire started or why it took hold in the way it did.”
In a statement, it added: “The government has acted to improve fire regulation and safety, including the recommendations made by the Coroner following the Lakanal House Fire.
“The final recommendation concerned simplification of fire safety guidance, and this work was under way, with a consultation due to be published this summer.
“Fire safety requirements are complex issues and our priority has been that we have high standards. A great deal of work has been completed, including commissioning and undertaking research to support the planned consultation. Clearly, in light of this tragic event, we need to reflect on whether this consultation is the correct next step to take. We will confirm our approach shortly.”
In a separate development, Panorama has discovered that firefighters put out the first fire at Grenfell Tower.
They were called to a fridge fire, and within minutes told residents the fire was out in the flat.
The crew was leaving the building when firefighters outside spotted flames rising up the side of the building.
The Fire Brigades Union say firefighters were left facing an unprecedented fire, and officers broke their own safety protocol to rescue people.
Labour demands answers after ministers ‘ignore’ 12 letters warning high-rise blocks at risk of fire
ZED 🤐 @ZedTrafficker
What kind of sick experiment is this? When on fire the cladding released cyanide
Fire Safety Experts warned about the dangers of Hydrogen Cyanide used in cladding in 2011 report ~ but were ignored
Grenfell Tower victims ‘poisoned by cyanide released by burning insulation boards used for cladding’
Three of those injured in the fire are known to have been treated with an antidote for hydrogen cyanide poisoning and fire toxicity experts say the thermal lining was an ‘accident waiting to happen’
Fire toxicity experts claim their positioning – between the new cladding facade and the existing ‘70s brickwork of the building – meant every flat could have been filled with enough gas to kill those inside.
Professor Hull, who co-authored a peer-reviewed study in 2011 which established that PIR was the most toxic six insulation materials added: “It’s been an accident waiting to happen and unfortunately we’ve got to the stage now where the accident has happened and we’re standing here saying ‘I told you so’.
“It would have been much better if people had listened to us earlier on when we published the report.”
The insulation board was manufactured by Celotex, who say if fitted correctly it meets regulations for use on buildings above 18m (59ft) tall.
Celotex is yet to comment on the cyanide claims.
Grenfell contractor confirms that polyethylene-core cladding has also been installed on housing estate in Camden.
An estimated 600 buildings in England have similar cladding to
#GrenfellTower, Theresa May’s spokeswoman says
21 Jun 2017
Rydon, the company behind the controversial refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, is about to get a £65million construction contract in west London.
According to industry publication Construction News, the contractor has been approved by Ealing Council’s cabinet as the development partner for the regeneration of High Line Estates in the borough.
Ealing is the neighbouring borough to Kensington and Chelsea, where Grenfell Tower near Latimer Road tragically went up in flames.
The lucrative deal will see the contractor finance, develop and submit a planning application for the new development, which will be situated just miles from where last week’s atrocity unfolded.
They will then demolish the area’s existing estate, before replacing it with mixed-tenure housing. The majority of homes in the development will apparently be ‘affordable’.
Rydon was the main contractor on the Grenfell Tower works that were completed last summer, at a cost of £8.7million.
One of the main changes to the building involved the addition of external cladding, which it has been claimed caused the fire to spread much quicker than it would have otherwise.
At least 79 people have been confirmed dead after the tragedy last week, but police warn that the death toll is set to rise.
Rydon has since insisted all of its work on Grenfell Tower met the required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards.
Ealing Council added that although Rydon had been chosen as its preferred partner for the development of the estate, they hadn’t yet signed a deal.
A spokesperson for Ealing Council told Metro.co.uk: ‘The High Lane estate scheme is in a very early stage. All designs will be fully consulted on with residents and partners and will meet all fire safety standards.
‘The current outdated housing blocks will be replaced by new mixed-tenure blocks that meet all modern fire safety standards. There can be no comparison made with the construction methods or materials at Grenfell Tower.’
ben goldacreVerified account @bengoldacre
One thing conspicuously missing: TV footage of police carrying boxes of documents and computers out of Grenfell’s management offices…
I am truly staggered by the lack of competent response to Grenfell, inadequate immediate support..
For victims, a PM so afraid to meet the public that there is no public reassurance, and a fair impression that accountability is lacking
Landlord spent £10million to put cladding to make building look pretty (for surrounding rich) for 300k they could have sprinkler system.
Westfield Shopping Centre viewed (March 2013) from the Grenfell Tower
way this is going it’s like a setup – land expensive around there by any chance ?
Frank Lowy/Westfield Centre/ 911 Trade Centre 7
Rydon has been working with the MoD for several years.
It struck me as odd that the police ruled out arson very early on, before they had made any other official comment on almost any aspect of this fire. Also that the guy with the allegedly faulty fridge was identified so quickly. Perhaps the authorities want to reassure people… or perhaps something more sinister is going on.
Mr Lee Jasper @LeeJasper
Can you clarify if the
#GrenfellTower residents/supporters are subject to undercover police surveillance?
Can you clarify whether or not
#GrenfellTower families/supporters are under covert police surveillance ?
Did undercover police target Grenfell residents who raised fears about safety?
Spycops have a long and baneful history of infiltrating health and safety groups.
AMID the protests and non-stop press coverage of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, there are some big questions that are still to be asked.
Specifically: were undercover police infiltrating the Grenfell Action Group? Do the names of the residents who warned about the safety deficiencies at Grenfell Tower (or other council housing projects) appear on the Met Police’s domestic extremism database?
To many, this may seem an odd question, but to community and trade union activists who have campaigned on safety issues for decades, being ignored by those in authority while at the same time being victimised and spied on by them is par for the course.
Last year the High Court heard how a corporate spy called Rob Moore posed as a journalist to infiltrate various anti-asbestos groups and spy on campaigners, including relatives of those who had died from the deadly fibres.
Construction workers who raised concerns about safety on building sites have been repeatedly dismissed, kept under surveillance and blacklisted by multinational companies who saw them as a threat to their profits.
Blacklist files record such activities as workers organising a petition on social housing, participating in the Construction Safety Campaign or complaining about the unsafe electrical equipment and disposal of asbestos.
But it was not only big business that targeted those who raised safety concerns: the police were implicated too.
The Special Demonstration Squad, National Public Order Intelligence Unit and the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit all spied on activists who were vocal on health and safety issues.
The undercover police officer Mark Jenner posed as a carpenter while infiltrating a campaign by building workers to reduce deaths on building sites and targeted the well-respected London Hazards Centre.
Activists who campaigned on safety issues have found themselves placed on the Met’s domestic extremism database and a “two-way exchange of information” existed between the police and the blacklisting companies.
Following disclosure at the Pitchford public inquiry, it is now known that around 250 undercover officers have infiltrated more than 1,000 campaign groups since the late 1960s.
This included not just trade unions but environmental campaigns, anti-racist groups, peace activists and even the grieving parents of murder victims.
Progressive housing campaigns and squatters’ rights groups have been kept under surveillance by these political policing units too.
In the overwhelming number of cases, those spied upon have committed no crime. The purpose of the state intrusion into their lives was not to detect criminality but to keep tabs on anyone considered a troublemaker.
Often that simply meant participating in a perfectly lawful campaign that asked difficult questions — the very same questions about how the rich get rich at the expense of working-class communities that the whole of the country is now asking in the wake of Grenfell.
In many cases the undercover police are accused of acting as agents provocateurs or deliberately disrupting and destabilising the campaigns they targeted.
The Grenfell Action Group is part of a wider coalition of community groups called the Radical Housing Network, which has campaigned for many years against gentrification and the underfunding of working-class housing stock.
Repeated attempts by the Grenfell Action Group to alert those in authority to serious risks fell upon deaf ears.
But have these housing activists, who have been proved right in such a catastrophic and tragic manner, been targeted by undercover spycops?
Because of the police refusal to answer any questions about the operation of their political undercover police officers, I do not know the answer to that question. But given what we know about how these anti-democratic units operate, it’s one worth asking.
If this turns out to be true, then why are the resources of the British state being used to spy on perfectly legal residents’ groups with genuine concerns rather than investigate the real criminals?
How many lives might have been saved if the police had investigated the legitimate concerns raised by activists rather than continuing to spy on them?
To answer these questions might pose real difficulties for Theresa May and the entire British secret state apparatus.
Tottenham MP David Lammy has sensibly called for all the documents relating to the Grenfell Tower refurbishment to be seized by the Met Police to stop potential evidence being destroyed.
I just hope documents don’t get accidently shredded by the Met themselves.
Lancaster Green residents below
#GrenfellTower left without hot water, gas. At risk if Grenfell collapses. Asbestos
Peter F @PFurmo
Daily Mail: The man ‘whose faulty fridge started Grenfell Tower inferno’ http://dailym.ai/2rksp6d
First rule of the Establishment blame game; dehumanise the victims. We lived through it after Hillsborough. We won’t allow it with
Electrical Surges since 2013! Fridge Blowing up my eye!
Nick Pettigrew @Nick_Pettigrew
Hillsborough tactics, Day 4: As spokespeople emerge, assassinate their character to try & devalue the protest.
Start fight for justice now, Hillsborough mum urges Grenfell Tower campaigners
Margaret Aspinall calls for openness and transparency in London inferno investigation
“I told him you’ve got to start demanding answers and have transparency and openness about everything as the authorities will try and palm you off…
Residents of the west London flats had predicted a ‘catastrophic event’ in a blog post just seven months ago.
The Grenfell Tower Action Group on their blog said: “The many who lost their lives in this catastrophe were our friends and neighbours.
“We tried to speak for them in life and we will continue to speak for them now.
“We share the pain of the homeless, the injured and the bereaved to whom we offer our heartfelt sympathy, condolences and solidarity.
“We also share the sense of anger and injustice that has troubled this community for years.
Judge orders council to allow media into Grenfell Tower meeting
Court overturns Kensington and Chelsea council’s attempt to hold meeting in private, after challenge from Guardian and other media
A judge has ordered a London council to lift a ban on the media reporting on the first meeting of councillors to discuss the Grenfell Tower disaster, after a legal challenge by the Guardian and other media groups.
Downing Street had expressed concern after survivors of the fire and members of the media were barred from the Kensington and Chelsea council cabinet meeting on Thursday evening which was to hear a report about the blaze.
The council had opted to hold a private cabinet meeting to hear an oral report about the fire, citing the potential for disorder, and previous threats against staff. Such meetings are usually open to the public.
The meeting was to be led by the council’s Conservative leader, Nicholas Paget-Brown, who has been widely criticised in the wake of the fire.
However, a court application by the Guardian and five other media groups saw the high court order the council to admit members of the media with press cards.
Downing Street had said it wanted all parties involved in the fire aftermath “to be as open and transparent as possible, both with residents and the wider public, to ensure full confidence in the response effort”.
A spokeswoman said: “We would encourage everyone involved to respect this wherever possible.”
Labour’s Andrew Gwynne, the shadow communities secretary, had also urged the council to reconsider. “In order to deliver a response that survivors, residents and the wider public can trust, there is no room for anything less than complete transparency,” he said.
The decision to bar survivors and the wider public from the meeting followed protests two days after the fire, in which at least 79 people died, when angry residents stormed the town hall.
The council said the decision to exclude the public was made in accordance with its own standing orders “which are confirmed in common law”.
The council has come under intense criticism for its response to the disaster, with many residents claiming they were left to fend for themselves.
Its chief executive, Nicholas Holgate, resigned last week, after pressure from the communities secretary, Sajid Javid.
Calls have been made for Paget-Brown to follow, with London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, demanding the resignation of the entire council leadership.
Just watch the COVERUP unfold….
Theresa May promised Grenfell survivors they would have a say in who chaired the inquiry and it’s scope. Today, she broke that promise.
Kensington Council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown resigns after fatal Grenfell tower fire
Move follows criticism of the council’s response to the disaster
June 30 2017
Moments after Mr Paget-Brown’s resignation, deputy council leader and the cabinet member responsible for housing, Rock Feilding-Mellen, also announced he was stepping down.
In a separate development, the organisation which manages Grenfell Tower in west London announced it had agreed its chief executive would “step aside” so he can “concentrate on assisting with the investigation and inquiry”.
A statement from the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) confirmed Robert Black’s position, two days after retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick was appointed to lead the public inquiry into the deaths of at least 80 people.
HRH Crafty Muvva
“…perceived failings”. Incredible… Don’t worry Nick, your Tory mates from Bow Group will assist.
Dave Russell @daverussell
Journalists barred from first Kensington Council meeting since Grenfell
Journalists have been barred from tonight’s meeting of Kensington Council’s cabinet – the first to be held since the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea says tonight’s meeting will be held entirely in private session, putting the decision down to the “risk of disruption.”
The council has cited an incident on Friday 16 June, two days after the fatal fire, which saw survivors and other residents attempt to enter Kensington Town Hall before returning to a demonstration outside, as an example of the supposed risk.
At least 80 people are now known to have died in the blaze, although a final figure may not be produced until 2018.
A notice of meeting on the council’s website reads: “Please note this meeting will be held entirely in private session, pursuant to Standing Order 31.01*, in the light of the risk of disruption (as witnessed on Friday 16 June) and consequently security and public safety concerns.
“As such it will be open only to cabinet members, support officers and invited guests (if any). The public minutes of this meeting will be published, in due course, on the council website.”
The Standing Order referred to states that under common law and statute, the chairman of the meeting, who in this case is council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown, has the power to exclude the public if he or she is of the opinion that there shall be a disruption to the business.
The fire is listed as the only item of business other than apologies for absence and declarations of interest.
Following the decision, local news website Get West London offered to live stream the meeting via its Facebook page, but has yet to hear back from the council.
In a piece on the decision, content editor Charlotte Neal wrote: “We understand that the lack of distinction between public and press in the order and zero evidence that one of our reporters would disrupt proceedings, coupled with the undeniable public interest of the meeting, gives the council not even a matchstick sized legal leg to stand on. If the ban remains, the press could likely demand a (costly) judicial review.
“Head of governance services at the council, Robert Sheppard, responsible for giving advice to the cabinet, told Get West London ‘council lawyers are satisfied on the legal basis’ and that the press is welcome to challenge it. When asked if we could speak to the council’s lawyers, he redirected us to the press office.
“If the council’s not going to let the public into the meeting, once again insulting their capability to handle themselves, at least let “the eyes and ears of the public” do what it does best and report on the damn thing. We repeat, these people deserve at worst the whole truth.
“We stress, the press are the eyes and ears of the public; we’re not here to play lip service to the council and publish its carefully crafted ‘available shared content’ – where’s the accountability in that?”
The site will be live blogging from outside the meeting this evening.
Séamus Dooley, NUJ acting general secretary, said: “We are deeply disturbed at the news that the Kensington and Chelsea council cabinet meeting tonight will be held in private. The ban on media attendance should be lifted immediately and we call on all council members to ensure that this matter of the utmost public interest is discussed in public.
“The horrific fire is a matter of grave public interest. The public has a right to know if public policy failures contributed to this disaster. There is no justification for behind closed doors discussions. This can only contribute to further alienation of residents who feel their voice has not been listened to.
“Members of the public, especially those affected by the fire, and broader public must have their rights respected. The right to freedom of expression includes the right to information. Ultimately elected representatives make decisions on behalf of their constituents and the local community.
“Decisions of the council should be open to scrutiny and conveyed to the public via the independent media. Secrecy is the default position of those who seek to avoid accountability for their actions and on this occasion there is no room for anything less than complete transparency.”
The council declined to comment further when contacted by HTFP.
2014 from The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
Building Control » Building Control Summary
|Description Of Works||Demolition|
|Site Address||Grenfell Tower, Grenfell Road, LONDON, W11 1TH|
|Application Reference Number||DEM/14/02401|
|Valid Date||Thu 22 May 2014|
|Decision Date||Not Available|
There are 0 documents associated with this application.
There are 0 cases associated with this application.
There is 1 property associated with this application.
Anne Murphy @DrAnneMurphy
That £5,500. It’s a statutory payment.
Why Didn’t the Grenfell Towers Collapse After Burning for Over 12 Hours?
Aug 20, 2008
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released its long-awaited report on the collapse of World Trade 7 following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “Our take-home message today is that the reason for the collapse of World Trade Center 7 is no longer a mystery,” NIST lead investigator Shyam Sunder told journalists at this morning’s press conference in Gaithersburg, Md. “WTC 7 collapsed because of fires fueled by office furnishings.It did not collapse from explosives or from diesel fuel fires.”
“Where was this when people were screaming at windows?” New Grenfell Tower fire engine with 137ft ladder explained
Residents ask on Facebook why a fire service appliance with much longer reach than those which initially responded to the devastating blaze can be seen at the scene ‘only now’?
…someone trapped high up in the building – desperately waving for help from a window.
In other images shot that morning, it’s clear firefighters on the ground – who rushed to the scene just six minutes after the first 999 call – had ladders which couldn’t reach anywhere near that high.
The frustration for those who were first on the scene is unimaginable.
Residents were told to stay in their flats – advised before that night as the protocol to follow in case of fire and, it’s been claimed, by operators when they dialled 999.
At the time it was said – although not confirmed – London Fire Service appliances only had ladders which could reach as high as the 12th floor of what’s described as a 24-storey building.
But residents have reacted with shock and consternation when crews in a fire appliance extended a ladder at the scene yesterday which clearly reached much higher.
Some four to five days after the blaze, the appliance with the longer ladder is being used to search the site for the bodies of victims trapped in the blaze high up.
A spokesman for Surrey Fire & Rescue confirmed to MirrorOnline that they were called at 6.50am on Wednesday morning – some six hours after the blaze started at around 12.50am.
He said he was unable to say how long it took for the for the Aerial Ladder Platform to arrive at the scene, travelling from Leatherhead.
Its Surrey-based crew – five men on the appliance in rotation – have been working round the clock to support their London colleagues at the scene ever since.
The question remains why London Fire Brigade don’t own one – especially with such a concentration of high rises in the capital.
Questions over whether they had access to the best resources available are a matter that the public inquiry MUST look into.
A teacher who says she witnessed some of her students run back in to the burning Grenfell Tower block to try and help a friend has expressed her anger that “nothing was done” to help.
“The army barracks are in Knightsbridge, why did the army not come? Are we not good enough?”
Dr Lauren Gavaghan@DancingTheMind
@theresa_may – why was the army not sent in immediately to help people of #Grenfell ?
Grenfell fire: Theresa May attacked by fire safety expert for not treating disaster as national emergency
24 June 2017
‘This is turning into a PR disaster for the local authorities,’ says Stephen Mackensie
A fire safety expert has criticised Theresa May for not convening a Cobra meeting to support local authorities in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.
Stephen MacKenzie said he thought Camden council “had done the sensible thing” by evacuating hundreds of people from five tower blocks.
But he told Sky News he was “at a loss as to why Theresa May has not convened Cobra over this to actually get emergency arrangements, led by central government, to support the local authorities and to give the residents the necessity reassurance and address this issue.
“This is turning into a PR disaster for the local authorities,” he said, adding that a group of fire experts should be convened “urgently” over the weekend together with private and social housing to find solutions to the issue.
Fears grow over ’15 tots from same nursery missing’ in Grenfell Tower fire
A childcare worker at Grenfell Nursery reportedly told a relative ‘at least 15 of the children aged between six months and four-years-old were still missing last night’
The childcare centre, based on the ground floor of the building, is reportedly said to be ‘preparing for the worst’.
Authorities are yet to issue a list of the missing more than 72 hours after the disaster.
The Daily Star reports that Ish Murray’s pregnant sister works at Grenfell Nursery and has told him ‘at least 15 of the children aged between six months and four-years-old were still missing last night’.
The 35-year-old told the paper: “Lots of kids live in the block with their parents.
“My sister told me that 15 are missing.”
The information is yet to be officially verified.
Nursery manager Shirley Sylvester has confirmed that young children are missing but hasn’t publicly stated a number to the media.
“Lots of children who go here live in the block,” she said.
“We are not coping very well to be honest. They are our local families”.
‘She will be missed by us all forever’: Family pay heart-wrenching tribute to ‘loving mother and partner’ Berkti Hafton, 29, killed in Grenfell Tower fire
Kensington and Chelsea Council have yet to respond to over 130 offers to rehouse Grenfell Tower victims
Tories Who Voted Against Making Rented Properties ‘Fit’ for Human Habitation
David Cameron, Chris Grayling, Dominic Grieve, Nick Hurd, Julian Lewis, Jacob Rees-Mogg, John Whittingdale to name a few
The bosses of the company that installed Grenfell Tower’s allegedly deadly cladding were accused by HMRC of pumping £2.5million into tax avoidance schemes.
A Matter of Interest ? Barely 1 month after the Grenfell Tower Fire…
in contrast this is the house when its for a 10% pay rise for them!
for further contrast!
