THE LAST POST

This will almost certainly be the last post I, or anyone else, will publish on this blog. Contrary to usual practice it will be written in the first person singular rather than the collective ‘we’ that has previously been normal practice. This is because, although I continued to write in the collective ‘we’ after the night of the Grenfell fire, I was working alone and it was I alone who produced all subsequent posts. I now believe that it is way past time that I took ownership of the work that I alone have produced on this blog during the last couple of years.

I have been struggling with and avoiding this moment, and this task, for some months, certainly since last October when it became clear to me that I was all used up and burnt out. I no longer had the contacts I needed to remain relevant and properly informed about events in the Grenfell community and had become too ill and too exhausted, both physically and emotionally, to continue. I no longer have the heart to continue this work but it is, nonetheless, a painful and heartwrenching moment for me which I had hoped to avoid even when it had become clear to me that I could no longer continue.

In 1983 a gas explosion at my home left me for several weeks in an intensive care burns unit with 50% burns. I was transfused with about one and a half litres of plasma, which saved my life, but in 2002 I was diagnosed with chronic hepatitis c infection, which I believe I contracted from those lifesaving transfusions. For several years following my hospitalisation I experienced PTSD in the form of an intense phobia to the harsh light and heat of the sun. Hot summers were hell for me. In 2012 I was further diagnosed with cirrhosis. I had refused treatment for my hepatitis because the only treatment available at the time was lengthy and difficult (a full year). It was based on a combination of very toxic drugs with nasty side effects and a very poor success rate. Around the time of my diagnosis I also began to experience M.E. type symptoms which gradully worsened over time.

I decided to leave Verity Close in 2013. My constant exhaustion, exercise and stress intolerance, aching muscles and unrefreshing and disordered sleep pattern had taken a heavy toll on me and I now found the constant dust, noise, diesel fumes and other disturbances from the academy and leisure centre construction intolerable, so I abandoned my tenancy and moved to Ireland. However, from 2013 onward I continued to work on the GAG blog in partnership with Ed Daffarn.

About two years ago my hepatitis was successfully treated in Dublin with a new drug regimen and the virus was eradicated, but unfortunately I experienced no improvement in my quality of life which has continued to deteriorate.

I had lived within a stone’s throw of Grenfell Tower for many years and knew every nook and cranny of it like the back of my hand. On the night of the fire I watched on my television screen as it was consumed in an inferno. It was a horrendous and deeply shocking experience and it was immediately obvious to me, from the intensity of the fire and the speed with which the tower was engulfed, that the death toll would be very high.

At about 5am I published a very short blog (GRENFELL TOWER FIRE) which included a list of links to previous blogs we had posted in our repeated but vain attempts to challenge and alert RBKC to the complacency, negligence and incompetence of both the Council and the KCTMO concerning the delivery of essential services to Lancaster West and other council housing estates, emphasising particularly the neglect of fire safety on those estates.

Before the fire the Grenfell Action Group blog had attracted a weekly readership of about 200. On the day of the fire, however, it went viral receiving nearly three million views during the first 24 hours. The Grenfell fire was, of course, big news worldwide. I realised from the unprecedented level of interest that it was vital to continue blogging regularly and to concentrate on publishing any evidence that emerged, or that could be uncovered, concerning the causes of the fire and the circumstances surrounding it.

Unfortunately I had lost my main ally, co-founder and co-author Ed Daffarn, who had lived in Grenfell Tower. Ed was physically uninjured in the fire but had lost his home and narrowly escaped death on that terrible night. He told me that he would be unable to contribute to the blog for a significant period, and I fully accepted that, but I also fully expected him to return when he felt able. Meanwhile the viewing numbers for the blog remained high throughout the summer and only gradually declined as the media circus gradually began to move on. In October 2017 the readership was still 10,000 for the month and held steady throughout 2018 at around 4000 views per month.

Ed never returned. After several months I began efforts to initiate a discussion with him about when he might be ready to return, but he rebuffed me each time I raised the subject claiming that he was still too traumatised to even discuss his return. Eventually, in November 2017, I had become so frustrated that I decided to insist on having that discussion, but when I pressed him on it he lost his temper and hung up the phone on me. That same night I discovered that he was still active in the Save Wornington College campaign and was a moderator of their facebook group. Later I discovered more from press coverage and from the entry below on a public information website called Nesta:

“Grenfell United is made up exclusively of bereaved family members and survivors of the fire. The group represents 80 per cent of the tower survivors and approximately 80 per cent of bereaved families. The organisation was formed a mere two weeks after the fire during a meeting at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington. Ex-Grenfell resident, and Vice Chair of Grenfell United Ed Daffarn, said the initial aim was to offer an authentic voice to the survivors and bereaved and to give each other the emotional support needed in the immediate aftermath of such trauma.”

https://www.nesta.org.uk/feature/new-radicals-2018/grenfell-united/

I also discovered that the exclusive and secretive Grenfell United have enjoyed privileged access to Prime Minister Theresa May and other members of her Cabinet and that an early meeting with Mrs May had run for two hours. (Guardian Jan 2018).