Angry Grenfell residents demand arrests and resignations at meeting
Kensington and Chelsea council meeting sees people express rage and contempt for officialdom at investigation’s slow progress
12 July 2017
How many people lived in Grenfell? How many people got out and are accounted for? How many are still missing?
Where are the survivors?!
“We are sending boxes and food… to who? None of the people I grew up with, I can’t find anyone! Where are they?” asks a distressed resident on PressTv. Haven’t most residents in that building died? We don’t even know how many people were in that building! It could easily be 440-660 people assuming 2-3 persons per 220 bedrooms (Claire OT- tweeter user on my network). Those on the missing list have not been checked against the bodies lying in the body bags in the tents! (Jane interviewed by Ashish Joshi -Sky News) Who is identifying the dead? When will the relatives, if they have survived be contacted? When will these people who government failed to give dignity in life, allow them dignity in death? Why is the media not asking these questions repeatedly until we find the answers?
No one has communicated! No one has owned the aftermath of the tragedy! No one has even apologised! No one has resigned. Pages have been removed from Council websites. Why are they all in hiding &/or being non-transparent? Is this seen as a price perhaps worth paying .. the eye-sore… the expendables.. the inevitable casualties of their greed, selfish life styles and corruption? How did we get to a situation when ordinary law abiding citizens who have lost loved ones, family and friends, neighbours felt the need to storm the council offices?
^ Grenfell – Must watch – Powerful video
Tent full of body bags, no one accounting for…
Dame Alun Roberts @ciabaudo
Surely the number of bodies found in the building is known, even if they haven’t been identified. So what’s the body count?
Heroic Grenfell Tower firefighters gagged from talking about horrors amid fears death toll could rise above 100
The order from bosses has been revealed by several Fire Brigade sources who grimly insisted the official figure of 80 dead will soar
1 JUL 2017
Heroic firefighters have been gagged from talking about the full horror at Grenfell Tower amid fears the true death toll will top 100.
The order from bosses has been revealed by several Fire Brigade sources who grimly insisted the official figure of 80 dead will soar.
They spoke as authorities were accused of masking the total of those who perished in the inferno.
One firefighter, who did not want to be named, told the Sunday Mirror: “We’ve been told by our management don’t speak, ideally. The coroner has said it could obstruct the investigation. I don’t know how it can – what’s happened has happened, but that’s what we’re being told.”
A union rep for the Fire Brigades Union said: “We know the death toll will be higher than the official figure – and we’re not talking about one or two higher. There’s a strong possibility we are talking about three figures.”
17 days after the fire we have no list of survivors, the police have said we will have to wait until the end of the year for numbers.
“It’s causing huge anxiety for people who want closure as they wait for news of their loved-ones and it feeds deep mistrust amongst the victims and survivors themselves.
Police say the final Grenfell Tower death toll won’t be known until next year
Jun. 28, 2017
The final death toll of the Grenfell Tower disaster will not be known until next year, the Metropolitan Police has said.
At least 80 people are now known to have died in the catastrophic blaze on June 14. This has risen from 79, with the latest victim being identified as five-year-old boy Isaac Paulous.
But a final figure will not become clear until 2018.
Residents’ groups and Labour MP David Lammy have criticised the fatalities number for being unrealistically low, and have even suggested that the true scale of destruction has been suppressed to avoid civil unrest.
Officers said they believe the majority of those who died came from 23 flats in the upper half of the building, which had a total of 129 apartments. Police have yet to make contact with anybody from the 23 flats, leading them to believe there were no survivors. They were distributed between the 11th and 23rd floors.
Officers have contacted at least one survivor in each of the other 106 flats.
Fiona McCormack, a detective chief superintendent orientating the investigation, said a conclusive death toll will be available “only after we have completed the search and recovery operation, which will take until the end of the year.”
McCormack said officers have now been in every single flat, and on the building’s roof.”
The man, Sir Ken Knight, overseeing the Grenfell fire panel advised ministers to cut fire funding by £200m
The Queen awarded Sir Ken the Queens’ Fire Service Medal in 1991 and the CBE in 2001. He was appointed as Her Majesty’s Representative Deputy Lieutenant for Richmond upon Thames in 2007. Sir Ken was Knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2006 in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the fire and rescue service.
28 June 2017
Fire safety independent panel chair advised against retrofitting sprinklers and authored report advocating £200m fire service cuts
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II glances over to her husband Prince Philip beside Fire Commissioner Sir Ken Knight during a visit to Millwall Fire Station in London’s Docklands, 16 February 2007. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh received a briefing on operations and watched participants in the ‘LIFE Program‘. The program is an intensive course in which young people learn firefighting skills alongside real firefighters. The youngsters are aged between 13-18.
Sir Ken Knight will now advise the Government on its response to the Grenfell Tower fire
Sir Ken Knight will head the group which has been appointed to “advise on any immediate measures that can be put in place to make buildings safe.”
But in his report the Lakanal House fire in Camberwell, which killed three women and three children in 2009, the former London fire commissioner wrote: “It is not considered as practical or economically viable to make a requirement for the retrospective fitting of fire suppression systems to all current high-rise residential buildings.
Sir Ken was also the author of a 2013 report which recommended £200m worth of cuts to the fire service, according to the Political Scrapbook website.
panel he now heads, will be made up of building and fire safety experts, including the chief executive of the Building Research Establishment, Peter Bonfield, the chairman of the National Fire Chiefs Council, Roy Wilsher, and president of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Amanda Clack.
They are due to have their first meeting this week.
Mahboubeh Jamalvatan is still troubled by what she saw on night of fire and unsettled by the protracted dislocation that has followed.
She is finding it hard to sleep or eat because she is still so troubled by what she saw. “What bothers me a lot is it was mainly children and women who died, because the men were out. I saw them with my eyes, the people behind the windows, the children. Downstairs, people were screaming ‘come down’ but they couldn’t, they were trapped there. The police were asking us to move back but I could see the faces at the windows as the fire was spreading around the building,” she says. “I think about it all the time.”
She told the police she was surprised by how few firefighters she saw to begin with. In her statement she said she was concerned that the fire brigade were slow to appreciate the seriousness of the fire. “They thought they could handle it,” she says, speaking with the help of an interpreter. She was also disturbed by the difficulty fire teams seemed to have in getting to the building. “The way that the building was designed, there wasn’t full access around it, there was no access for the fire engines to get there,” she said. Residents had lodged formal complaints over several years about the difficulty of emergency access to the building.
Dame Alun Roberts @ciabaudo
I, too, believe the fatality count is being micro-managed to contain the fallout for the government.
#Grenfell survivor ‘only passed 8 people on stairs all the way from upper floor’ https://ladyfreebird750.wordpress.com/2017/06/17/grenfell-survivor-only-passed-8-people-on-stairs-all-the-way-from-upper-floor/ …
Reading eye-witness reports like this makes my blood boil. Why isn’t the media and government telling the truth?
Vicount Ian Kerr CGC @IanKerr
Mining accident…accurate numbers. Passenger ship capsize…accurate numbers. Plane crash….the same. The council fucking know how many.
Damning – Listen to this ^
Fatalities into the 160s – authorities delaying publishing the numbers, hoping interest will die down.
i newspaperVerified account @theipaper
Grenfell survivors tell me the death toll is far higher than police say. I believe them http://trib.al/PQM1Kqp
Good Morning BritainVerified account @GMB
‘There is no way that the death toll is the figure that is currently being given as 79’ – Local councillor Eartha Pond
They can identify a suicide bomber and know his full name and nationality after being completely blown up.. But not people in this tower?
If you want the truth about #GrenfellTower, listen to the residents and eyewitnesses. Not the authorities. We know these brothers personally.
Vicount Ian Kerr CGC @IanKerr
was your ‘missing’ figure of 538 at
#GrenfellTowerFire changed to 0 for a reason ?
Gathrer collects statuses of former Grenfell Tower residents
Add, edit and view the surviving, missing and deceased here
17 June 2017
Police update. Local residents ask questions about public inquiry & materials used in refurbishment
Grenfell Tower refurbishment was ‘not approved’, according to council
Grenfell fire victims can’t access funds raised for them and council only giving them a tenner, volunteer claims
Grenfell Tower residents offered rooms – in ‘carbon copy’ hotel. With cladding
Government staff have been drafted in to bolster the official response to the Grenfell Tower disaster in west London.
The move follows widespread criticism of the local council’s performance.
Residents condemned the relief effort as “absolute chaos” and complained that Kensington and Chelsea Council had provided little support or information.
Councils across London are now involved in the operation, with humanitarian assistance being provided by the west London borough of Ealing.
May admits her Govt and Tory K&C council’s Grenfell Tower responses failed survivors: “That was a failure of the state local and national.”
lily #labourtine🎈Verified account @lilyallen
Ealing are now running the show since RBKC stood down. This doesn’t fill me with confidence. Grenfell
The people tasked with looking after the survivors and families are developing with the same firm that clad Grenfell.
#chaos @guardian @DailyMirror
Grenfell victims are sleeping in cars and parks, says Kensington MP
Janey GodleyVerified account @JaneyGodley
#GrenfellTowerFire victims sleep in cars.
Grenfell residents say SCO-19 armed police on estate. Why?
its almost like they are doing everything they can to force riots on the streets! maybe to make examples when they TRY to crack down on it!
Police say 58 people are now ‘assumed to be dead’ in the Grenfell Tower inferno as fire investigators use dogs to continue their grim hunt for bodies
Commander Cundy said police had received more than 6,000 calls and that the search is set to take weeks or ‘longer’.
He said that the force has confirmed 30 people are dead and has established that another 28 are missing. He added that he has to ‘assume’ these people had died.
The commander stressed that this information was based only on the number of people they believe were in the tower when it caught fire in the early hours of Wednesday morning and the actual loss may be greater.
Firefighters have said they believe no one on the top floors of the building survived.
Stuart Syvret @StuartSyvret
Former housing minister Gavin Barwell refuses to comment on fire report
Westfield Police Station
In March 2013, Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, announced that the Metropolitan Police were to set up a new base in Westfield Shopping Centre following the closure of Shepherd’s Bush Police Station front counter. In his Police and Crime Plan, designed to save £500 million by 2015, some 2,600 officers were to be redeployed in Safer Neighbourhood Teams across the Met – including 92 more in the borough taking the total up to 139.
Last year was a bumper year for Rydon, which saw profits leap nearly 40% to £10.3m and a payout of £8.4m to shareholders.
Tory donor owned stake in refurb company accused of using cheap cladding on Grenfell Tower
Coller Capital – founded by Tory donor Jeremy Coller – owned a fifth of Rydon Construction, via a partnership based offshore in Jersey
A Tory donor’s private equity firm was a big investor in the construction company accused of saving £5,000 with cheaper, more flammable cladding at Grenfell Tower .
Mayfair-based Coller Capital owned a fifth of Rydon Construction, via a partnership based offshore in Jersey, when the work started on the £8.6 million refurbishment at the block in 2014.
Coller boss and founder Jeremy Coller donated £15,000 to the Tory party in July 2015.
Omnis, which supplied Reynobond panels for the project, confirmed it sold the version that cost £2 a square metre less than the more fire–resistant option.
It is just this type of choice that was covered by Part B of the review of fire regulations Theresa May’s chief of staff Gavin Barwell promised the Commons in October.
Coller, who had no operational control, bought a stake in Rydon in 2010 as part of a £332 million deal with Lloyds.
It became the major 70% partner in Jersey-based Cavendish Square Partners, which in turn owned a 30% stake in Rydon Holdings, the parent firm of Rydon Construction. Last year Rydon’s profits leapt nearly 40% to £10.3million and £8.4million went to shareholders, says CorporateWatch. Rydon bought back shares owned by Cavendish for £6.2million in December 2015.
It is believed more than £4 million of this went to Coller Capital.
Jeremy Coller is a British financial executive. He is CEO and CIO of Coller Capital, a British private equity firm.
For 20 years, Jeremy Coller has played a key role in the evolution of the secondary market for private equity. He founded Coller Capital, a secondaries firm, in 1990, and has appeared in media lists of the most influential people in private equity. In 2008, the Daily Telegraph of London listed him as number 21 in a list of the most powerful people in British hedge funds, private equity and fund management.
Jeremy’s early career was spent as Head of Research at Fidelity International and as a sector fund manager at ICI Pension Plan, where he was an early investor in Dayton Carr’s Venture Capital Fund of America, an early secondaries firm.
Jeremy attended Carmel College. He holds a Master’s degree in Philosophy from the University of Sussex, and a Bachelor’s degree from Manchester University School of Management. He also took the Diplome Cours de Civilisation at the Sorbonne.
Jeremy is married with two children and lives in London.
As well as being Chairman of the Jeremy Coller Foundation, his vehicle for philanthropic activities, he sits on the Boards of the Coller Institute for Private Equity at London Business School and the Coller Institute for Venture at Tel Aviv University.
He is a member of the Advisory Council of The Elders.
The Elders (organization)
The group was initiated by Richard Branson and musician and human rights activist Peter Gabriel, together with anti-apartheid activist and former South African President Nelson Mandela. Mandela announced the formation of the group on his eighty-ninth birthday on 18 July 2007 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Jeremy Coller’s financial background
In 1995, the firm created a US secondaries fund, and in 1996 it bought all Rothschild Inc’s 12-year-old venture assets in the first secondaries direct deal – in which a fund buys a portfolio of stakes in companies.
Britons invest in Rawabi, Palestinian city of dreams
…the project, whose initial funding came from Mr Masri and the Qatari government, is attracting high-profile Jewish investors. These include America’s Michael Steinhardt, George Soros, and the British businessman Jeremy Coller.
Jeremy Coller’s uncle, Julian Scott, is a liveryman in the Worshipful Company of Turners of London, and Fiona Woolf is an honorary member.
‘They tried to get lawyers’: Devastating cuts to legal aid prevented Grenfell Tower residents accessing legal advice
Jon StoneVerified account @joncstone
Kensington and Chelsea, one of the richest places in the country, also has one of the lowest council tax rates
Cladding ‘fitted on Grenfell Tower’ is BANNED in US and Germany
Simon Cowell to raise money via a charity single…
so it’s really the people who buy the single helping, not Simon who could easily afford to ……
Hannah. G. @comeasbundy
Instead of making a ‘charity’ single people buy, how about Simon and other celebrities use their own money to donate
Simon Cowell net worth: Simon Cowell is a British music executive and television producer who has a net worth of $550 million.
Paul Walters @Pauljwalters
How about just donating cold hard cash, it’s all about ‘how good am I’ self promoting wanker.
The Scum & The Scum Simon Cowell, who was quick to get £50,000 cash for his friend and convicted paedophile Jonathan King.
Simon Cowell paid bail for convicted paedophile Jonathan King and had convicted paedophile abuser Max Clifford as his PR
Why is Pete Townshend who was on the sex offenders register for downloading CHILD PORN part of Artists for Grenfell?
Paedophile Pete Townshend’s police interview
Gary Glitter and Pete Townshend – Princes Trust Concert
The Who’s Pete Townshend knew four Grenfell Tower families and has “written some cheques” for the victims
He revealed he even replaced a piano for a family that lost theirs last week.
“A little Spanish girl in there studied the piano – they got a piano up 10 flights and of course it’s gone now, so I managed to get her a piano.
The rock star Pete Townshend was cautioned by police and placed on the sex offenders register for five years following his admission that he accessed child pornography on the internet.
Townshend, 57, received the caution at Kingston police station in south-west London for “accessing a website containing child abuse images”.
He was arrested in January as part of Operation Ore, the largest investigation into child pornography in the UK. He admitted using his credit card to access images but claimed they were for “research” for a book.
“People who pay to access these sites are injecting cash into a criminal and manipulative industry that sexually exploits and seriously damages children.”
The children’s charity NCH said Townshend’s crime was “not a small matter”.
Nick Pettigrew @Nick_Pettigrew
The Queen has issued a statement of condolence to the Grenfell Tower victims from her largely-empty 775-room palace that you pay for.
Magic money tree.
Context: Buckingham Palace to undergo ‘essential’ £370m refurbishment
Oh yes, the Establishment can always find that Magic Money Tree when it suits them.
Yes Highland @yhWildfire
About four miles and a whole world apart.
KrushBrother Ⓥ @OriginalKrush
Massive coverage of the Downing Street protests on the BBC Website!!! Nah, only kidding. No mention of it at all!
Why is mainstream press talking up rioting? Has there been any violence? All looks peaceful to me. Calling May a coward doesn’t = violence.
Laura Hankinson @JustLaurahhh
“They just want a riot” No they spent years writing letters and going through official channels being ignored.
scarlett stuff 🌹 @scarlettstuff
You know why. Paint people fighting for justice as a mob to discredit them
Kerry-Anne Mendoza @TheMendozaWoman
It took the Guardian less than a week after
#Grenfell to start patronising & demonising survivors & their allies
Bobby Palmer @thebobpalmer
You: Grenfell was a tragedy in which 79 innocent people died The Daily Mail: Haha poor people can’t spell
Sundancin’ Paul @Sundancer_UK
This is what Murdoch’s so called journalist say about it:
Iain MartinVerified account @iainmartin1
Word of praise for the cops tonight in London, policing demos. Stretched by terror threat. Now handling Socialist Worker middle class twats
#MSMsilent on the report into the Shepherd’s Court fire was kept a secret, wonder why?
Tory Councillor Ken Hawkins insulting grieving Grenfell relativeshttp://eservices.solihull.gov.uk/mginternet/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=131 …
Mob rule was what got us into this mess. Mob rule by greedy neoliberal profiteers who dont care about people
Police open criminal investigation into Grenfell Tower fire http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/grenfell-tower-fire-criminal-investigation-manslaughter-police-latest-a7792446.html … <Tory outsourcing, profit, landlordism in the dock
Paul Lewis @paullewismoney
Alasdair Lord @Alasdair_Lord
October 27, 2004
Tony Blair is set to break Labour’s manifesto promise to create a law before the next general election that punishes companies for fatal accidents.
Dave’s New Year resolution, January 2012!
Cassandra Cogno @CassandraCogno
Inquests,police investigation, criminal prosecutions for
#GrenfellTower May cannot be trusted to set up “swift” inquiry look at @InquiryCSA
Lady Black Cat @Lady_Black_Cat
Public Inquiry=govt choose judge & set Terms of Ref etc. Theresa May has history of killing issues via Public Inq route
Dame Alun Roberts @ciabaudo
Why should I trust May to run an honest public inquiry into
#grenfell when she lost dozens of files to protect friends in CSA inquiry?
Don’t put another inquiry into the hands of control freak who lost CSA files and delayed IICSA by putting forward 3 tainted partisan chairs!
₮ḥɛ Ƀɛåʈ₪ᴉ₭ ₣цƶżɃѳʍɃ @Sixgun77
Can’t think why the inquiry keeps ‘stalling’.
Dame Alun Roberts @ciabaudo
I’m confident Theresa May will give the London fire the same treatment as CSA, Orgreave, Hillsborough, CoE sexual abuse, Edward Heath.
P J @Pamper48
The Establishment: safe in her hands!
Andreas Baader @stop1984
People are sharing this video of Boris Johnson telling opponent to ‘get stuffed’ in response to fire cuts
Rachael @Rachael_Swindon@BorisJohnson When you did this you caused the abandonment of safety checks at #GrenfellTower. How do you feel?
Andreas Baader @stop1984
Boris Johnson accused over sales of London fire stations http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/boris-accused-over-sales-of-fire-stations-9618202.html … 2014
I’ve been thinking about the fire brigade because Boris Johnson is shutting down stations for luxury hotels http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/ive-been-thinking-fire-brigade-3118807#ICID=sharebar_twitter … 2014
Fire station shut by Boris Johnson to be turned into luxury flats by company run by Tory donor
Thursday 22 June
One of 10 fire stations shut by Boris Johnson while he was Mayor of London is to be converted into luxury flats – by a company whose directors include a Tory donor.
Belsize fire station, which was closed in 2014 after 100 years of service to the local community, will be turned into 16 apartments, the Camden New Journal have reported.
Vulcan Property Ltd, which bought the grade II listed building from the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) for £7.8 million, was given planning permission for the flats this week.
Scrapbook has found that Electoral Commission records show one of the company’s three directors, William Richard Woodward-Fisher, made a £2000 donation to a Conservative association in 2005.
Camden Council’s planning committee gave the scheme the go ahead this week, but at a previous meeting local councillor Flick Rea said: “It is patently clear that we did actually need this fire station.”
Firefighters at the station rescued a man from a fire in a block of flats on the same morning that the station was closed.
Last year a house just a 20 second drive away from the station was destroyed by a blaze. The owner of the house told the Camden New Journal: “If Belsize was open, the response time would have been quicker. There is not even a conversation about that. It’s a 20-second drive away…I want to praise the firefighters but criticise the politicians that closed Belsize.”
And the closure of the fire station was blamed for the death of a pensioner who died after jumping from his burning flat. Here’s the ITV news report from the time…
The fact that two flats in the new development are allocated for social housing will be of little comfort to those paying the price for Johnson’s closures.
Especially given that Tory supporters are now profiting as a consequence of his deadly cuts…
Chancellor Philip Hammond denies that public cuts are impacting emergency services
A Firefighter’s blog
We’ve been investigating the evidence about the Grenfell fire. And what we’ve found is numbing.
On 23 June, the police announced that they were considering charges of “manslaughter, as well as criminal offences and breaches of legislation and regulations” over the Grenfell Tower fire. And they issued a statement confirming that both the cladding and insulation installed at Grenfell have failed safety tests. Investigators are now trying to establish whether those materials were used illegally.
The Canary has been examining available and leaked documents relating to the Grenfell refurbishment. And the results are numbing.
The day after the Grenfell fire, the Metropolitan Police Service announced it had begun a criminal investigation into the causes of the tragedy. This meant that the tower block and the premises of all parties connected to its refurbishment are now crime scenes. Since that announcement, many have been pushing for strident action.
MP David Lammy, for example, had asked Prime Minister Theresa May for an update on the criminal investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire in a House of Commons session. She was not able to oblige him. He demanded that all relevant documents relating to the refurbishment be seized; and that corporate manslaughter charges be considered.
He said: “Most people see this as a crime and they know that rich and powerful organisations get away with crime”.
And in an open letter to the Prime Minister, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan stressed:
I would seek an assurance that if the Inquiry or police investigation finds any individual or organisation to have been negligent in their duties, then they will be prosecuted. This issue is not limited to the type of cladding fitted; the material it is attached to and how this has been achieved are also critical factors.
The key players
By all accounts, the cladding used during the refurbishment is likely to be key to the investigation.
A planning application [pdf] for the Grenfell Tower refurbishment project was made in October 2012. In that application, there appears to be no mention of the type of cladding eventually used, just “ “. This may be significant. Planning permission was granted in January 2014. And in the decision document [pdf p2, point 3], it was a requirement that “Materials to be used on the external faces of the building” be approved by the Local Planning Authority.
There were a number of key players involved in the project:
- Grenfell Tower is owned by Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea.
- The tower is managed by Kensington & Chelsea TMO (KCTMO).
- The refurbishment project cost £10m and was managed by Artelia.
- Architects contracted to advise on the project were Studio E.
- The main contractor for the refurbishment was Rydon.
Other key players organised the cladding:
- Cladding used is a product of Arconic.
- It was supplied by Omnis Exteriors.
- And it was installed by Harley Curtain Wall (now Harley Facades).
The wrong cladding?
In Arconic’s Reynobond PE brochure [pdf], a diagram clearly shows that panels with a fire retardant core, which applies only to the Reynobond FR model, can be used for buildings up to 30 metres tall. And above that, the A2 (non-combustible) model should only be used:
Indeed, the Building Control Alliance 2014 recommendations agree; and they are quoted on the Omnis Exteriors website:
Where the building exceeds 18m in height, the BCA recommends…the use of materials of limited combustibility for all elements of the cladding system both above and below 18m.
However, Grenfell Tower is over 60 metres tall and only Reynobond PE (the combustible variety) was installed.
So why was Reynobond PE chosen instead of Reynobond FR? Simple: Omnis director John Cowley told The Guardian that the product is £2 cheaper per square metre than the fire-resistant variety. But costs should not have been a factor, as Kensington & Chelsea Council holds reserves of £274m.
The view of the Grenfell Action Group (GAG) on this aspect is unequivocal:
The cladding on Grenfell Tower was intended to pimp it up so that it wouldn’t spoil the image of creeping gentrification that the Council are intent on creating, here and throughout the rest of North Kensington.
Is the cladding banned?
Reynobond PE is not banned in the UK. Current building regulations allow its use in both low-rise and high-rise structures. The key question now is whether the overall design of the building’s complete exterior was properly tested and subsequently signed off by the relevant authorities including the fire officer, building compliance officer and architect before commencement of the project.
Cladding using a composite aluminium panel with a polythene core should not be used for cladding on a building taller than 18 metres.
But in Germany, construction companies are banned from using Reynobond PE on towers more than 22 metres high. And in the US, the product is banned above 15 metres. Britain’s Fire Protection Association now wants the government to make it a statutory requirement for local authorities and companies to use only fire-retardant material, such as Reynobond FR.
What do the building regulations say?
The external envelope of a building should not provide a medium for fire spread if it is likely to be a risk to health and safety. The use of combustible materials in the cladding system and extensive cavities may present such a risk in tall buildings.
Limited combustibility can be demonstrated by testing a cladding system as a whole and by satisfying the performance requirements set out in BR 135 Fire Performance of external thermal insulation for walls of multi-storey buildings. This would allow the inclusion of firebreaks within the cladding. However, contractors are provided some leeway in that, under Appendix A of the Building Regulations 2010 fire safety document [pdf], only the outward-facing surface needs to be fire-resistant.
Or as fire expert Arnold Tarling dramatically commented:
Since the Grenfell fire cladding installer Harley Facades (formerly Harley Curtain Wall) has removed details from its website of its work on Grenfell Tower “as a mark of respect” (though an archived copy of that page has been recovered).
Interestingly, according [paywall] to The Times, in 2016 a Harley customer tried to claim £428,000 for disputed work undertaken by Harley Curtain Wall. The company then went into liquidation. However, Harley’s owner Ron Bailey was allowed to purchase his old business for just under £25,000, even though it owed creditors £1.18m and was being pursued by HMRC for tax avoidance.
Soon after the fire, The Times [paywall] reported:
Harley said that the panels it supplied were a ‘commonly used product’ in the refurbishment industry. ‘We will fully support and co-operate with the investigations into this fire,’ Ray Bailey, 58, its managing director, said. ‘At this time, we are not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding.’
There were other factors that could have contributed to the Grenfell tragedy.
- The building had no sprinkler system.
- The fire alarm system apparently failed.
- Advice was given to residents to remain in their flats if there was a fire.
- And a major fire incident caused by faulty wiring was narrowly averted, providing further warnings.
The KCTMO was repeatedly warned about fire dangers in tower blocks, but did nothing. Residents also raised concerns about the gas pipes in the main stairwell, as it appears they were not boxed in with “fire-rated” protection. And there were four years of warnings over fire hazards by the Grenfell Action Group (GAG). But these were also ignored. Indeed, in 2013 the council threatened legal action against GAG.
The KCTMO has published a statement saying:
We understand the growing demand for answers. Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) continues to play an important role in gathering all relevant information that will enable us to assist fully with investigations.
At present, however, our focus remains firmly supporting our residents, staff and local agencies throughout this incredibly distressing time.
The government’s role
A dozen letters by the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group, warning that the government “could not afford to wait for another tragedy”, were leaked to BBC Panorama. They were sent to four ministers with the Department for Communities and Local Government. One of the recommendations was that sprinkler systems should be installed in 4,000 blocks of flats. But according to a leaked letter [pdf], nothing further was done about that. The ministers who were warned of fire dangers included: then Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, Conservative MP James Wharton, Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams, and Conservative MP Gavin Barwell (now Theresa May’s Chief of Staff).
Barwell promised a review into safety in 2016. And he was warned again about fire safety in March 2017. A review was eventually announced. But nothing was done, and the review was kicked into the long grass.
Immediate action is now needed to identify which other properties have been clad with Reynobond PE. A cursory search of the Omnis Exteriors website shows that two properties – Granville Road and City West (Manchester) – were clad with Reynobond, though it is unclear which kind. Other cladding projects carried out by Harley may also have been clad with Reynobond.
And there could be more properties – not just high-rise flats – that are clad in Reynobond PE by other contractors. Indeed, already seven high-rise blocks, including three in Plymouth and one in Tottenham, have been identified. And a further nine high-rise blocks in Salford are currently under investigation.
Meanwhile, cladding installed on tower blocks on the Chalcots Estate, Camden, is currently being replaced after tests were carried out. Camden Council stated that the cladding was “not to the standard” expected. As with the Grenfell site, the main contractors were Rydon and Harley. The council is now seeking legal advice.
Truth comes out
Regardless of the ambiguities in the building regulations, the guidance from the product manufacturer should have raised questions about the choice of cladding.
Or as the Grenfell Action Group puts it:
We believe the dangers of cladding must have been known by the Council and TMO technical staff involved in planning the Grenfell Tower ‘improvement works’ and by the contractor Rydon and sub-contractor who carried out the works and seems to have opted for cheaper highly flammable cladding.
Rydon insists it met “all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards”.
Everyone who signed off the project has questions to answer.
When the truth comes out about this tragedy, we may find there is blood on the hands of a number of organisations. It is my grave concern that the families of Grenfell Tower will not get justice if documents are being quietly destroyed and shredded, and emails are being deleted.
Hopefully, further evidence will be found to explain more fully why the fire happened; and why so many people tragically lost their lives.
Grenfell Tower gas pipes left exposed, despite fire safety expert’s orders
June 28 2017
Council expert said pipes serving flats must be protected with fire-retardant boxing but, by time of fire, two-thirds were still bare
Dozens of exposed gas pipes in Grenfell Tower that caused residents to fear for their safety were left bare despite a council safety expert ordering them to be protected by fire-retardant boxing.
The National Grid agreed to protect the pipes serving individual flats, which had been installed over the winter, but had only added a third of the boxing by the time the deadly blaze killed at least 79 people.
In March, three months before the blaze, residents told the London fire brigade (LFB) that people living in the 24-storey tower were so scared by the pipes “that they are having a panic attack”.
They requested an urgent safety report to show the building is “safe from fire hazard”, according to correspondence seen by the Guardian.
A fire safety consultant for Kensington and Chelsea council, which owns the tower, had approved the location of new gas risers and pipes in landings and stairways, but only if they were clad in “fire-rated” boxing, according to an email to leaseholders from Sacha Jevans, director of operations at the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation.
Jevans said that the National Grid assured the council on 27 March that the pipes would be protected, but two-thirds of the lateral pipes were still exposed when the disaster happened on 14 June.
The works were originally undertaken by the National Grid’s gas distribution arm following a leak. In March, the firm was sold to investors, including the Qatari government, and renamed Cadent Gas.
Alex AndreouVerified account @sturdyAlex
Regeneration Case Studies
Queen Elizabeth Hospital
Rydon, in a collaboration agreement with Family Mosaic, successfully led a two stage bid through the HCA’s Delivery Partner Panel Framework and submitted the full planning application for the redevelopment of the former Queen Elizabeth Hospital, located on Hackney Road in Tower Hamlets.
With the plans now approved by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Rydon will design and build the new development of 188 new homes, 38% of which will be affordable (43% by habitable room), for rent or for purchase through shared ownership. The remainder are available for private sale through Mettle & Poise.
The hospital site comprises a decommissioned children’s hospital and associated accommodation for nurses, which closed in 1996 and has remained empty ever since. The site is located in close proximity to two conservation areas and it is directly adjacent to the London Borough of Hackney, as well as Hackney City Farm and several Grade II listed properties.
All homes will be compliant with the London Housing Design Guide, developed by the Mayor of London, and Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4. 30% of the homes will be designed as family accommodation and 10% wheelchair adaptable.
Work on this major redevelopment is expected to be completed by 2017.
Boris Johnson faces questions over his fire brigade cuts following Grenfell Tower blaze
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson faces questions over his decision to slash London’s fire service while being the Mayor of London.
Johnson presided over the closure of 10 fire stations and the removal of 27 fire engines, despite previously promising not to remove them.
There are fears that many more tower blocks in London could be vulnerable to the type of blaze seen at the Grenfell tower.
Johnson repeatedly denied he had any plans to cut fire engines or fire stations, telling the London Assembly in 2010 that there were “no plans” to remove engines. Pressed on the issue, he said in a filmed meeting that “I don’t want to get rid of them. What’s the problem?”
When confronted by his opponents on the London Assembly about the broken promise in 2013, Johnson told Labour’s Andrew Dismore to “get stuffed.”
David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson are well-known former members of the exclusive society – the Bullingdon Club – …tales of Bullingdon debauchery and a rumour about an initiation ritual in which new members burnt a £50 note in front of a homeless person
Johnson Family and friends
Boris Johnson’s father Stanley Johnson (centre) with friends Leon Brittan and Norman Lamont at Stanley Johnson’s book launch
and Esther Rantzen was there too
Alex AndreouVerified account @sturdyAlex
Go ahead and do a search for the terms: “Boris Johnson” “Rydon Construction” That’s the company that refurbished
It turns up a whole load of interesting stuff. Like how they were “hand-picked” to be on his £5b Housing Panel. And many many contracts.
“But major 10m refurbishment” you say. Well, let us see.
Let us see who prioritised aesthetics – a benefit to the affluent residents all around – over safety.
Let us see what experts warned and were ignored. Let us see what residents complained about and were threatened.
Let us see, how much time was lost in getting a large enough fire-fighting team to it, because of fire station closures and staff cuts.
Let us see how much money went to the pockets of intermediaries on commission. What kickbacks officials got.
Let us see who thought it would be a great idea to go for this cheaper material rather than that to protect the bottom line.
Let us see what contractor was brother-in-law of what minister. And which MPs have shares in what developer eyeing the land.
Mr EthicalVerified account @nw_nicholas
From Boris Johnson’s sister
@RachelSJohnsonthinks Theresa May is a victim of the fire as well. #GrenfellTower
I wonder whether his mates likely to profit from laxer regulations wrote his script?
Health and safety fears are making Britain a safe place for extremely stupid people
Health and safety concerns are reducing life to mindless mayhem, complains Boris Johnson.
MR ROBERT BOND
Rydon House Station Road, Forest Row, East Sussex, United Kingdom RH18 5DW
Nick Paget-Brown with Princess Anne
Tory council leader reaches an all-time low and blames residents for the Grenfell fire [VIDEO]
It’s difficult to see how the Tories could sink much lower in their response to the Grenfell Tower disaster. The top of government failed to act on a safety review. The landlord ignored tenants’ warnings. Theresa May couldn’t even bring herself to meet residents. And now, the Conservative leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, Nick Paget-Brown, has managed to hit a new low, blaming residents for a sprinkler system not being installed.
20 June 2017
The leader of Kensington and Chelsea offered to resign after the council was heavily criticised for its response to the Grenfell Tower disaster, the Standard has been told.
The town hall is also at the centre of a police investigation into the devastating inferno which is feared to have claimed the lives of at least 79 people.
Nicholas Paget-Brown is believed to have offered his resignation at a meeting of the council cabinet yesterday but it was unanimously rejected by fellow councillors.
If K&C council is doing such a great job then why has Ealing council had to step in? Paget-Brown here, & fresh from blaming residents too
Kensington council leader refuses to say if he will resign over Grenfell Tower fire, insisting response was ‘effective’
Nick Paget-Brown is told some people view Kensington and Chelsea as a ‘rich borough, represented by rich people who don’t care about the poor, have contempt for poor people’
The leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council has refused to say whether he will resign amid criticism of the local authority’s response to the Grenfell Tower disaster.
Nicholas Paget-Brown, a Conservative, also insisted there had been an “effective” relief effort to help those made homeless by the fire which swept through the block of flats, killing at least 58 people.
He made the claim despite Theresa May saying the “support on the ground for families who needed help or basic information … was not good enough” and criticism from Jeremy Corbyn that the “wealthiest borough in the country” appeared to lack the necessary resources to deal with the crisis.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme if he was going to resign, Mr Paget-Brown said this was “not a matter for now”.
Kensington and Chelsea Council has faced criticism over its decision to build up a reserve fund of £274m. The shadow Communities Secretary, Andrew Gwynne, told The Independent the council needed to “immediately explain itself” over why the funds were not used to ensure safe housing.
But Mr Paget-Brown told World at One that this money was used to “invest in new facilities” in the area, such as a new academy for local children, new leisure centres and upgraded housing
Grenfell figures reveal social housing shortage amid glut of empty luxury property
Kensington housing crisis revealed by Grenfell fire deaths
THE WEALTHY BOROUGH of Kensington and Chelsea, where the disastrous Grenfell Tower fire disaster took place, represents the extreme segregation of UK housing policy, according to new figures released by researchers.
There are 1,399 vacant dwellings are in the borough according to Kensington and Chelsea council research, with many properties linked to offshore tax haven ownership – the mechanism of the property speculation industry.
While many of these buildings have been left empty, accruing value for their corporate owners, the public housing stock has been left to deteriorate or be sold off. Ben Kentish, journalist at the Independent, said: “Kensington and Chelsea Council cares so much about social homes that it’s built just 10 – yes 10 – of them in the last 28 years.
“To those saying there’s no room to build, in the same period private property developers built 4060 homes in the borough. The council built 10.”
Yet despite being one of the wealthiest areas in the world, the council has been unable to confirm that surviving victims of the Grenfell Tower fire will be rehoused locally.
“Residents and tenant’s groups had been warning of the possibility of such a tragedy for years, but it appears that not only were these warnings ignored, but steps were taken to actively silence the tenants calling for action regarding the safety of the building.
“Housing is a human right and last night’s tragic event further highlights the need for housing to be run for the benefit of all, rather than for private profit. We call for tenants to no longer be silenced and to be actively involved in decisions about the safety and maintenance of their homes.”
The UK has some of the highest levels of hunger and deprivation among the world’s richest nations. One in three children in the country is in what Unicef calls “multi-dimensional poverty”: that’s deprivation in housing but also in clothes, social activities and food. This is the reality told by countless organisations on the ground: social workers, nurses, welfare rights advisers and debt charities.
Austerity is more than simply citizens in hardship: it’s the wilful abandonment of the government’s duty to help. Kensington and Chelsea council – the Conservative council responsible for Grenfell – for its part is sitting on £274m in reserves, according to the latest accounts.
While poor children in the borough fell below the breadline – and Grenfell residents slept in a tower without sprinklers – the council handed £100 council tax rebates to millionaires.
Tenants are said to be being told they will be rehoused as far away as Preston and threatened with being declared “intentionally homeless” if they refuse – meaning that Kensington and Chelsea council will have no duty to house them.
Tory councillor who oversaw Grenfell Tower refurb
24 JUN 2017
Rock Feilding-Mellen, Cabinet Member for Housing and deputy leader of Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council
Tory councillor for Housing in Kensington & Chelsea + private property developer Rock Fielding-Mellen is where the buck stops with Grenfell Tower. He ignored complaints and cut corners when signing off the redevelopment. He has personal interests in gentrifying the borough.
Rocky’s lack of experience in ‘matters housing.’
For some years, he and his two partners have struggled to make a go of pretentiously named development company, Socially Conscious Capital.
Though it pretends to be something ethical it is, by any other name, a developer.
It has just two failing projects:
Longniddry, East Lothian
The Socially Conscious Capital website spouts a lot of nonsense about ‘working with the community’.
Sadly, it seems not to be working. Read the waffle HERE
Longniddy is owned by Rocky’s stepfather, the affable and kind-hearted Earl of Wemyss & March, so you would think getting the yokels to ‘engage’ with Rocky would be a cinch….not so!
With one voice they told Rocky they needed him like a hole in the head telling him to take himself back south.
Local reports suggest that Rocky flew into a major tantrum.
So what about Racecourse Plantations?
Sadly, Rocky seems again to have evoked the wrath of the local bumpkins. Though not mentioned on the website, it seems his attempt to build 390 socially conscious housing units on ancient woodlands got kicked into touch.
You can read about it HERE
So not much of a record for persuading local and yokels to take him seriously!
And this leads us on to the PROBLEM.
Rocky has Borough responsibility for housing and regeneration.
There are two solid reasons why he is ill-equipped for the role.
1. He pisses off those he is supposed to be persuading by constantly losing his temper when thwarted or challenged
2. His private business track record to date is risible.
Oddly, the website says this about Rocky’s local government expertise. Frankly, he should not be mixing up his roles in this way: it looks as if he is using his council job to aid his private business.
Political: local planning authorities – who set the planning policies and ultimately make the decisions – are political organisations. It’s therefore necessary to understand the local political climate when putting together a proposal.
Rock Feilding-Mellen, who has over eight years’ experience as a local government Councillor, applies his knowledge of local politics to guiding the planning strategy for our sites.
A casual read suggests Rocky’s local government housing experience is an advantage…
Based on the record, not for Socially Conscious Capital……
It is the belief of many in our community that Cllr Rock Feilding-Mellen may be inappropriately using his position of power on the Council for his personal benefit. In the Grenfell Action Group we share those concerns. We believe that Cllr Feilding-Mellen had prior knowledge of the detail of the Council’s forward planning for the regeneration of the Latimer area, and we believe his decision to purchase his current residence in Bramley Road may have been made in anticipation of the likely increase in the value of that property as a direct consequence of the Council’s regeneration policy, over which he now exercises considerable power and influence as Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regeneration.
We believe that the the purchase price of the property bought by Cllr Feilding-Mellen would have reflected the fact that this area of North Kensington has long suffered from under-investment and, as a result, house prices at the time of his decision to buy would have been considerably lower than in other more affluent areas of the borough. We therefore believe that Cllr Feilding-Mellen has a strong personal motive to push forward with plans for the regeneration of the social housing estates that surround his property, as the ‘gentrification’ of the area will inevitably lead to a steep rise in property prices, and a significant increase in the value of his own property.
We do not believe that Cllr Feilding-Mellen will be incentivised to properly consider the objections of local residents of social housing estates who oppose plans to demolish their homes and we believe that he has a direct and significant conflict of interest as he seeks to apply RBKC legislation that would see the destruction of the social housing estates surrounding his property, the displacement of working class communities resulting from the increased ‘gentrification’ of the area, and a consequent significant increase in the value of his own property in Bramley Road.
We also have concerns about the several small companies declared by Cllr Feilding-Mellen on the RBKC register of members interests. Two of these companies are registered at his address in Bramley Road. Neither appears to be profitable or to be engaged in any actual business worthy of note. One of the companies in question, VIMV2 LLP, has existed as a small company for several years but appears never to have declared a profit, and despite having assets of nearly £6million, it appears currently to be £122,000 in the red. The very existence of these companies therefore raises questions as to their possible purpose. Might they exist primarily in anticipation of emerging opportunities for property speculation in the Latimer area, or perhaps in other parts of the borough, the redevelopment of which Cllr Feilding-Mellen will oversee as Cabinet Member for Housing Property and Regeneration? We simply don’t know, but we believe we have a right to be concerned, and to raise those concerns with the Council.
We believe that residents are entitled to be reassured by RBKC that Cllr Feilding-Mellen will be recused from any decision making process involving housing regeneration from which he stands to profit personally. We are also seeking reassurances that neither he nor the companies in which he has an interest will be permitted to buy or sell property in areas of the Royal Borough subject to regeneration or likely to become so.
On 23rd March we made a formal complaint to the RBKC Chief Solicitor and Monitoring Officer, LeVerne Parker, requesting that the issues detailed above be investigated as a matter of urgency and seeking reassurances that Cllr Feilding-Mellen’s personal and business interests would not be allowed to influence decisions concerning plans to ‘regenerate’ RBKC social housing estates. We received the following initial response from Ms Parker;
“I acknowledge receipt of your complaint of today’s date.
Although your complaint does not expressly refer to it being a complaint alleging that Cllr Feilding-Mellen has breached the Members’ Code of Conduct, as your complaint is about an elected councillor, I will deal with it as such and I attach a copy of the Council’s procedures for dealing with code of conduct complaints.
As the first step I am required to consider whether your complaint merits formal investigation and the attached document sets out the criteria I will take into account in coming to my decision. I will also consult the Independent Person and the Chairman of the Audit and Transparency Committee.
I will advise you of my decision on or before 3 May 2016 but, if you have any queries in the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Londoner’s Diary: K&C’s deputy Rock Feilding-Mellen avoids bash at his family estate
Kensington and Chelsea council deputy avoids step-sister’s aristo party
KENSINGTON and Chelsea council’s Rock Feilding-Mellen has made one correct call since the Grenfell Tower fire. He decided not to head to his family home, Stanway House in Gloucestershire, for a wild weekend of partying with the aristo-boho set.
Feilding-Mellen is deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for housing, property and regeneration, with a brief covering the Grenfell Tower but he’s also part of a social set a world apart.
This weekend was the 30th birthday of his step-sister Mary Charteris, model and member of the band The Big Pink with her husband Robbie Furze, held at Stanway.
He had been expected to go home at the weekend to party but, after Wednesday, he told his friends that is just wouldn’t be right. One friend tells us he was “shattered” by what happened.
It would have made “bad optics”, as they say, had Rocky been seen knocking back champagne with his family and friends. Those who did go to Mary’s party included Cara Delevingne, actor Jaime Winstone and aristos including Scarlett Spencer-Churchill.
There is a video online of Cara driving to Gloucestershire in a Range Rover. Pictures of the all-night garden party appeared on Instagram this weekend.
Rocky’s mother Amanda is married to James Charteris, the Earl of Wemyss and March. Mary is the daughter of James from his first marriage to Catherine Guinness. Stanway is the family house, set in 5,000 acres with a 300ft single jet fountain, the tallest gravity fountain in the world.
A rather different sort of estate to those in North Kensington.
Rockn Feilding-Mellen’s mother:
The Feilding family is descended from the House of Habsburg
The crackpot countess (who drills holes in her head to get high) using £550,000 of YOUR cash to prove magic mushrooms are healthy
- Countess of Wemyss and March – aka ‘Lady Mindbender’ – is best known for her belief in the health benefits of magic mushrooms
- She set up Beckley foundation in 1998 to campaign for legalisation of drugs
- On committee is Prof David Nutt, who was sacked as Government’s drug tsar in 2009 for claiming Ecstasy was less dangerous than horse riding
Eccentricity seems to run in the family.
Amanda’s father, an art and antiques-loving country squire called Basil, married his own cousin, Peggy. Together, they inherited Beckley from his parents. And into this rose pink home in January 1943, Amanda was born.
Old Etonian and Oxford graduate, Joe Mellen — who also swore by trepanning, and he became Amanda’s next lover, as well as father of her two sons Rock and Cosmo.
Wemyss, an Oxford don who once taught Bill Clinton, was known for hosting amazing parties at Stanway, his Jacobean stately home in Gloucestershire, which made boho-aristo groupies like Mick Jagger go weak at the knees.
There were plenty with his first wife Catherine Guinness and he continued the pattern with his new countess. The most memorable of these parties took place last year when Neidpath’s bombshell daughter Mary Charteris, married a pop musician called Robbie Furze.
The event, described as ‘the maddest wedding of the year’, was attended by Jerry Hall and her daughter Georgia May Jagger, and the supermodel Delevingne sisters. The bride wore a very revealing dress; the ring bearer was a dog.
Yet despite this decadence, since setting up her foundation she has travelled the world enlisting the support of presidents, made depositions to the House of Lords, and collected big-name scientists around her.
Even proof that this theory was bunkum hasn’t put Amanda or her circle off — hence the £550,000 grant to investigate magic mushrooms.
It is clear, too, that her interest in drugs has been handed down the generations. In 2011, Amanda’s younger son Cosmo, 28, made a film, Breaking The Taboo, which was financed by Sam Branson, son of Richard, and argues that criminalisation of drugs isn’t working.
Nor was the family’s fervent belief in the legalisation of drugs dented by a tragic reminder of the dangers of drugs that came in 2004.
Robert Hesketh, who Catherine Guinness had married after her divorce from Lord Neidpath, died at the age of 48, with a cocktail of alcohol, heroin and cocaine in his blood.
Nothing, not even tragedy, could put off the Countess of Wemyss from espousing the benefits of illegal substances and mind-bending mushrooms.
Amanda Feilding, Countess of Wemyss and March, is an English artist, scientist, and drug policy reformer. In 1998, she founded the Beckley Foundation, a charitable trust that promotes a rational, evidence-based approach to global drug policy policies and initiates, directs and supports pioneering neuroscientific and clinical research into the effects of psychoactive substances on the brain and cognition. The central aims of her research are to investigate new avenues of treatment for mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and addiction, as well as to explore methods of enhancing well-being and creativity.
London fire: It could take two years to rehouse Grenfell Tower victims, councillor says
The deputy leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, Rock Feilding-Mellen has admitted to the BBC that it could take up to two years to rehouse all the victims of Grenfell Tower.
Mr Feilding-Mellen said the first priority was to get the families out of hotels and into temporary accommodation before trying to find them a more permanent home.
The council said it had provided hotel accommodation for all those families that had lived in Grenfell Tower that had contacted it.
Paul Mason @paulmasonnews
Why is RBKC Tory housing chief Rock Feilding-Mellen still in post? Clear evidence from TMO email: cost pressures led to cladding switch
Insurance – follow the money:
some more background
RBKC switched insurance providers about three months before the fire
Zurich had been charging an annual premium of £680,000 according to The Times
Anthony John Wixted @TrojanManifesto
Are you suggesting the Swiss company Zurich might have pulled out of the deal due to safety fears???
It believe it was due to the type of policy that they covered, whereby Zurich did not.
How many other local council buildings in the uk are insured by Protector Forsikring???
Zurich Insurance Group employ some of the best researchers in the world…
..and if we found out so much about Grenfell Tower within 24 hours then ZIG knew it months ago…
Am I right in assuming that Protector Forsikring wont have to pay a penny because landlords,contractors and councils acted negligently???
ZED 🤐 @ZedTrafficker
The Council changed their Insurance – Set to gain the biggest payout of £1 Billion
And *uck all mention of Grenfell Tower in the queens speech…. Forgotten already
Said it all before, it covers re-housing & council will be profiteers, not the residents. More than shocking!
Norwegian insurer Protector Forsikring initially revealed that last week’s Grenfell Tower fire could lead to an insurance bill of more than £25 million – but now the total payout is estimated to be as high as £1 billion.
This could be Europe’s single biggest building insurance payout, according to a report by Sputnik. It said The Times estimated the total bill, with eventual cost depending on the number of fatalities, the price of demolishing and rebuilding the property, and the litigation.
Protector Forsikring’s chief executive Sverre Bjerkeli previously said the firm expects its Munich Re-handled reinsurance program to pick up “almost the entire cost” from the blaze. According to a Reuters report, the Norwegian insurer, which has a presence in Manchester, wrote the policy for the Grenfell Tower for about £20 million.
Kensington and Chelsea Council, which owns the freehold of the tower, reportedly switched insurance providers about three months before the fire that the Metropolitan Police said has left 79 people missing as of June 19.
Swiss company Zurich was named as the original insurer of Grenfell Tower, with Kensington and other boroughs picking Protector Forsikring supposedly to save money. The Norwegian firm was said to be charging a much lower annual premium, according to Sputnik.
Meanwhile, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) is being blamed for having used cladding with a polyethylene core – a factor cited in the spread of flames.
KCTMO, which managed the Grenfell Tower on behalf of the local government, allegedly ignored fire safety concerns raised by residents and experts as early as 2004.
Swiss company Zurich was named as the original insurer of Grenfell Tower, with Kensington and other boroughs picking Protector Forsikring supposedly to save money. The Norwegian firm was said to be charging a much lower annual premium, according to Sputnik.
Larry Silverstein/Zurich : in a crowning touch of irony, Zurich American Insurance Companies, one of the insurers that fought Silverstein tooth-and-nail over his 9/11 claims, wound up taking three floors at 4 WTC this August.
Silverstein angled for an even larger payout from the insurance companies but was unsuccessful. It is known that the insurers conducted their own investigations of the culprits behind 9/11, which may have yielded different conclusions than those reached by the U.S. 9/11 Commission.
Amid renewed public interest in determining the identities of all the culprits behind the 9/11 attacks, comes word that a second executive with one of the World Trade Center’s insurers has died from “suicide.”
Zurich Insurance Group’s former CEO Martin Senn was reported to have shot himself at his vacation home near Davos in Switzerland. No suicide note was found by police. Senn resigned as CEO of the insurance giant last December after the company experienced losses from the still-unexplained large explosions in Tianjin, China, last August.
In August 2013, Zurich Insurance’s then-chief financial officer, Pierre Wauthier, was found hanging at his home in Walchwil, in the canton of Zug, Switzerland, not far from Zurich. Wauthier previously worked for JPMorgan Chase. Police said the hanging “pointed to” a suicide. The insurance company conducted an investigation and determined that Wauthier was not suffering from stress as Swiss police contended.
In January 2014, Tim Dickenson, the communications director for Swiss Re, another World Trade Center insurer, died from unexplained causes in London. Swiss Re was one of the firms that experienced suspicious put options on its stock prior to 9/11 and which went toe-to-toe with World Trade Center lessee Larry Silverstein on settling insurance claims. Swiss Re, like Zurich Insurance, conducted its own investigation of 9/11 and both companies indicated that Silverstein was using the attacks and destruction of the WTC to bilk the insurance companies and make a handsome profit.
David LammyVerified account @DavidLammy
Hearing that Grenfell Tower survivors not wanting to be rehoused elsewhere eg in Preston (over 200 miles away) are being threatened
with being declared “intentionally homeless”, which in reality means the council won’t help them get rehoused. Absolutely despicable.
Intentionally homeless = the council does not have legal duty to rehouse you. How can your home burning down = intentionally homeless
Andrea Davison @beforethestars
That was always the Tory rich intention get them out of prime land and put in Tory voters
Kabir Ali CTA @KabirAli_KBR
Social cleansing of London been happening for a while now. It’s now under the spotlight due to Grenfell. Community means nothing to Tories
Scott Nelson @SocialistVoice
London is being socially cleansed of working class people to make way for the likes of the toffee-nosed snobs in Kensington
Has Jeremy Corbyn struck a Faustian pact with Labour’s gentrification-happy local councillors?
In his conference speech in Liverpool, the Labour leader railed against the housing crisis. “Look what’s happening to housing under the Tories… council homes are sold off without being replaced,” he said. But weirdly, he didn’t find time in his speech to criticise Labour councils such as Lambeth, Hackney and Southwark for doing just that.
Quite the opposite. In a gambit aimed at stopping his party’s desperate civil war, he said: “Across the country, Labour councils are putting Labour values into action, in a way that makes a real difference to millions of people, despite cynical government funding cuts that have hit Labour councils five times as hard as Tory-run areas. It is a proud Labour record, and each and every Labour councillor deserves our heartfelt thanks for the work they do.”
The Grenfell Action Group has repeatedly accused the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea of despising the unemployed and the low-paid as an underclass which it would rather see removed completely from the Rotten Borough. The above press statement from Kensington and Chelsea Council may well be the first concrete evidence that our accusations have been well founded, and it confirms that ‘social cleansing’ is now an active policy which will soon be implemented by the Neo-Con Monsters in Hornton Street.
Back in early 2013 the Hornet”s Nest website revealed that Derek Myers (RBKC Chief Executive at the time) and Laura Johnson (Director of Housing) had been meeting with senior Councillors and Officers from Peterborough Borough Council to explore the possibility of RBKC shipping homeless families from the RBKC waiting list out to Peterborough.
This shameful plan involved RBKC buying land to build ‘barracks for the poor’ in Peterborough to which RBKC could move anyone on their housing register to a ‘Cockell New Town’ in Cambridgeshire.
At the time, these discussions apparently failed, partly due, no doubt, to the storm of adverse publicity created when the Hornet, and the Peterborough local press, both blew the whistle on it. However it has now become clear that RBKC have since continued to actively pursue this approach to solving the local social housing ‘problem’, and have now implemented the first stage of what is effectively a ‘social cleansing’ policy. This brings the nightmare scenario of largescale ‘social cleansing’ a step closer to reality.
The latest RBKC plan to use Council funds to purchase property outside London is evidence that ‘social cleansing’ is an active policy of RBKC and that our Councillors have a will to displace the poor and vulnerable out of the Rotten Borough to make way for spiv property developers and ‘buy to leave’ speculators. The references in the press release to ‘temporary accomodation’ are, of course, effectively meaningless as the Council has no intention of ever increasing the stock of social rented housing.
So far they have only allocated £10 million for this nefarious scheme, which appears to be targetted at homeless families on the housing waiting list. We all know, and the Council admits, that such a meagre budget will buy only a very limited number of properties, so we must assume that this is just a pilot scheme which is likely to be expanded if it proves successful from the perspective of the councillors and council officers responsible. We should also be mindful that what they now represent as an opportunity to house those in greatest need, may well be expanded to later include those targetted for decanting to make way for the mass regeneration projects that we now know are in the pipeline.
We have already seen social cleansing in operation elsewhere in London, notably in Brent, Southwark. Hackney, and Haringey. Make no mistake, your home and your tenancy are no longer safe, and we advise all social housing tenants, in this most rotten of boroughs, to treat all statements, reassurances or promises made by councillors or officers of RBKC with extreme caution. We call on all social housing residents to wake up to the likely implications of this new policy. Spread the word to your neighbours. There is no time to waste and we need to start organising and taking action now to protect our homes, our communities and our tenancies.
N.B. This story has been picked up by the Guardian this weekend in an article that indicts both RBKC and Westminster, which has implemented a virtually identical ‘social cleansing’ policy. Read more here:
Grenfell Tower residents condemn ‘invisible’ estate managers
Group of victims, residents, community leaders and volunteers has criticised the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation.
Residents who met the Prime Minister in Downing Street following the Grenfell Tower fire have criticised estate managers of the building as having been “invisible in the aftermath of the tragedy”.
“With the exception of very few junior officers, the estate managers have been invisible in the aftermath of the tragedy.”
The group, which spent two-and-a-half hours with Mrs May on Friday and Saturday, hit out at the “longstanding neglect” of council buildings in the area.
This letter sent by Kensington and Chelsea’s council leader, Nick Paget-Brown, to residents in 2014 will absolutely infuriate you.
James O’Brien was absolutely horrified at the discovery of a letter sent by Kensington and Chelsea’s Tory Council Leader, Nick Paget-Brown in 2014 to rich local residents.
On his LBC show, James shared with his listeners the letter sent by Mr Paget-Brown, to residents living in the borough where the Grenfell Tower took place.
He said: “OK are you ready for this? In 2014, the leader of Kensington and Chelsea council, Nicholas Paget-Brown, wrote to all residents to pay their council tax in full.
“I think everybody in Kensington and Chelsea are going to be in the top band, aren’t they, for council tax nationally speaking? I can’t imagine there are many properties in that area that don’t fall into the top council tax band, so low is it, it has never been raised since it was introduced.
“Anyone who had paid their council tax in full, I think in the top band, received a letter from the leader of the Kensington and Chelsea council explaining that they would all receive, you might want to sit down for this…I suspect this letter dropped through the letter boxes of Kensington and Chelsea residents, residents of the richest borough in the country, the richest residents, of the richest country, received this letter at about the time catastrophic cladding was being attached to the side of a tower block.”
The letter said that theses residents would receive a one-off payment of £100 to be deducted from their council tax bill.
James went on: “The bonus was due to the council’s ‘careful management of its finances’ over the years. This, while…catastrophic cladding was being stuck to the side of the building in order to save five grand. Wow.”
Pilgrim Tucker @PilgrimTucker
Its time the media started applying some scrutiny to senior councillors and their relationships with property developers
Glenn Woodhead Innovations and Solutions Manager at Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
How MANY involved? https://www.jrp.co.uk/project/royal-borough-of-kensington-and-chelsea/ …
THERESA May has ordered a full public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster as the Government vowed that “no stone will be left unturned” to get to the truth about what happened.
Dame Alun Roberts @ciabaudo
Is ‘No stone will be left unturned’ secret code for ‘Let the coverup begin’?
This afternoon Theresa May is making time to meet with the DUP. She didn’t have time for the residents of
#GrenfellTower though. Disgusted.
Joel Benjamin @Gian_TCatt
#GrenfellTower residents complained TIMBER battens were used to fix cladding to the building exterior. Who inspected the works..?!
The Grenfell Tower residents saw this tragedy coming, but were repeatedly ignored. Was it because they were poor?
June 14 2017
In a frighteningly prescient post titled Playing With Fire, the Grenfell residents’ association wrote in 2016 that ‘a serious fire in the tower block’ with a catastrophic loss of life would be the only way they could bring the company managing the building ‘to justice’
Labour Insider @Labour_Insider
Robert Black is the Chief Executive of
#KCTMO . He is reported to earn £160,000 a year and lives in a £1 million house.
#GrenfellTower women -now feared dead- were ‘threatened with legal action’ for raising alarm about fire safety
Two women feared dead in Grenfell Tower tragedy were threatened with legal action – after raising alarm about fire safety
Mariem Elgwahry and Nadia Choucair were branded ‘troublemakers’ because they campaigned to make their homes safer
The Grenfell Action Group was formed in 2010 to oppose the KALC project and defend the rights of the residents of Lancaster West Estate, a sprawling inner-city housing estate of nearly a thousand dwellings, mostly working class, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic.
History – From Core Strategy to Kensington Academy
The people of Lancaster West stood to lose a great deal to this massive over-development at the heart of our estate, not least the well-loved and well-used open-space of Lancaster Green, the defence and protection of which was one of our primary aims.
Chapter 23 of the Core Strategy deals with the site allocation for the Kensington Academy and Leisure Centre development (Policy CA 4). The site is comprised of two land parcels, the first of which already hosts the Kensington Leisure Centre. This area is earmarked in the Core Strategy for a rebuilt or redeveloped leisure centre on the same footprint, more or less, as the existing structure. The second adjoining land parcel is earmarked for a new secondary school, the proposed Kensington Aldridge Academy.
The Kensington Academy and Leisure Centre (KALC) project was destined to become one of the biggest and most ambitious development projects sponsored by Kensington and Chelsea Council in recent times. An application for planning permission was submitted in May 2012 and was duly approved. Demolition and excavation to prepare the site for development began as soon as planning permission was granted.
Lancaster Green. Approximately 40% of the proposed academy site was composed of open green space which included footpaths, grassed areas, flowering shrubs, and a significant number of mature trees. Lancaster Green, as it was called, had been designated, for a number of years, as one of the Council’s local parks. It was listed as a park on the Council’s website and was marked as a park by an official Council signnpost. It was listed in the Council’s ‘Open Space Audit’ (2004), as the ‘Grenfell Tower Amenity Space’ (4350 sq metres), and was listed in the ‘Parks Strategy’ (2010) as the ‘Lancaster West Secondary Park’.
Although managed by the Council’s Parks Department the legal status of Lancaster Green was actually more complicated than this would suggest. A Title Review of the proposed KALC site, carried out by the Council’s Legal Services Department in June 2010, revealed that both Lancaster Green and the Grenfell Tower Playground area were covered by the same title deed as the adjoining part of Lancaster West Estate, and therefore properly belonged to Lancaster West Estate, rather than the Sports Centre. This was a clear indication that both Lancaster Green and the playground area were originally created as essential amenity space for Lancaster West residents. These amenity spaces were particularly important to Grenfell Tower residents, who have no balconies or private amenity space, and whose public areas receive no natural light. It is noteworthy also that Lancaster West Estate is generally deficient in playspace, and the open space in the western part of the proposed KALC site, including the sports pitches, had always served to mitigate that deficiency.
Site of former Lancaster Green – Kensington Aldridge Academy
The flammable cladding encasing the exterior of Grenfell Tower played a major part in spreading and accelerating what began as a single dwelling fire with such rapidity that the entire interior of the 24 storey building became a raging inferno in less than an hour. It is incumbent on us also to state our firmly held belief that the cladding in question was not introduced for the benefit of the residents of Grenfell Tower but because Kensington and Chelsea Council had redeveloped the surounding area, building another of their flagship academy schools right next to Grenfell Tower, and a new sports and leisure centre next to that.
The cladding on Grenfell Tower was intended to pimp it up so that it wouldn’t spoil the image of creeping gentrification that the Council are intent on creating, here and throughout the rest of North Kensington.
One of Grenfell’s Tower’s two escape routes was blocked up because of academy
Residents of the Grenfell Tower area have alleged that one of Grenfell Tower’s two escape routes had been permanently closed after the construction of the Kensington Aldridge Academy. The academy, which opened in the autumn of 2014, is currently closed because of its proximity to the scene of Wednesday’s terrible fire.
Local people told the SKWAWKBOX on Sunday that there were two exits from the block, but that one had been shut up – and that older residents of the Tower may have died because they went to the blocked exit in the confusion of the blaze, instead of the one that remained usable.
Residents of the area also alleged that the academy has the same type of exterior cladding that was used on Grenfell Tower and that the decision to use it on the high-rise may have been driven by a desire to bring the appearance of the tower block more into line with that of the new academy.
The cladding on the academy can be seen in the image below:
There appears to be no ill-will or blame toward the academy on the part of local residents and indeed staff from the school, which remains closed, have been participating in the relief effort. However, there is considerably anger about the planning decisions that led to it being sited so close to Grenfell Tower and to the closure of the exit.
One resident told this blog,
How can you put a building so close that you have to close one of only two ways out? It’s bad enough that there was only one staircase for 600 people in that building, but closing one of the exit doors as well? They were treated like cattle.
Some of the older people still got confused and tried to use the old door sometimes. Can you imagine if that happened on Wednesday?
If the assertions of local people are correct, they must raise serious concerns about the council’s planning decisions and their contribution to last Wednesday’s terrible events.
Sir Rodney Aldridge – Dedicated to helping disadvantaged young people
Leaving school at 16 with a handful of O-levels, Aldridge got a job in the post room at his local county council.
Sir Rod Aldridge speaking at the Topping Out
Kensington Aldridge Academy Reaches Major Milestone
Bouygues UK celebrated the construction of the Kensington Aldridge Academy in west London reaching its highest point recently, with an official “Topping out” ceremony.
The event was attended by Chairman of the Academy’s lead sponsor the Aldridge Foundation, Sir Rod Aldridge, the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Councillor Charles Williams, and Leader of the Council, Councillor Nicholas Paget-Brown.
The government’s controversial academy programme is not universally welcomed by parents concerned that their children’s education is being transferred from state to philanthropist.
As a public figure associated with the Labour government – he retired after negative publicity surrounding a £1m loan he made to the party, and chairs a youth volunteering programme launched by Gordon Brown
Education Portslade county school for boys; qualified as a chartered public accountant, 1970
Career 2006-present: founder and chair, the Aldridge Foundation; 1984-July 2006: founder and chair, The Capita Group plc; 1974-84: technical director, Chartered Institute of Public Finance; 1972-74: assistant treasurer, Crawley council; 1969-72: senior accountant, Brighton council; 1963-69: postboy and then junior posts in payroll section and audit department, East Sussex county council
Public life Chair of dance working group, Department of Health; youth volunteering charity, v; The Lowry and User Voice
Interests Family, golf, Sussex county cricket club, Chelsea FC and Brighton and Hove Albion FC
01 Feb 2003
It runs the Criminal Records Bureau and, last autumn, schools stayed shut as it tried to work through every school employee in the country to see whether they had any criminal record.
‘Our contract was with the Home Office. The procedure was agreed, and that’s what we were doing. The education minister decided we had to do a full check on teachers. Nobody discussed that with us. I’m not even sure they discussed it with the Home Office.’
Labour donor landed role as adviser to Brown thanks to ‘dirty secret’
3 November 2006
Mr Aldridge: boss of Capita, which has been awarded billions of pounds of public sector contracts under Labour
A millionaire businessman who secretly loaned £1 million to the Labour Party was recruited to head a flagship Government project by one of his own companies.
Official documents show civil servants regarded the process used for the appointment of Rod Aldridge as head of a £150 million youth community service scheme as a ‘dirty secret’.
After inquiries were made about it, one emailed another warning: ‘Our dirty secret is out – would you like to deal?’
The documents, released under freedom of information laws, reveal that recruitment firm Veredus was used to find a chairman for a flagship body implementing the recommendations of the Russell Commission, set up by Gordon Brown to bring about a revolution in youth volunteering.
Mr Aldridge – boss of technology firm Capita, the parent company of Veredus – was eventually appointed to the prestigious post.
He has since taken up a job as head of a new charity called V, which is managing the volunteering scheme.
Though the position is unpaid, it holds huge prestige as one of Mr Brown’s pet projects.
Last night the Conservatives expressed astonishment at the revelations about his appointment and said they would be demanding an official inquiry.
They demanded to know whether ministers had played any part in the process.
Tory frontbencher Chris Grayling, whose questions prompted the release of the documents, said: ‘I shall be writing to the permanent secretary of the Cabinet Office asking for an investigation.
‘It seems extraordinary that a recruitment company would nominate its own group chairman to a position as politically sensitive as this.
‘Inevitably, people will be suspicious. This is someone who is a major financial supporter of the Labour Party, who’s clearly close to senior Labour figures.
Capita has won a number of Whitehall contracts despite being fined millions for several high-profile blunders.
Following the disastrous launch of the Criminal Records Bureau in 2002, it was fined almost £2million for its failings in providing criminal checks on people working with the vulnerable.
Rod Aldridge said the loan had been ‘in good faith’
The chairman of outsourcing firm Capita is stepping down over “spurious” claims his £1m loan to Labour resulted in the group getting government contracts.
An influential Commons committee has also launched an inquiry into funding.
The constitutional affairs committee will interview Lord Levy, Tony Blair’s chief fundraiser, on his role in persuading Labour backers to make loans.
Lord Levy will also be questioned by the public administration committee.
Tony Blair has denied suggestions that he nominated wealthy supporters for peerages in return for Labour Party loans.
Rod Aldridge, one of 12 donors who lent the party almost £14m
Firm that said put money in Iceland: How 250 councils paid to be steered to financial disaster
A single firm of consultants gave financial advice to more than 250 public authorities – many of which have lost tens of millions in the Iceland banking scandal.Sector Treasury Services is a wholly owned subsidiary of Capita, the controversial ‘outsourcing’ company which has ballooned into a multi-billion-pound concern under Labour.
It is now known to have been a key player in the decisions taken by scores of publicly funded bodies over where to place the vast funds at their disposal each year.
Controversial: Capita chief Paul Pindar, left, and his predecessor Rod Aldridge, who had to quit
The firm failed to comment when asked if it had been receiving commission from any financial institutions as a result of its dealings with local authorities.
However, town hall sources confirmed that STS was being paid a ‘retainer’ by councils for its advice on where to place their money.
STS is called in because many local authority finance directors are baffled by the world money markets and do not feel confident about where they should place the cash they receive each year from Whitehall and council tax payers.
Duchess of Cambridge, with Sir Rodney Alderidge, Opens Kensington Aldridge Academy
SIR RODNEY MALCOLM ALDRIDGE
Aldridge is a patron and, former trustee of the Prince’s Trust and is currently Chairman of the Aldridge Foundation, an educational charity which sponsors academy schools in England and champions entrepreneurial education.
He is also a member of the Prince’s Charities Council at the invitation of the HRH Prince of Wales, a patron of the Prince’s Trust, Non-executive Director of Equiniti, a Director of Cornerstone and a Director of Constellation Healthcare Technologies.
Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge attending the opening ceremony of another Aldridge Foundation academy in 2011. “
In July 2006, Sir Rod retired as Executive Chairman of Capita to establish the Aldridge Foundation to focus on his charitable activities involving educational underachievement and social exclusion of young people. He also is the Chairman of the Lowry, the award winning arts and entertainment venue in Salford, near Manchester which is the home of the L.S Lowry painting collection.
He was awarded a knighthood in the Queen ’s 2011 New Year Honours list on New Year’s Eve, in recognition of his services to young people in his capacity as Chairman of The Aldridge Foundation and for the other work that he has undertaken in this field including being a Patron and a former Trustee of the Princes Trust , the charity established by HRH Prince of Wales.
Aldridge Foundation academies have been in the news. In the last few months the head of one of their academies has been suspended and forced out alongside reports of poor inspection grades and financial problems.
This time last year, the Aldridge Foundation was in the news, too, when 1,600 residents of Darwen signed a petition asking for parents, pupils and staff to be given a choice over who should run the proposed Darwen Vale Academy. They didn’t want the Aldridge Foundation foisted on them as the sponsor.
Parents and staff in Darwen had some knowledge of the Aldridge Foundation since it already ran another school in the town – the Darwen Aldridge Community Academy (DACA). Coincidentally, this academy had been rumoured to have had a part in the resignation of Aldridge Foundation’s founder, Rod Aldridge, as Chairman of Capita in 2006 after it was revealed that he had secretly lent the Labour Party £1 million. Capita was adamant that he had not been pressured to leave but reports, at the time, suggested several shareholders were growing increasingly concerned over Aldridge’s £2m donation to Tony Blair’s academies and his appointment, two months after the loan was made – to head a £150m youth volunteering network in late 2005.
In 2006, The Daily Telegraph reported that with Aldridge as Chair, Capita secured £2.6bn of business between 1997, when Labour came to power, and 2006. This included contracts to privatise IT for the Department of Work and Pensions and the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the administration of driving licences. Capita secured a £120m deal to work on behalf of the Department for Trade & Industry over injury claims from coal miners and a contract for the British Waterways’ pension scheme. But Capita’s privatisation was not without criticism. The cost of their work for the Criminal Records Bureau mushroomed from £250m to £400m. Capita was fined £3.7m following problems with the launch of London’s congestion charge and £300,000 for inadequate internal fraud controls. But despite these criticisms The Guardian could report in 2010 that Capita had made Rod Aldridge a fortune worth £110m.
In this interview, Sir Rod and Lady Aldridge open their home to our readers to give an in-depth look into their days of leisure, and of course, give us an overview of their most precious work at the Aldridge Foundation.
Capita also runs the Congestion Charging Scheme and collects the BBC’s licence fee.
Aldridgre sold £7.64 million of shares, much of which he is understood to be using to complete a divorce settlement from his wife Jacqui. Despite this sale, Mr Aldridge retained shares worth £60 million. He was awarded the OBE in 1994, and is a trustee of the Prince’s Trust.
In Aug 2013, Grenfell Action Group reported that the power surge issue hadn’t been resolved and that the committee report was “misleading”.
Grenfell Action Group literally called this. “(t)he power surges at
#GrenfellTower poses a major fire risk to many residents.”
While the housing committee were reluctant to place accountability/ responsibility or share it with TMO, Grenfell Action Group introduce RGE
1. Grenfell was identified as a “potentially high risk”.
For context, the Lakanal House fire in 2009 left 6 dead and at least 20 injured. More here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lakanal_House_fire …
What’s really strange in reading so many of these reports and minutes is that there never seems to be any conflict between TMO and RBKC.
All of the accounts of TMO’s work in the community and engagement with residents are glowing. This is strange.
…there is a rumour going around that the TMO are favouring the views of some Grenfell Tower householders while excluding the legitimate views of others. We know that some householders have been contacted by the TMO (some of whom are not even in the UK) while many other residents of Grenfell Tower have not seen hide nor hair of the TMO for months, and certainly have not been asked to contribute their views. We believe that this favouritism of certain vested interests by the TMO is completely unjust and that all residents who live in Grenfell Tower are entitled to be consulted and not just the ones that the TMO find amenable (for whatever twisted reasons).
What we do know for sure, is that Claire Williams and Peter Maddision from the TMO have no intention of recognising residents of Grenfell Tower who have come together to form any kind of “collective representation”. It seems that we will get what the TMO will allow us, and only what the TMO will allow us. Shame on them!
THE OLD TMO MANTRA OF ‘DIVIDE AND RULE’ STILL HOLDS TRUE AND GRENFELL TOWER RESIDENTS’ VIEWS COUNT FOR NOTHING. WE DEMAND REAL CONSULTATION AND TO BE GIVEN PROPER INFORMATION BY THE TMO THAT KEEPS US FULLY AND APPROPRIATELY INFORMED ABOUT THE GRENFELL TOWER WORKS AND THE FUTURE OF OUR HOMES.
Khalid خالد @KhalidMH77
there is money for bank bailouts and Middle East wars yet there’s nothing but contempt for Londons poor
The landlord of Grenfell Tower had already been given legal warnings over fire safety in two other tower blocks
The landlord in charge of Grenfell Tower, where a fire broke out in the early hours on Tuesday 14 June, had been issued legal warnings over fire safety in two other tower blocks prior to the blaze that engulfed the West London property.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) is the landlord of Grenfell Tower. The 24-storey tower block with 120 flats was reported to be on fire at 12.54am on Tuesday 14 June. At the time of publishing, 50 people had been taken to hospital and six people had been confirmed dead.
But this is not the first fire in a KCTMO-managed tower block. Because the London Fire Brigade (LFB) had previously issued it with two legal enforcement notices over fire safety, as a result of another fire.
In October 2015, a fire broke out in Adair Tower and 50 people had to be rescued from their flats. As a result, LFB issued an enforcement notice not only on Adair Tower but on the neighbouring Hazelwood Tower. And it shows a catalogue of failings.
A catalogue of failings?
Theresa May’s new Police and Fire Minister, Nick Hurd, was among the 72 Tory MPs – who are also residential landlords – that voted against a motion to make homes “fit for human habitation.”
Fire Minister was among 72 Tory landlords who voted against making homes “fit for human habitation”
Daniel Blake’s Vest @WarmongerHodges
Theresa May: snubbed Grenfell residents Gavin Barwell: delayed fire safety review Nick Hurd: voted against homes fit for habitation
May and Barwell
HRH Crafty Muvva @craftymuvva
This man must be held accountable for sitting on the report in to fire safety in tower blocks. He was contacted time & again.
“It is like you have got a high-rise building and you are encasing it in kerosene,” said Edwin Galea, director of the Fire Safety Engineering Group at the University of Greenwich. “It is insanity, pure and simple.”
Such a runaway blaze appears to have been precisely what happened at Grenfell Tower. The flames engulfed the building in a matter of minutes, moving from the outside inward and emitting a dark smoke characteristic of burning insulation.
Recriminations over the failure to prevent the disaster and the sluggish response have contributed to a political crisis for Prime Minister Theresa May, whose Conservative Party lost its majority in a parliamentary election six days before the fire.
If Britain had already banned the material that appears to have spread the fire — as the ministers asserted on Sunday — that would move responsibility for the disaster away from the government and point instead to possible crimes by the tower’s owners and their contractors.
The use of the material is a sensitive issue for the British government because the United States and other countries years ago banned its application in tall buildings on the grounds that it was a fire hazard. In recent years, a series of highly publicized blazes in the United Arab Emirates and Australia has called attention to the problem and spurred more countries to adopt similar restrictions.
Not So Strong @StrongerStabler
Gavin Barwell, sat on High Rise Fire Safety Report, yet May still trusts himto be Chief of Staff. Blood on his hands
Jo Maugham QC
“Seven years later… a… review… had not even begun.” Are the lives of poor people just expendable?
Not So Strong @StrongerStabler
Philip Hammond on Marr claiming sprinklers in high-rises aren’t a necessity.
2013 coroner’s report said ALL needed them.
Susanna Reid @susannareid100
Chancellor Phillip Hammond says wait for expert advice on fitting sprinklers. Coroner has already made recommendation
Last year’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill, proposed by Labour, which may have stopped the Grenfell Tower inferno had the government voted for it. But Tory MPs voted it down, 72 of whom were landlords who would have been out of pocket through all the extra nanny state interference.
One of them, Philip Davies, argued it would put “a huge burden on landlords” who are “an easy target for the Left in this country”. They certainly are now, Phil. But not for the Right, who believe landlords (in many cases them) should be free to make as much rent as they want without being bogged down by all that expensive red tape.
Not that the Right is totally against state intervention in housing. Ask Jacob Rees-Mogg ’s in-laws, whose ancestral pile, the 365-room Wentworth Woodhouse, was given a £7.6million restoration grant last year. The same Rees-Mogg who repeatedly voted for the Bedroom Tax, which punished people with one extra room.
Philip Hammond’s commitment in this week’s Autumn Statement to spend £7.6m on restoring Wentworth Woodhouse, England’s largest private home, also had a little-known beneficiary: the house happens to be ancestral home of the mother-in-law of Jacob Rees-Mogg (a recent report of his net worth being up to £150m), the Conservative MP who is among the chancellor’s noisiest critics.
Mr Rees-Mogg said he had no involvement in the campaign to save Wentworth Woodhouse. But after hearing the Autumn Statement in which the funding was announced, he for once dropped his criticism of Mr Hammond and described his overall budget as “excellent”.
“I liked the fact that there was only one gimmick. The fact that the gimmick was Wentworth Woodhouse I liked more,” said the backbencher, one of whose children has Wentworth as a middle name.
The Fitzwilliams moved out in 1946 and the house was put into a family trust. Lady Juliet Tadgell, the only child of the earl and now Mr Rees-Mogg’s mother-in-law, inherited the family fortune but not the home. She is one of the trustees of the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust,
Located in south Yorkshire, Wentworth Woodhouse is not very well known, reflecting its limited opening to the public as well as its unglamorous location near the M1, among the area’s former mines.
Rupert MyersVerified account @RupertMyers
Kensington Labour MP Emma Coad wasn’t just a councillor, she was on the board Grenfell Tower residents complained to
Emma Dent Coad visits the Grenfell Tower area with Jeremy Corbyn AP
Has Nicholas Holgate Chief Executive of RBKC Council made any comment to the media ?
New Joint CEO for LBHF & RBKC
Nicholas Holgate has been appointed as the interim joint chief executive of Hammersmith & Fulham and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Currently Town Clerk and Executive Director of Finance at the Royal Borough, Holgate will take up the Bi-borough reins in November.
Since joining Kensington and Chelsea, Nicholas’ responsibilities have grown steadily. As well as finance he is today in overall charge of property, including housing and planning; IT and communications.
Before 2008, Holgate held a number of senior posts at HM Treasury before becoming Chief Operating Officer at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Cllr Nicholas Botterill, Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, said: “Derek Myers is a very tough act to follow and, while we are sad to see him go, we know that Nicholas Holgate is also excellent and inspirational, and will lead from the front with real strength. We look forward to him taking up the role very soon.”
Civil servants charged with designing the controversial scheme admitted to MPs on the Treasury Select Committee that it would benefit middle class parents far more than the Government’s target of low income groups.
They also accepted that the fund could count against a series of existing state benefits.
New money man for K&C council
A new face has joined Kensington and Chelsea Council fresh from a stint with the government.
1 OCT 2013
Nicholas Holgate is joining the council after working as chief operating officer at the department for culture, media and sport. He has become the new executive director for finance, information systems and property for the Royal Borough.
He said: “It will be great to contribute to the work of such a vibrant organisation and as I live in Olympia, the borough affects my quality of life outside the office too. I am absolutely thrilled.”
A graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, Mr Holgate is also a former director of welfare reform at the Treasury, which he first joined in 1984.
The leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, Cllr Merrick Cockell, welcomed the appointment.
Often known as the Chief Executive in other councils, the Town Clerk is the chief officer of the Council responsible for the delivery of services to residents. He will also act as the borough’s finance director, ensuring the effective management of Council resources. In addition he advises the Mayor at Council meetings.
A graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, Nicholas Holgate has worked in local government since 2008 when he joined the Royal Borough as Executive Director for Finance, Information Systems and Property. He has also served for 11 months as interim joint chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham.
A career public servant, he started out as an Administration Trainee in HM Treasury in 1984. He was Director of Welfare Reform over 2001-2004 and then Chief Operating Officer at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport until 2008.
22 June 2017
Council chief quits over Grenfell fire response
The chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea council has quit following a barrage of criticism over its response to the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy.
Nicholas Holgate said the communities and local government secretary had “required the leader of the council to seek my resignation”.
Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, she said it was right that Mr Holgate had resigned.
Yvette Williams, spokeswoman for the Justice4Grenfell campaign, agreed it was right for him to go.
“He wasn’t left with any alternative,” she said. “The community had been completely abandoned by the local authority.”
It is thought a highly toxic gas released by insulation on the outside of the building may also have contributed to deaths.
THE EMBATTLED chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea Council has resigned after they were slammed over their response to the Grenfell Tower inferno.
Nicholas Holgate was asked for a resignation by communities secretary Sajid Javid
Kensington council boasted Grenfell Tower’s fire safety standards were exemplary – and should be extended to all other major works.
Locals then branded the initial relief effort as “absolute chaos”.
Since the devastating fire, residents left homeless were forced to stay in hotels and B&Bs.
David Mortimer @ukfathers
The chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea council should not be allowed to resign. He should be arrested.
HRH Crafty Muvva @craftymuvva
What about Gavin Barwell & Boris Johnson? Shouldn’t they be forced to resign too?
When is Councillor Sam Mackover, chairman of the committee that brushed Grenfell Tower tenants’ concerns under the carpet BEING INTERVIEWED?
Sadiq Khan took donations from property firm which ‘put tenants’ lives at risk’
Alan WhiteVerified account @aljwhite
Inside Housing has a FOI response showing Grenfell Tower had not been checked for fire safety for 18 months
Rabih Chaaban @ChaabanRabih
How can it be democratic?? Gavin Barwell failed be get elected still appointed by Theresa May as chief of staff – overseeing elected MPs!
Theresa May’s chief of staff ‘sat on’ report warning high-rise blocks like Grenfell Tower were vulnerable to fire
Theresa May’s new chief of staff was one of a series of housing ministers who “sat on” a report warning high-rise blocks like Grenfell Tower were vulnerable to fire for four years.
A former Chief Fire Officer and secretary of a parliamentary group on fire safety today revealed successive ministers had had damning evidence on their desks since 2013 and nothing had happened.
And the Labour MP who chairs the group said ministers had “sat on” the recommendations for almost four years.
Gavin Barwell, who was housing minister until losing his seat in last week’s election, promised to review part B of the Building Regulations 2010, which relate to fire safety, but the review never materialised.
Revealed: the tower block fire warnings that ministers ignored
Krishnan Guru-MurthyVerified account @krishgm
This is the man who was in charge of housing. He was rejected by voters last week and hired by Theresa May as Chief of Staff
As public outrage mounted and political pressure grew on Theresa May over the tragedy, former chief fire officer Ronnie King – who is secretary of the all-party parliamentary group on fire safety – said urgent requests for meetings with ministers and action to tighten rules were stonewalled.
King also revealed that ministers had failed to insist that life-saving sprinkler systems were mandatory in the design of new schools in England, despite clear recommendations in reports commissioned by the government itself, which advocated their use.
His criticism came as the prime minister admitted on Saturday that although the emergency services had been “heroic”, support for families of Grenfell Tower victims who needed help after the fire “was not good enough”.
He said that requests for meetings with former housing minister Gavin Barwell, now Theresa May’s chief of staff, were turned down. King said: “We have had replies, but the replies were to the effect that you have met my predecessor [the previous Tory housing minister James Wharton] and there were a number of matters that we are looking at and we are still looking at it.
“They are politicians and I am a professional fire adviser. I understand the difficulties they have with this,” King said. But he repeated: “They always seem to need a significant loss of life before things are changed.”
Reports into a previous fire at Lakanal House in Camberwell, south London in 2009, in which six people died, and a subsequent coroner’s report led to urgent calls from the fire sector for action. But seven years later those calls had still not been acted on and a long-awaited review of building and safety regulations had not even begun. In October last year Barwell answered a parliamentary question from the Labour MP Steven McCabe about the review timetable.
Barwell replied saying: “We have not set out any formal plans to review the building regulations as a whole, but we have publicly committed ourselves to reviewing part B [the regulations governing fire safety] following the Lakanal House fire.”
Another leading expert, David Sibert, fire safety officer to the Fire Brigades Union, who was told he would sit on the review, confirmed to the Observer that he had yet to be invited to contribute to it. It is believed that at most only a limited start was made and then abandoned as civil servants were directed on to other matters, notably the need to secure Brexit.
Last week Barwell declined to comment on when the review would be ready. Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Brinton, who also sits on the all-party group, said: “We could have had new regulations ready to go last year as the refurbishment work on Grenfell Tower was completed.”
On Monday MPs from Labour, Plaid Cymru, the Lib Dems and the SNP will turn up the pressure on government by asking urgent parliamentary questions to establish what work, if any, has been done on the review.
With the crisis threatening May’s already shaky hold on Downing Street, concerns about fire safety were widening to include regulations governing building of schools, student accommodation and care homes. King said: “The Department for Education have their own strict guidance for schools. Last July they issued their amended document as a final draft. Previously they said automatic fire sprinklers would be installed in all new schools except for a very few low-risk schools. They then issued revised guidance, which said that because of XYZ they are removing the requirement for sprinklers in all new schools.”
The Department for Education said that fire safety in schools was paramount but suggested sprinklers were not mandatory in all buildings. “All schools, like other public buildings, must adhere to stringent fire-safety legislation,” a spokeswoman said.
David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, who knew one of the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, demanded that the police seize all documents from relevant parties that could help explain its causes and assist the criminal investigations. He said: “The prime minister needs to act immediately to ensure that all evidence is protected so that everyone culpable for what happened at Grenfell Tower is held to account and feels the full force of the law. We need urgent action now to make sure all records and documents relating to the refurbishment and management of Grenfell Tower are protected.”
On Saturday police said that at least 58 people were missing and presumed to have died in the tragedy, and that the figure might increase. The latest official total includes the 30 who are already confirmed to have died in the fire. Commander Stuart Cundy said that the “significant” recovery operation might take weeks to complete. “As soon as we can, we will locate and recover loved ones,” he said.
Snivelling coward. This failure of leadership, of compassion and empathy shows this govt for what it is.
Mark Ashley @themarkashley
Tower floor plan. “Improved” high density layout means one set of stairs for 24 stories of 120 apartments
‘No sprinklers or fire alarm’ and residents told to stay INSIDE: Tower block’s ‘Third World’ safety failures
Cladding added during £10m refurbishment caught alight ‘like a matchstick’
Project Compass @ProjCompassEU
Grenfell Tower procurement – awarded to Rydon in 2014 by LBKC. Full details, including contract notice & award: http://projectcompass.co.uk/index.php?page=sesame&sub=notice&tf_id=17240 …
Harley secure £3m contract from Rydon Group to carry out over-cladding and window replacement at Grenfell Tower http://www.harleycurtainwall.com/page/8031/article/574 …
David LammyVerified account @DavidLammy
Harley (company that installed Grenfell cladding) deleting pages from their website. Looks like they’ve got something to hide, doesn’t it.
Studio E (architects that oversaw Grenfell cladding refurbishment) are deleting pages from their website. Have they got something to hide?
RYDON CONSTRUCTION LIMITED https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/01292680/officers … & RYHURST LIMITED https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/016157
Ryhurst part of the Rydon Group and partnership with the NHS
Peter Apps @PeteApps
Earlier this year we revealed panels on the outside of tower blocks were putting lives at risk
his is what a report into cladding used in a nearby tower which caught fire in August said. Report was kept secret. http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/business/asset-management/repairs-and-maintenance/revealed-huge-tower-block-fire-spread-due-to-insulation-panels/7019613.article …
Company boss Raymond Bailey hiding in his £1m mansion
Mark Ashley @themarkashley
Tower fire ventilation system, cowardly deleted at 4am by the suppliers trying to scurry away.
James MitchinsonVerified account @JayMitchinson
Why weren’t they listened to? Why?
Vicount Ian Kerr CGC @IanKerr
Lady Borwick friend of Theresa May MP for
#GrenfellTower Did she respond to the concerns of the residents ? No attendance at hustings.
Ivory loving Tory MP Lady Victoria Borwick friend of Theresa May…….no action on safety issues at
December 28, 2015
Grenfell Tower residents had little to smile about when disgruntled leaseholders and tenants met with our local MP, Victoria Borwick, along with Peter Maddison and Sacha Jevans from the TMO, in the Community Rooms at Lancaster West Estate on the morning of 14th December.
We believe that Lady Borwick left the meeting in no doubt that a great injustice and trauma has been inflicted on this community as a result of the appalling management of the Improvement Works and we must now trust that she will keep her word by supporting residents in their call for an independent investigation into Mr Maddison, Claire Williams and others at the TMO.
Bearing in mind that Grenfell Tower is only the first of a number of tower blocks in North Kensington facing refurbishment it would be wise of RBKC to support Lady Borwick and local residents in their call for an independent investigation. There is much to learn from this sordid affair. The Council should have no reason to oppose such an inquiry and Grenfell Tower residents have much to gain and everything to lose if this call for an independent investigation of the TMO is not forthcoming!
February 2016 The TMO’s clerk of works will sign off Rydon’s work
Council stockpiled £274m in reserves despite Grenfell Tower residents’ calls for fire safety improvements
Dame Alun Roberts @ciabaudo
Former Home Sec who made an absolute mess of the CSA inquiry, presenting 3 of the worst chairs possible, now wants to take personal control!
Will Home Office staff be seconded to the inquiry like they were with CSA inquiry?
Another ‘must read’ and sequel to the Theresa May/Hubert Brasier story.
James Cave @jaycave14
Remind me who cut fire service numbers before suggesting a new royal yacht? Who is protecting private landlords?
Dinner at the Carlton: The New Tory power brokers
Unveiling a plaque to Lady Churchill with Sir Nicholas Soames
Tories BOW to wealthy antiques dealers and DROP ban on elephant ivory in manifesto:
Lady Victoria Borwick is related by marriage to the notorious McAlpine family.
Her husband’s uncle is Alistair McAlpine, alleged child abuser.
Lord “Jamie” Borwick – nephew of Lord Alistair McAlpine
Victoria’s husband, Geoffrey Robert James Borwick, 5th Baron Borwick aka “Jamie”, is the son of Hon. Patricia Garnett McAlpine – Patricia’s brother is Alistair McAlpine
Lady Victoria Borwick is MP for Kensington and Chelsea, preceded by Malcolm Rifkind who is a cousin of alleged child abuser, former Tory Cabinet minister, Leon Brittan.
Lord Alistair McAlpine was also a collector.
Tories BOW to wealthy antiques dealers and DROP ban on elephant ivory in manifesto
Under David Cameron the Conservatives had pledged – along with other UK political parties – to put into place a ban on ivory trading. This follows bans by China, the US and other important ivory trading countries to end domestic trades in ivory by the end of 2017.
But there is no mention of the ban in Theresa May’s Tory 2017 manifesto. Sneakily, the Tories have decided to DROP their previous commitment to introducing a total ban on ivory trade in Britain. This comes after heavy pressure from wealthy antiques traders who have been lobbying Teresa May hard to drop the ban on ivory.
On average, an elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its ivory and their population has fallen by almost a third in Africa since 2007.
Interestingly, this policy puts the Tories in direct conflict with Prince William, who has been a vocal supporter of a total ban on ivory sales.
Will we see the Duke of Cambridge campaigning for Labour – which has pledged to introduce the total ban the Prince has been lobbying for?
She works on a daily basis with the big pillars of authority in London, such as the Metropolitan Police.
Does she ever take issue with the Metropolitan Police, or any other authority? “Of course…of course.”
Victoria Borwick – gifts and hospitality
The Busy Borwicks
Son of Kensington MP Lady Borwick’s curious connections to the people who ensured both Brexit and the election of Donald Trump revealed
On Sunday, Carole Cadwalladr of The Observer published a lengthy and well researched article that, amongst other things, examined the connections between The Hon. Thomas Borwick – the son of the Conservative hereditary peer The Rt. Hon. The Lord Borwick and Kensington’s Member of Parliament Lady ‘Call me Victoria’ Borwick – and the controversial US hedge fund titan and backer of Donald Trump, Robert Mercer.
A director of a multitude of companies, in spite of being just 29 years old, “new media expert” Thomas Borwick – whose mother was forced to apologise “after using City Hall resources to promote her husband’s [now defunct] electric vehicle business” in 2009 – it now transpires, was not only Vote Leave’s chief technology officer but previously worked with SCL/Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ. Borwick currently touts himself to his 202 followers on Twitter as the founder of a political canvasing consultancy named Kan.to, an organisation that he boldy claims “will out-organise, out-plan, out-leaflet, out-twitter, out-work and out-vote all of its opponents”.
Mercer, one of the owners of the far-right Breitbart News Network as well as being a major shareholder in Cambridge Analytica, is a man whose “sinister” connections to both Trump and Nigel Farage have rightly been widely criticised. On that basis, that the son of fervent Brexiteer Lady Borwick – a woman whose constituents voted 69% to ‘Remain’ and whose domain was home to a greater proportion of EU nationals than any other London borough in 2016 – has links to this billionaire and his activities should only encourage the voters of Kensington to ditch her and her out-of-touch party.
Son of Tory MP beaten unconscious outside Leicester Square KFC by 3 women
He said: ‘At some point they started pushing and shoving – three at that stage, of which only two were particularly aggressive. I couldn’t hypothecate (?) or guess what was on their minds. At some point my food and drink spilled and was taken from me.
The computer app writer was queuing with friends when they became embroiled in a row with the women over space.
‘Tom was among a group of six friends on a night out in London,’ said Lady Borwick, who was previously Boris Johnson’s deputy.
They noticed these women, and Tom said something
Revealed: The ‘triple dipper’ Conservative MP who is paid nearly £100,000 a year for three elected jobs
Victoria Borwick, the (former) MP for Kensington, is paid an extra £30,000 a year as both a councillor at Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and member of the London Assembly
Mrs Borwick, 59, whose application to replace Sir Malcolm Rifkind in the seat was personally backed by London Mayor Boris Johnson, defended her decision.
She can use the title “Lady” because she is married to Lord Borwick, a hereditary peer who has sat in the House of Lords since 2013. The couple live in a £6.6million home in Chelsea and have four children.
Mrs Borwick’s predecessor as MP for Kensington Sir Malcolm Rifkind had complained that it was “unrealistic” to live on £60,000 shortly before quitting after being caught in a cash for access investigation by The Daily Telegraph in February.
She paid tribute to Sir Malcolm Rifkind, saying: “Many people will be sad to see someone so distinguished leave. They are very grateful for all that he did in services to our country and also to Kensington. I have big shoes to fill.”
“The Tories got rid of one Rifkind (Cash for Access) and now replaced him with ‘Madam Rifkind’, who thinks it is perfectly reasonable to use these jobs to rake in as much money as possible.”
Tory Donor List – Borwicks
Slumming it: Tory Lady ventures into East End
“He is a brilliant political leader,” she said.
Mr Giuliani is due to meet Margaret Thatcher tonight at the same hotel before delivering his keynote speech on his manifesto for a 2008 Republican presidential victory.
Back in 1984, Giuliani was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. During that time, allegations began to surface about physical and sexual abuse perpetrated on children at the day care center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Giuliani knew there were multiple children being abused. And yet he did not indict anyone. Not receiving justice from Giuliani, the parents pursued civil action. The government ended up paying 11 victims $2.7 million, but protected its image, thanks to Rudy.
Geoffrey Robert James “Jamie” Borwick, 5th Baron Borwick] (born 1955) is a British businessman, hereditary peer and member of the House of Lords. Chief Executive of Manganese Bronze Holdings PLC, known for the manufacture of the London Taxi, from 1987 to 2001 and then Chairman until 2003.
Lady Emily @Pushingtheboat
Family history of selling your soul to the devil in the name of personal gain and greed. My, my.
From Domestic Servants to Prime Minister: Theresa May’s Family Fortunes
Theresa May became British Prime Minister on Wednesday 13th July, 2016. Interestingly, this piece by family history expert Roy Stockdill was written back in in 2013. His opening paragraph looks rather prophetic now…
From Convent School to Councillor
“Politics and power often run in families and dynasties, but I could find nothing in the ancestry of Theresa May to suggest that she would become the most powerful female politician in Britain as Home Secretary. Seen by some as a possible successor to David Cameron as Tory leader, she has said she wanted to be an MP ever since she was 12 years old, an ambition in which she was encouraged by her mother.
Her father however, was an Anglican clergyman and kept his political views to himself. Some of Cameron’s Cabinet are regarded as ‘posh’ and ‘old school tie’. But there was no silver spoon for Theresa May. After education at a state primary school, convent girls’ school and a state comprehensive, she read geography at Oxford University, graduating in 1977, became a London borough Councillor and got into Parliament for Maidenhead after twice losing in Labour seats.
Grandmothers in Domestic Service
In researching her family background, I discovered that both of Theresa May’s grandmothers were in domestic service as young women and that she had a great-grandfather who was a butler – so her roots are very much downstairs rather than upstairs. She was born Theresa Mary Brasier on 1 October 1956 in Eastbourne, Sussex, where her father, the Rev Hubert Brasier, was chaplain to a Church of England hospital.
Her mother was the exotically-named Zaidee Mary Brasier, formerly Barnes. The name Zaidee is of Middle East origins. The Home Secretary lost both parents just a few years after leaving university and marrying her husband, Philip May, in 1980. The Rev Hubert Brasier, who became vicar of two Oxfordshire parishes, was killed in a car crash in 1981 and his wife Zaidee Brasier, born in 1928, died the following year, aged only 54.
Theresa May’s parents married at St Giles’ Parish Church, Reading, Berkshire, on 16 June 1955, Hubert Brasier being then 37, a bachelor and a Clerk in Holy Orders, his address being the Chaplain’s House, All Saints Hospital, Eastbourne. Zaidee Mary Barnes was 26, a spinster, of 156, Southampton Street, Reading. The bridegroom’s father was Tom Brasier, deceased, and the bride’s father was Reginald James Barnes, traveller.
Grandparents in the 1911 Census
Hubert Brasier was born on 20 August 1917 at 61 Clonmore Street, Southfields, Wandsworth, London, son of Tom Brasier, then a clerk, and Amy Margaret Brasier, formerly Patterson. They were the paternal grandparents of Theresa May and their marriage certificate shows they were married at The Independent Chapel, West Street, Fareham, Hampshire, on 25 September 1909.
Grenfell Tower: A Tory Wicker Man ?
Grenfell Tower in West London and the Wicker Man.
21st Century Wire
The week saw one of the worst urban disasters in recent history, as runaway fires consumed a low-income high-rise council estate in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea. So far, police have confirmed 17 dead and have indicated that they expect to find many more fatalities.
As the old adage goes, there are no natural disasters, only human ones.
But this horrific scene in west London symbolises much more than simple negligence. The image of a Wicker Man comes to mind.
Were low-income residents sacrificed at the altar of austerity, greed and corporate privatisation?
As North Kensington’s towering inferno continues to smoulder into the early morning, circumstantial evidence is beginning to emerge showing how Conservative MPs sidelined legislation that would have required higher safety standards. According to reports, a group of Tory MPs have consistently voted against tenants’ rights including voting down Labour’s amendment to the recent Housing and Planning Bill which would have required landlords to make their homes “fit for habitation.” Perhaps not surprisingly, the 72 Tory MPs who killed the legislation also just happened to be commercial landlords themselves.
To add insult to injury, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson during his tenure as Mayor of London instituted cuts that have stripped London of 7,000 of its firefighters in the last five years, with numerous Fire Station closures and other cuts to frontline emergency services.
So how did Grenfell Tower turn into a death trap for so many ? The organisation responsible for maintenance and safety at the social housing block is the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO). But the organisation’s name is deceptive – far from being a tenant-run company, the ‘TMO’ is actually a private company – an aloof ivory tower that sits far above the actual residents, and who ‘manage’ 10,000 properties… with handsome salaries and fees for selected executives and contractors. Although Grenfell Tower is owned by the Borough Council of Kensington and Chelsea, the management of the tower block is subcontracted out to the TMO.
Critics of the public-private partnership, or PPP, management hand-off claim that the quasi-privatised TMO arrangement is rife with corruption, including sweetheart deals to contractors. It also enables connected board members to fleece poor residents while taking home enormous sums of money for doing little if anything for it. Last year, the KCTMO was paid £11million ($14 million) in taxpayer money to manage Grenfell Tower. According to the Mail Online, four senior members of TMO took £650,000 between them last year. And that’s not all:
“There are also claims that there was no central sprinkler system – or it was also not working properly during the fire. Others have claimed that the new cladding encasing the block added during last year’s £10million refurbishment by Rydon Construction caught alight ‘like a matchstick’.” This [petroleum-based, flammable plastic] exterior cladding was apparently added to the building to improve the view and cosmetic appearance of the tower when seen from a new development or private luxury flats in the locality.
Apparently, this was all part of a “regeneration project” which was said to be completed last year on only one building: Grenfell Tower.
It gets worse. According resident advocacy blog Bella Caledonia:
“It’s emerged that the local Council – the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea – actually threatened a local blogger and action group with legal action for calling to attention the state of the building. We’re told also that “Theresa May’s chief of staff ‘sat on’ report warning high-rise blocks like Grenfell Tower were vulnerable to fire.”
Resident Darren Cullen said on Twitter: “Any attempt to depoliticise an event like this is a political act in itself.”
Despite numerous warnings by the residents of Grenfell Tower, local action groups believe that the TMO did not take any significant action to rectify fundamental health and safety flaws.
Reporter Holly Baxter of the London Independent detailed how a series of prophetic warnings posted by the residents’ advocacy group were routinely ignored:
“The Grenfell Action Group residents’ association had consistently warned about the possibility of such a tragedy; this morning, they updated their website with a post which reads: “Regular readers of this blog will know that we have posted numerous warnings in recent years about the very poor fire safety standards at Grenfell Tower and elsewhere in RBKC [the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea]. ALL OUR WARNINGS FELL ON DEAF EARS and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time.”
“Links to their earlier posts prove it: in 2013 they warned that shutting down the block’s car park would mean just one narrow, restricted road for emergency vehicle access, something which eyewitnesses reported slowed down the fire engine response this morning; the same year, they wrote a long post about continuous electrical surges which had been causing fire hazards in the building (“decisive action was only taken yesterday after highly distressed residents descended en masse on the estate office to demand help and assistance. They had woken to find smoke issuing from various electrical appliances in their homes, including the light fixtures, and descended in panic to the estate office to demand help”) ; and in November 2016, their frustration about what they called inadequate fire escapes culminated in a frighteningly prescient post titled Playing With Fire: “The Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO, and bring to an end the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders… It is our conviction that a serious fire in a tower block… is the most likely reason those who wield power at the KCTMO will be found out and brought to justice”.
But the Tories can’t take all the credit. It’s been said by some party grandees (not to mention Margret Thatcher herself) that the Thatcher Era’s greatest achievement was New Labour and Tony Blair – both of whom helped to push Thatcher’s mass-privatisation agenda over the goal line. Blair’s corporatist trojan horse was camouflaged under the heading of a ‘New Deal for Communities,’ along with the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit nested within the Department for Communities and Local Government and fueled by millions of pounds in “regeneration grants” from the EU – supposedly designed to lift-up some of the England’s most deprived neighbourhoods, which instead paved the way for a bold social engineering project which led to the mass-gentrification of low income areas across the UK, where massive profits were booked on the back of privatising council properties, taking advantage of an over-inflated housing market. It was during this period that PPP takeovers like the TMO took hold of large sectors of Britain’s social housing.
LONDON FIRE CONSPIRACY
17 June 2017
The Grenfell Tower is in Kensington, in London.
In the June 2017 General Election, Labour gained Kensington from the Conservatives.
Does someone want to reduce the number of Labour voters in Kensington?
While leader of Westminster City Council Dame Shirley Porter oversaw the “homes for votes” scandal
“The Grenfell Action Group believes that there are striking similarities between the current ‘regeneration’ policies … and those that landed Dame Shirley in so much trouble in the late 1980’s.”
“For a start, the intended ‘regeneration’ policies are targeted at Wards that are currently represented (some marginally) by Labour Councillors, particularly St Charles and Notting Barns.
“The inevitable result of ‘regenerating’ working class housing estates involves replacing tenanted properties with so-called ‘affordable’ housing (ie affordable only to middle class home buyers).
“One inevitable outcome of this process will be to skew the demographics of North Kensington with a predictable swing to the Tories.”
Grand Union Homes – off limits to be discussed by KCTMO or RBKC
Former Chief Executive of KCTMO Gordon Perry was the Chief Executive of GRAND UNION HOMES http://www.arkconsultancy.co.uk/team-member/gordon-perry/ …
Before becoming chief executive of the group, Gordon was chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea TMO. He has more than 30 years experience in the housing sector. As the senior director responsible for service improvement in his last two organisations he led them to three star status. As chairman of the London Almo group and chair of the London Almo Procurement Network, Gordon pioneered collective procurement and partnering contracts as one of the trailblazer consortia. Gordon was the founding chairman of the National Federation of Almos.
@kctmo explain why they setup Grand Union Homes and was taxpayers money used ?
Why same directors on this & dissolved company…real estate? https://www.companieslist.co.uk/09927000-grand-union-homes-limited …
3 Yr Old Article however consider GrenfellTower & see a pattern.
Tories accused of political fix for Boris Johnson as London is protected from extra cuts
24 Aug 2017
Big questions for Boris over billion dollar property deal
Boris Johnson is under fire over his handling of a £1bn deal for a Chinese firm to redevelop a huge site on London’s historic Royal Albert Dock.
his follows an investigation by Channel 4 News into the track record in China of the firm which won the contract – ABP – and into whether ABP were given favourable treatment during the tender process.
There are also questions over donations to the Conservative Party from an Anglo-Chinese businesswoman who acted as adviser to ABP.
Sir Alistair Graham, a former chairman of the government’s Committee on Standards in Public Life, suggested to Channel 4 News there should be an independent investigation into the tendering process for the development, which will take place on publicly-owned land.
“It has the smell of a semi-corrupt arrangement, doesn’t it?” he told Channel 4 News:
“If, in fact, somebody is going through a sham process to ensure that someone they want to be successful in the process, but it’s not a level playing field for UK companies, and there have been some financial transactions of an intimate nature then that smells to me of a semi corrupt arrangement.”
In May 2013 the Greater London Authority granted Advanced Business Park – known as ABP – the tender to develop the 35-acre site at the Royal Albert Dock, a derelict site opposite London’s City Airport. The development was hailed by Boris Johnson as “a beacon for investors”, and ABP hope that the site will become an important forum for scores of Chinese firms operating in Britain. The project will include 3.2 million square feet of office space, leisure facilities, and 845 residential flats. It is thought to be China’s largest property investment in the UK.
ABP’s human rights record
Our film raises serious concerns about ABP’s human rights record in China. We discovered that ABP, and their partners in Chinese local government, were involved in the forced removal of some residents from their homes at the site of their one completed development in Beijing. We have obtained amateur video footage, shot by a resident, of demolition teams tearing down a family’s home with all their possessions inside, on Christmas Day 2010. The family also say they were denied fair compensation for losing their home. We have substantial legal paperwork detailing their efforts to secure proper compensation in the Chinese courts.
Boris Johnson confirmed to me in an interview for Channel 4 News that neither he, nor the Greater London Authority (which Johnson runs), assessed ABP’s human rights record in China as part of the evaluation process.
Johnson also said ABP’s human rights record in China “wasn’t relevant to the tendering process.” But the Mayor promised to “look at” any new information.
“It had to be a cladding fire.”
British fire protection specialist Arnold Tarling isn’t wondering what caused the fire to spread so quickly in London’s Grenfell Tower early Wednesday. He’s certain the recently added exterior cladding system is to blame.
For years, the associate director of London-based Hindwoods Chartered Surveyors has been calling for improved fire safety regulations in the country.
Tarling said he burst into tears when he first heard from a fellow fire expert that the highrise was on fire.
Following is an edited transcript of an interview with him Thursday by CBC executive producer Tracy Seeley.
Q: In your opinion, what happened?
There was an initial source of fire. That cause is entirely irrelevant to what happened later. What happened is the fire got out of a flat, maybe from an open window or through a broken window from the heat. And then it started heating the panelling and the insulation above. That then set a chain reaction in which the panel started to burn.
The panels being aluminium, melt at 600 degrees [Celsius] or thereabouts. But the fire brigade cannot put out any of the fires behind these panels, because there’s metal there. You also have a wind tunnel effect sucking the flames up the wind tunnel, up between the insulation and the external cladding, melting the solid polyethylene above, and continuing the fire right up the height of the building.”
The cladding system is combined polyaluminum sheets with a filler of polyethylene. And that is what has caused the problems, because the polyethylene melts at a very low temperature and it catches fire. It is basically like a candle which is sandwiched between two sheets of metal.
We have seen those fires before. There was one in 2014 in Melbourne, Australia, but those didn’t enter the flats, because I understand the flats were sprinklered. In Britain, we didn’t have these flats sprinklered, and therefore the fire was able to enter the flats quite rapidly.
Q: What does this say about these modern methods of construction that could be potentially so dangerous?
What it actually says is that the building regulations we have in this country are not fit for … this form of cladding. All that you require to meet the standards is that the outside surface shouldn’t allow the spread of flames. What is going on behind the metal or the other surface is entirely irrelevant to building regulations. You could put expanded polystyrene in there, or anything else that burns.
Q: The construction company has said it followed regulations.
I have seen nothing yet that the architect or the contractor or the supply of materials breached the building regulations. The horrendous fact is that in 2014 I did a talk to the British Standard Institute at one of their fire conferences. And I said this will happen in this country. There will be multiple fatalities as a result if these cladding systems are not changed.
Q: How do you feel?
To be honest I burst into tears. This tragedy is totally avoidable. I would say it is wicked that these people have had to die. When I got a phone call from another expert at quarter to four in the morning, I went downstairs turned on the television and burst into tears. My wife came down thinking my mother had died.
It is terrible what has happened. It needn’t have happened. And the people responsible are either the politicians or their advisers. It need never have happened.
Q: What do you expect will happen?
Well, on the scale of what has happened in previous years where we’ve had inquests where it has been said we should have sprinklers in respective buildings and fitted retrospectively, what do I expect of government? Nothing! Nothing’s been done. Nothing’s been acted upon.
Time and again they said lessons will be learned. If I hear another politician say lessons will be learnt, I will scream. It is just soundbites. It’s just meaningless, just saying lessons will be learned when they’ve never been learned from the past.
Four managers at company paid £11million by taxpayers to manage inferno tower block shared more than £650,000 pay last year
- Grenfell Tower in London is owned by Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council
- In 1996, tenant firm KCTMO took over the management of the block of flats
- They gave a £10m refurbishment contract to a third body – Rydon Construction
- KCTMO has been accused of ignoring warning signs regarding fire safety at flats
- Four most senior members of KCTMO earned £650,000 between them last year
hey are the four most senior members of KCTMO and according to papers seen by MailOnline, they earned £650,000 between them last year.
Barbara Matthews (centre) is the Executive Director of Financial Services and ICT, Yvonne Birch (left) is the Executive Director of People and Performance and Nicholas Holgate (right) who is Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council’s Chief Executive
Residents say they told former KCMOT worker ^ Siobhan Rumble of their safety concerns, but claim their warnings were overlooked in the building that is ownedby Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council
Tony Redpath, Amanda Gill, Laura Johnson & Jonathan Bore all NEED TO RESIGN from RBKC
Scott Nelson @SocialistVoice
WATCH: The 1984 documentary that predicted a disaster like Grenfell Tower
And from a fictional tv series…
Grenfell Tower disaster parallels in House of Cards, 1993.
The Grenfell Tower fire was the end result of a disdainful housing policy
The people who lived in Grenfell Tower should be writing this article. But those who died cannot tell their stories, and those who survived are still dealing with their trauma. The residents had tried for so many years but were silenced by a system that prevented them from being heard. The most persistent were threatened with legal action for defamation which had the effect of discrediting their claims of neglect and mismanagement. It’s only now that people are listening – when it’s too late.
I worked with a group of residents living in Grenfell Tower through my involvement with the Radical Housing Network, a network of housing campaigns across London. The first meeting of tenants in early 2015 was attended by around 100 residents. Each spoke of the historical neglect of the building, of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) failing to undertake basic but vital maintenance or improvements. Residents recounted incidents such as disturbing power surges in which appliances “blew up”.
I’d been asked to help the residents organise and campaign on the specific issue of a major refurbishment of the building being undertaken by a private contractor. The residents – mainly social tenants but also people renting from private landlords in flats previously purchased under right-to-buy – represented a typical slice of working-class urban London. They were ethnically diverse, and many had brought their children with them to the meeting. Their unequivocal message was one of a failure by KCTMO and the private contractor to respond to their concerns, let alone take any action about them.
This disdain for residents did not surprise me. It was the same story across many of the campaigns I’d worked on: one where private contractors and developers worked with local councils to “regenerate” estates, while systematically ignoring the views and needs of residents.
The recent history of social housing is one of contempt for council tenants and denigration of council housing. The scale of the tragedy at Grenfell is singular, but the underlying causes of the fire are deeply economic and political. This approach to and accompanying narrative about social housing dates back to the 1980s. It is still driving processes of urban gentrification across London.
Council housing was conceived and built in the postwar era as a mainstream way of living – a place “where the doctor, the grocer, the butcher and farm labourer all lived on the same street”, in the words of Nye Bevan, the politician most closely associated with the state-managed housing revolution. Primarily for the working class, it also housed many of the more comfortably off as well, and was not a derided way of living. Indeed, in 1979 one in five of the richest tenth of the UK’s population lived in social housing. Key aspects of council housing were genuine security and affordability. While far from perfect, it was a standout achievement of the postwar rebuilding of the UK.
Since Margaret Thatcher introduced right-to-buy in 1980, neoliberalism has come to dominate all aspects of economic and social policy. Council housing and its tenants have been undermined and sidelined. Council homes, reduced in number by over 2m, are available only to the most economically dispossessed in society. The Thatcher revolution, continued by New Labour, required that the state and public sector be reduced as much as possible. Regulation and “red tape” were enemies of entrepreneurialism. They were characterised as intrusive and undesirable, while the private sector was hailed as the epitome of efficiency and responsiveness.
In the council housing sector, these changes came together in a drive towards removing housing from local government ownership and control. Council housing was handed over to newly created quasi-private bodies, such as arms-length management organisations and tenant management organisations, or transferred en masse to housing associations. This was justified by claims that management of social housing would improve, bureaucracy would be done away with, and responsiveness to tenants would increase.
Regeneration projects are now invariably delivered through hugely complicated public-private partnerships, with little government funding. Instead, in exchange for their work, private developers receive highly lucrative long-term contracts, such as PFI, and valuable land on which to build homes for private sale. Local government has become distanced from housing provision, central government funding for social housing has been reduced, and the involvement of powerful private companies has increased. As this has happened lines of accountability have become blurred, and social housing tenants have become a “necessary evil”, tolerated by the private sector only because they allow lucrative private market housing to be built.
The consequences of these shifts, and of the accompanying decades of disinvestment in housing policy, are now being seen across London. It is not simply the Dickensian levels of inequality we see in the city on a daily basis, or even the atrocity of the Grenfell fire. It is also the way in which tenants of social housing are treated as problems to be managed, with no voice and little respect. The experience of the Grenfell Action Group is not that of an outlier or a cock-up. It is symptomatic of these gradual and systematic changes in the social housing sector, and in society more broadly, over the past 35 years.
Grenfell was a preventable, political tragedy, about which ordinary people have been warning for years. The tragedy happened because ideology and the bottom line have come to matter more than people’s lives. If anything positive is to come of this disaster, it must be that we start to value council housing again – and the people who live in it.
Five questions about Grenfell Tower that must be answered
With a criminal investigation under way and a public inquiry announced, the AJ puts forward five key questions about the causes of the tragic fire
The residents of Grenfell Tower in west London had repeatedly warned of the potentially devastating effects of a fire before last week’s blaze. At the time of writing 79 people were dead or missing, presumed dead, as a result of the disaster. The exact cause of the fire at the 24-storey building in north Kensington, which had only recently undergone an £8.6 million refurbishment by Studio E Architects, remains unknown. Much more evidence will be needed before fingers can be pointed and, of course, there may have been multiple causes. Even so, the new cladding on this 1974 concrete block has already become a major focus of attention after eyewitnesses said the fire spread up the building’s exterior with alarming rapidity. Here are five key questions which will need to be answered.
1. What cladding product was specified on Grenfell Tower and was it legal for tall buildings?
One of the main aims of the refurbishment was to improve the building’s thermal performance through new external cladding. In its designs, Studio E Architects, working with contractor Rydon, specified a cassette-type insulation system comprising Celotex FR5000 insulation board attached to a timber backing. The drawings also specified a Reynobond aluminium composite material (ACM) rainscreen panel to be installed 50mm in front of the insulation. The lightweight Reynobond panel comes with either a polyethylene core or a slightly more expensive, honeycombed mineral core, which is more fire-resistant.
According to a report in The Guardian, at Grenfell, the construction team used the cheaper panels. These are prohibited on high-rise buildings in the USA and – according to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) – also breach the UK’s Building Regulations 2010, which restrict their use on buildings over 18m tall.
Earlier this week chancellor Philip Hammond said a criminal investigation would be launched to investigate these possible breaches – in particular discrepancies with Part B (fire safety) Volume 2, Paragraphs 12.5-12.9, which state that cladding and insulation on buildings over 18m tall should be of limited combustibility. This is defined further in Table A7.
2. If this cladding method breached the regs, why was it used at Grenfell Tower?
Source: Harley Facades
This will be a key question for the Met’s criminal investigation and the public inquiry but, at the time of writing on Monday (19 June), Kensington and Chelsea Council remained unwilling or unable to answer basic questions put to its press office five days previously, including if and when Studio E’s project was granted Building Regulations approval and when exactly Grenfell Tower last had a fire risk assessment.
What is known is that fire experts have long claimed that Part B is inadequate and open to exploitation. The document has not been properly reviewed since 2006 and, in 2015, a survey by the Fire Sector Federation, which represents fire and rescue organisations, found that 92 per cent of its members believed that the regulations were ‘long overdue an overhaul’.
In the UK, products are tested on an individual basis, rather than in combination with other building components. This contrasts with the testing regime in the Middle East. Following a series of serious fires in high-rise buildings there linked to the use of panels containing polyethylene – the same cladding material apparently fitted at Grenfell Tower – the UAE banned the material and ruled that components must be fire-tested alongside other components.
Konstantinos Tsavdaridis, associate professor of structural engineering at the University of Leeds, told The Times that the UK needed to adopt such a system, adding: ‘You may have very good material indeed. But if you install it as part of a system with gaps and voids, the smoke and the heat can pass through and create a chimney effect, funnelling flames to the floors above. That’s what happened at Grenfell Tower.’
The role of procurement and whether value engineering was at play will also be in the spotlight, as will the government’s war on red tape and so-called ‘health and safety culture’ and whether this drive helped allow rules to be broken or bent. After speaking to affected residents last Sunday, London mayor Sadiq Khan said: ‘To those who think rules, regulations, health and safety investment, are a bad thing, I say come to Grenfell Tower, come and meet the wonderful people I have met and remember those who have lost their life in a preventable accident that didn’t need to happen.
‘The tragedy we have seen is the consequence of mistakes and neglect from politicians, from the council, and the government.’
3. Could the declining role of architects have played a part in this tragedy?
The answer to this will of course depend on the exact cause of the fire and thus on the outcomes of the public inquiry. However, there is a suspicion that there is no longer a single competent professional such as an architect or engineer who has responsibility for specifying materials and – alongside the building control and fire officers – ensuring such materials, or a safe and legal alternative, are used and correctly installed.
Instead, the argument goes, responsibility for risk has been spread around to the point where no-one knows where responsibility lies. In a recent opinion piece for The Guardian in response to the Grenfell Tower fire, architect Deon Lombard – a former project director at tp bennett who has worked on major refurbishment projects and on residential towers – wrote: ‘In the past, architects have specified construction materials and have then been in a position to ensure that the specified materials were used. This is increasingly not the case as performance specifications enable alternative materials to be used, often selected by the developer, contractor or subcontractors.
‘With architects now seldom having the authority to insist on specific products being used, there is a tendency to go for cheaper materials, without necessarily understanding the impact or knock-on effect.’
RIBA Council member George Oldham – Newcastle upon Tyne’s city architect from 1979 till 1990 – told the AJ that ‘something has been lost’ in the move away from filling such positions, pointing out that his role had involved a wide range of responsibilities, including fire risk and maintenance of buildings.
He said: ‘There has been a shift from public sector control of the design and building process to something which is more or less a free-for-all.’
Statement from Studio E
We are deeply shocked and distressed over news of the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower.
Our thoughts are with those that have been affected by this tragic incident, together with all of their relatives and friends.
Given the ongoing nature of the incident it would be inappropriate for us to comment or speculate further at this stage. We will be available to assist the relevant authorities as and when we are required.
4. Are there any other buildings at risk?
According to the DCLG, there are 4,000 similar residential tower blocks in the UK – many of them owned by local authorities.
Councils around the country including London boroughs, Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester are urgently carrying out fire safety checks while tower block residents in four major Scottish cities – Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee – were quickly reassured by the authorities that the cladding believed to have been used at Grenfell Tower had not been used on their buildings.
In addition, at least one architecture practice is internally reviewing its designs for tower blocks and the building materials used.
Simon Bayliss, managing partner at HTA, said: ‘We’ve set up a technical group across our various architecture studios and different teams, so we can represent all of the buildings we have built recently or are currently building.
‘We will be looking into the implications of the detailing, the packages we’ve prepared, our role on the projects, and preparing ourselves to work with the clients and the contractors should they need any assistance.’
Bayliss, who lived in a 20-storey tower block for eight years, said that HTA had yet to establish whether any of its schemes used the same cladding as Grenfell Tower.
He pointed out that a 2012 fire at a HTA-designed 22-storey tower block in the Chalcots Estate, north London, which had used aluminium cladding, had not spread to other floors.
‘We need to look at every single one individually and make sure that the right things were done,’ he said.
Prior to the Grenfell Tower fire, safety checks on tower blocks appear to have been in decline.
According to figures published in last weekend’s Sunday People, fire safety checks at tower blocks and commercial buildings fell 25 per cent in the five years from 2011 to 2016, from 84,575 to 63,201. Worryingly, the cladding used in Grenfell Tower is not restricted to residential buildings either. The Times reported that £553 million of public sector money has been spent fitting buildings with similar external cladding, including schools, hospitals and leisure centres.
5. What needs to be done immediately to make sure post-war, high-rise residential blocks are safe?
Source: Nico Hogg
Among the most extreme solutions is give up on these buildings and to simply flatten them. Writing in last weekend’s Observer, mayor Khan wrote: ‘It may well be the defining outcome of this tragedy that the worst mistakes of the 1960s and 1970s are systematically torn down.’
Others have suggested less drastic measures, including the retrofitting of sprinklers to all high-rise residential blocks, a recommendation made in 2012 by the coroner at the Shirley Towers inquest.
At present, only towers built in England since 2007 and above 30m high have to have sprinklers fitted. Their effectiveness was praised in 2015 by a spokesman for the Chief Fire Officers Association, who maintained that no-one had died in any fire in the UK in a building with a ‘properly installed sprinkler system working the way it’s meant to’.
However, others point out that it will take months to fit sprinklers to all vulnerable towers and call for far more urgent action.
Leading architect Rab Bennetts said: ‘We cannot wait. We need to get moving on several thousand towers. The government needs to ensure there are fire extinguishers and smoke alarms on every level, they need to make sure fire doors work properly and the seals are good and they need to ensure that flammable clutter and rubbish isn’t left around on landings.
‘There are thousands of people in these blocks and they need everything done fast to ensure they’re ok.’
- April 1991 Cladding cited as a key factor in a fire at Knowsley Heights, Liverpool
- June 1999 One person dies in a tower block fire in Garnock Court in Irvine, Scotland. The cladding is cited as a factor
- 2005 Scotland requires sprinklers in all new-build tower blocks above18m
- 2006 The government insists on sprinklers in new-build tower blocks of flats higher than 30m
- July 2009 Six people die in a fire in Lakanal House, south London. The coroner says that the Building Regulations should ‘provide clear guidance’ with regard to the ‘external fire spread’ on buildings
- April 2010 Two firemen are killed fighting a fire in Shirley Towers, Southampton
- November 2010 Fifty-eight people die in a fire in a 28-storey block of flats in Shanghai. External insulating material is cited as a possible cause
- 2012 Shirley Towers inquest. Coroner recommends sprinklers should be fitted to existing residential tower blocks
- March 2013 Lakanal House inquest recommends retrofitting sprinklers to existing tower blocks
- January 2014 Planning permission is granted for the £10 million refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, including new external cladding. Completed in 2016
- December 2015 Cladding is cited as a cause for the spread of a fire at the 63-storey Address Hotel in Dubai
- January 2016 Legislation introduced in Wales requires sprinklers in every new home
- November 2016 Grenfell Action Group warns that the block’s manager KCTMO is ‘playing with fire’ and ‘only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord’
- 14 June 2017 Fire breaks out on the fourth floor of Grenfell Tower
GRENFELL TOWER – THE BRUTAL ILLUSTRATION OF INEQUALITY
Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Council (RBKC)
One of the first people to put their face in front of the media was Nicholas Paget-Brown, leader of the Tory-run council. Mr Paget-Brown is an interesting man – he used to be involved in the Tory think-tank Bow Group, so is clearly well-connected in Tory circles. He offered his resignation but the council cabinet unanimously declined to accept it.
The housing stock in the borough is run by Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation (KCTMO) – which is basically the council giving itself another name. It was KCTMO (yes, the council) who employed the services of the contractors to undertake a £10m regeneration of Grenfell Tower.
Survivors and locals keep repeating that they almost feel that it could be an intentional action as they believe the council are in the process of social cleansing an area that could potentially make them a lot of money. I won’t speculate on whether this is true or not.
Regeneration – companies involved:
An article in The Guardian covers all those involved in the project:
- Harley Facades Ltd (originally Harley Curtain Wall): run by Robert Bond, who lives in a Kent mansion, they undertook the cladding work for £2.6m.
- Rydon: construction firm was the lead contractor having won an £8.6m contract to regenerate the estate.
- Artelia UK: commissioned to project manage the refurbishment.
- Max Fordham: Building services engineers.
- Studio E: Architect.
- Witt UK/PSB: ventilation firm.
- Celotex: supplied insulation for cladding.
- JS Wright & Sons: worked on the ventilation.
- Arconic: Designed Reynobond PC used in the plastic cladding. Despite selling fire retardant cladding for just £2 more per piece, the council chose the cheaper option.
The questions that need answering
- Why was such a huge amount of taxpayers money spent on superficial cosmetic work when essential safety work was required but neglected?
- Why were residents concerns continually ignored and, worse still, threatened with legal action by the council solicitor?
- Why was the cladding used despite recommendations by it’s manufacturer that it NOT be used on buildings taller than 10m?
- Is it true that there used to be a sprinkler system within the tower block in the seventies?
- Why were the council offices closed all this weekend (directly after the fire) despite the plight of those who have lost everything?
- Why can the government pledge nearly £400m to refurbish Buckingham Palace (even though the Queen doesn’t live there any more) but pledge £5m for many people who have lost the only homes they had and all their possessions.
- Why did the stairwell fill with smoke?
- Why did RBKC not contact the British Red Cross until Friday afternoon to ask for their assistance on the ground? It seems that despite the devastation and carnage that unfolded in front of their eyes, they still continued to ignore the residents until they couldn’t do so any longer.
- How can your surplus stand at such a huge figure yet housing such as Grenfell be so lacking in basic safety measures?
- How can you justify spending out on making paving stones ‘less slippery’ using new equipment and extra manpower in the richer areas, yet seemed to adverse to spending money where it NEEDED spending? That is the public purse!
- Why are your wages so extortionately high? What justification is there for them – it can’t be because of added responsibility of the position as you’ve shown no responsibility whatsoever!
The council were alerted numerous times by residents and the Grenfell Action Group (GAG) of potential safety risks. Not only did the council ignore them, they even went so far as to silence them by issuing a solicitor’s letter!
In 2013, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling made cuts to the legal aid budget, the result of which meant that most ordinary folk cannot access legal aid any more because they simply can’t afford it. So even when the GAG (the abbreviation isn’t lost on me) knew the council were breaching safety with inadequate alarm systems and evacuation procedure, there was little they could do because they couldn’t afford to! This highlights the very issue of inequality in this country. The Tories have slowly chipped away at the rights of the masses until voices can no longer be heard. The latest idea of scrapping the Human Rights Act and policing the internet more heavily just adds to this.
So who’s to blame?
Without knowing the reasons why the fire started (maybe a power surge caused the fridge to ignite) it’s impossible to say. However, one this is almost certain – the cladding used on the tower exacerbated a fire that London Fire Service say, they did extinguish. So, who is responsible for the cladding?
It’s not the manufacturers – they simply fulfilled an order – although that particular cladding should now be banned.
It’s not the builders who were simply following orders to fit it.
So who made the decision to use that particular cladding? Who proposed it, who checked it, was it assessed against other options and who rubber-stamped it?
Who is the person at RBKC in charge of health and safety within social housing? Why was there no proper evacuation procedure in place? Why did it take for numerous complaints from residents to even get simply signage?
Who is the person who should have been coordinating and assisting all those affected by the fire but who has been nowhere to be seen?
Who has been making the most appalling decisions since the fire occurred?
Oh, and I haven’t forgotten you Mr Barwell…
Lastly, why did the then Minister for Housing, Gavin Barwell, sit on a report that had urgent recommendations on tower block fire safety to prevent this very thing from happening? Is he going to be held accountable? He’s just been promoted by Theresa May.
Why did 71 Tory landlords vote against the bill to make rental properties fit for human habitation – including Police and Fire Minister, Nick Hurd!
All those extortionately paid staff at RBKC and in the government are a shocking example of all that is wrong in our society. They lack any decency.
And all those unpaid volunteers who stopped to help due to simple common decency and compassion are a shining example of all that is good.
Nor you, Mr Johnson…
In 2013, whilst London Mayor, Boris Johnson responded to criticisms about his cuts to fire services and the risks to life by telling a Labour politician to “get stuffed”.
So many questions. So many lives lost. So many lessons still not being learned. So much deflection of responsibility.
The Bow Group Acknowledgements:
Nick Paget-brown and Camilla Batmanghelidjh
Boris Johnson and Camila Batmanghelidjh
Grenfell: Exploitable Flaws Found In Building Control
According to the Fire Sector Federation, the Building Control Alliance is a “unique industry group made up of representatives from all the organisations directly involved in building control in England and Wales.”
Though its own website is currently not available, the organisation is described as comprising “the organisations supporting the many thousands of building control professionals – the Chartered Institute of Building, the Chartered Association of Building Engineers and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors – and the professional associations promoting public and private sector building control, Local Authority Building Control and the Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors.”
The BCA, the Fire Sector Federation says, is the only place where all these “voices and competing interests” come together as one.
It appears to be a lobby group which has issued guidance and presentations, seen this morning, highlighting an exploitable loophole in the fire compliance regulations relating to the use of external cladding on buildings over eighteen metres in height.
London fire: Flats acquired for Grenfell Tower survivors
June 21 2017
The upmarket Kensington Row complex includes a 24-hour concierge service and a private cinema, the website of developer St Edward’s says.
Each new home will be fully furnished, and the government says will be completed to a high-specification.
Chris GilesVerified account @ChrisGiles
You do know these are just the social housing units that were anyway part of the development – not a gift from above?
Jon Stone @joncstone
Spin alert: are they ‘luxury flats’ or ‘newly built social housing’?
Nick Pettigrew @Nick_Pettigrew
“Grenfell victims given luxury flats”. No, they’ve been allocated the social housing flats such developments are required by law to build.
Snobby Tory Kensington residents don’t want Grenfell Tower survivors living in nearby luxury apartments as they will ‘lower house prices’.
What a horrible thing to say to those effected . Nasty sods
Grenfell firefighters ‘hampered by equipment’
7 July 2017
A series of failings that hampered the efforts of firefighters to tackle the Grenfell Tower fire and rescue the building’s residents have been identified by a BBC investigation.
Crews cited low water pressure, radio problems and equipment that was either lacking or did not arrive before the fire on 14 June got out of control.
Newsnight has learned a high ladder did not arrive for more than 30 minutes.
The London Fire Brigade says it has changed its procedures since the fire.
A high ladder will now automatically be sent to a fire in a tower.
An independent fire expert said having the high ladder, which is also known as an “aerial”, available earlier would have given firefighters a better chance of stopping the blaze when it jumped from a fourth floor flat in the tower block and began to race up the side of the building.
More than 200 firefighters and 40 fire engines were involved in battling the blaze that engulfed the block in North Kensington, west London.
About 300 people are believed to have lived in Grenfell Tower and most got out on their own.
The fire brigade rescued 65 people.
Firefighters have been told not to talk to the media but Newsnight obtained a copy of the “incident mobilisation list”, the document which details every appliance dispatched to the incident.
The programme was also sent anonymous accounts from a number of men and women involved in the operation.
The mobilisation list revealed that the 30m (100ft) aerial, which could reach the 10th floor of Grenfell Tower, was not dispatched until 01:19 BST, 24 minutes after the first crews were sent to fight what had started as a fridge fire on the fourth floor.
The aerial did not arrive until 01:32 BST, by which time the fire had raced up the building’s cladding.
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: “I have spoken to aerial appliance operators in London… who attended that incident, who think that having that on the first attendance might have made a difference, because it allows you to operate a very powerful water tower from outside the building onto the building.”
A London Fire Brigade (LFB) spokesman confirmed the so-called “pre-determined attendance” for a tower fire – the list of appliances which are automatically dispatched – has been changed from four engines to five engines plus an aerial.
The spokesman said: “An ‘interim’ change to pre-determined attendance for high rise buildings was introduced in direct response to the government’s action to address concerns of cladding on buildings.
“The Brigade’s pre-determined attendance to high rise buildings had already been increased in June 2015 from three fire engines to four as part of our ongoing review of high rise firefighting.
“It is important to understand that fires in high rise buildings are nearly always dealt with internally, not usually needing an aerial appliance.
“The fundamental issue of high rise safety remains that buildings are maintained to stop fires spreading.”
The spokesman added: “The Brigade has a fleet of specialist aerial firefighting appliances and these attend a variety of incidents across the capital.”
Newsnight’s investigation also heard that firefighters had struggled with water pressure problems and the fire service had to call Thames Water to ask the company to increase pressure in the area.
One firefighter said: “The fire floors we went in were helmet-meltingly hot… when we were clearing flats, it was a case of a quick look and closing doors because the water pressure wasn’t up to firefighting.”
A Thames Water spokesman said: “We’ve been supporting the emergency services’ response in every way possible… any suggestion there was low pressure or that Thames Water did not supply enough water to fire services during this appalling tragedy is categorically false.”
Firefighters also described problems with radio reception inside the building and said they lacked enough of the “extended duration” breathing apparatus they needed, especially when reaching the higher floors of the building.
All fire engines have basic breathing apparatus that provides firefighters with oxygen for around 30 minutes.
The extended duration apparatus enables them to breathe for a theoretical 45 minutes – but working in dense smoke and intense heat 20 stories up uses up the oxygen more quickly.
The LFB said all of its rescue units carry extended duration apparatus and “all of the fire brigade’s rescue units attended the incident”.
Inquiry into response
The LFB said the police investigation into the fire would examine the brigade’s response “including all of the issues Newsnight has raised”.
Questions have also been raised about why a 42m firefighting platform had to be called in from Surrey to fight the fire at Grenfell – itself 67m high – because the LFB does not have one of its own.
The LFB spokesman said it had never responded to a fire on the scale of Grenfell Tower before.
He said: “The commissioner has made clear her intention to fully review the brigade’s resources and seek funding for any additional requirements.”
Some of you will already be aware that our estate is under threat of regeneration by RBKC and that we have lived with this threat hanging over our heads for over 4 years now (we first received the letter making the announcement on March 18th 2013).
It is very clear that RBKC are intent on redeveloping our estate and that they will soon opt for the most radical of the options on the table: namely, completely demolishing the 2 parts of the estate, Broadwood Terrace (with 24 units) and Chesterton Square (with 92).
We formed our Leaseholders’ Association in 2015 to counter this threat (and last year, we also formed a sister organisation and resident association, WRERA).
Recently, RBKC published its draft Leaseholder Policy (which is now out for a 10 week consultation ending on 7th June).
This is a very poor & cynical document, which ensures that any resident leaseholder hoping to return to the regenerated site (akin to a “right of return” for secure tenants) will be unable financially to do so, given all the caveats attached to their shared equity offer.
We are of the opinion that any leaseholder subject to an involuntary and forced sale under a compulsory purchase order (or the threat of one) should be able to return to the regenerated site, no worse off than they were before.
Unfortunately, the lease terms of such a deal are not equivalent to the pre-existing leases that are being unilaterally torn up and violated, and would mean in practice that leaseholders would be very much worse off, having far more onerous terms and losing rights and freedoms they currently enjoy.
I appreciate many readers of this piece may be tenants rather than leaseholders, and you may feel that this does not concern you. But I would disagree as this is about establishing precedents by RBKC in how it deals with all its residents on those estates it chooses to “regenerate” and the issues at stake are universal ones that revolve around power, and authority, and legitimacy, and concern issues of fairness, rights and decency.
One would like to think that these are qualities those in power in RBKC would also respect and aspire to; unfortunately, it isn’t always evident. And in this case, quite the reverse is true.
Please find below a letter written by our Chair, Behzad Seyf to the Leader and Deputy-Leader of RBKC and the Councillors in our borough.
The context within which the fate of the Warwick Road Estate will be decided – and the reason why we have chosen to subtitle this piece ‘The Last Castle’ – is the scorched earth redevelopment of most of the surrounding area that has completely designed out social housing and provided instead an excess of exclusive luxury homes for the very wealthy.
This all began with the redevelopment of the old Charles House site several years ago, on the corner of Warwick Road and Kensington High Street. The result was the construction, by St Edward Ltd (part of the Berkeley Group) of a complex of seven luxury apartment buildings, complete with fitness studios, swimming pool, sauna, steam rooms, treatment rooms, gym, private cinema, secure underground parking and 24 hour concierge services.
The same developers then spread their tentacles along the west side of Warwick Road. The result was the ‘Kensington Row’ development, a massive extension of the St Charles House complex, offering ‘a world of opulence and privilege’ in luxury apartments priced from £1.5 million to £8.5 million. Given its proximity to the Charles House/Kensington Row complex the destruction of the Warwick Road Estate is almost certainly designed to facilitate yet more of this obscenely opulent and exclusive luxury accommodation.
This orgy of redevelopment, in the Warwick Road area and beyond, whether still underway or already complete, is remarkable on two counts, firstly for the sheer massive scale of it, and secondly for the fact that it is all high end and obscenely opulent luxury housing. This is not ‘Regeneration’ in any meaningful humanistic sense. On the contrary it is ‘Social Cleansing’ pure and simple, with all of the worst negative connotations that phrase conjures up in the darker recesses of the human mind.
So far in North Kensington we’ve seen nothing on the scale of what has befallen the Warwick Road/Earls Court area, but make no mistake, a similar apocalypse is planned here too. The big question is whether the social housing estates here will be replaced by the extreme opulence of the Warwick Road area, which seems unlikely, or whether they will be replaced by the so-called ‘mixed communities’ of private, intermediate and ‘affordable’ housing we have all heard of so often. The answer to this question is unknown.
However, we do know that the Wornington Green Estate has already been transformed into a soulless gulag, famously exposed and condemned by Emma Dent Coad for the appallingly shoddy quality of workmanship both during and after its construction. The so-called ‘regeneration’ of North Kensington has only just begun and local residents, whether leaseholders or tenants, would be well advised to remember Hervé’s warning above, which we have paraphrased again below, because it is well worthy of repeating:
Many readers of this piece may be tenants rather than leaseholders, and may feel that the plight of Warwick Road Estate leaseholders does not concern you. But I would disagree as this is about establishing precedents by RBKC in how it deals with all its residents on those estates it chooses to “regenerate” and the issues at stake are universal ones that revolve around power, authority and legitimacy, and concern issues of fairness, rights and decency. One would like to think that these are qualities those in power would also respect and aspire to. Unfortunately quite the reverse is true.
Retired KCTMO Board Member Michael Beverley, age 50, found dead (2009)
He was the TMO’s longest-serving board member.
Karen Buck, MP for Regent’s Park and Kensington North, paid tribute to Mr Beverley.
She said: “I worked closely with Michael for many years and was deeply saddened by news of his death at such a young age.
“I always found him full of humour, interest and compassion, and he put so much effort into his community that his loss diminishes us all.”
Robert Black, chief executive of the TMO, echoed their sentiments.
The Tories proved themselves tonight to be without honour, courage or integrity. They will regret this vile betrayal of good men and women
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