It finally dawned on me that Ed had lied repeatedly to me for several months, by claiming that he was still too fragile to contribute, or even discuss contributing, to the GAG blog. The truth appears to be that he had ulterior motives, which he withheld from me, and had made a deliberate choice to abandon the GAG blog – and me with it – because it suited his ambitions to do so. He was, of course, a founder member and pivotal figure in Grenfell United, as he had previously been in The Grenfell Action Group, but he lacked the common decency to inform me that he had chosen, immediately after the fire, to abandon GAG in favour of GU. It is noteworthy that Grenfell United have never, to the best of my knowledge, recognised or acknowledged the continuing existence of the GAG blog after the fire, or the considerable body of work I produced over the last couple of years as the sole remaining author and editor of the blog. I believe that Ed could have used his influence as a prominent member of Grenfell United to encourage such recognition, but he appears to have chosen not to do so. I can only speculate as to the reasons for this behaviour.

He continues to enjoy significant celebrity as the ‘face’ of the pre-Grenfell GAG blog and as the man who allegedly ‘predicted the Grenfell fire’, a myth that has been endlessly repeated and perpetuated by the British press. He has shamelessly and deliberately exploited his misbegotten fame and celebrity to enhance his personal reputation and that of the exclusive and secretive Grenfell United which he now favors, invariably at the expense of The Grenfell Action Group. Among other things this has enabled him to secure a place representing Grenfell United on the Shelter Housing Commission.

The GU propaganda above, illustrating an interview with Jon Snow of Channel 4 News, describes the sainted Ed Daffarn in glowing terms. However it is no more than media hype. He did not predict the Grenfell fire and nor did he write the blogs so endlessly quoted that appear to have predicted it, a myth the media (notably the Guardian) continue to shamelessly propagate to this day.

Ed and I worked together on those blogs, but mostly they were my work, and we were equally surprised, shocked and horrified by the catastrophe that occurred at Grenfell Tower. Nobody, except those with foreknowledge of how flammable, how lethal and how utterly inappropriate was the cladding system affixed to the exterior of Grenfell Tower could have predicted the tragedy that was to unfold there. We did not have that foreknowledge, having been denied access by the KCTMO to the documentation that contained that crucial information.

There is also a very bad stink underlying all this, most of which has already been covered, more or less, in a previous GAG post (22nd October – the one about BACKSTABBERS).  A re-reading of that blog, in conjunction with what I have revealed here about the breakdown of my relationship with Ed should make it clear what a ‘piece of work’ the capricious Mr Daffarn is – a quality he clearly shares with the more machiavellian of his new confederates at Grenfell United and with the ruthless and unprincipled Shamik Dutta of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors.

It should be clear from the preceding narrative that my decision to end this blog was complicated, involving much more than just the physical illness from which I am suffering. The psychological factors to which I have also alluded weigh very heavily on me and I find I no longer have the heart to continuue this work regardless of the state of my health.

So what does the future hold for the long suffering residents of Lancaster West, many of whom have been impacted, in varying degrees, by the Grenfell disaster? Stage One of the Inquiry ran for about sixteen tedious months following which it has been in recess since last December. In my view the hearings were far too often devoted to lengthy hostile interrogations of the many firefighters who had attended the fire and later to similarly hostile interrogation of the senior LFB officers who were in command on the night. I do not consider this to have been fair to the individuals concerned, who had acted with great courage on the night in appalling conditions and against overwhelming odds. Nor do I consider it to have been an appropriate use of the Inquiry’s time and process.

According to the latest information, posted on the Inquiry website on 17th April, Phase Two hearings are not scheduled to begin until January 2020. The Inquiry team has meanwhile published a long provisional list of issues to be examined in Stage Two but has not included a timetable or schedule of hearings to accompany this. The list can be downloaded from the following link: Phase 2 List of Issues 4 JUNE [FINAL]   How much longer the Inquiry will continue and how long we will have to wait for a final report is anybody’s guess. As for me, I have been cynical about this process almost from its inception and have no great expectation of a positive or satisfactory outcome from this long drawn out process which seems designed to frustrate and exhaust rather than to inform those seeking justice.

Instead I have pinned my hopes on the Metropolitan Police, who began a massive criminal investigation in the summer of 2017. Unfortunately they appear to be waiting for the Inquiry to finish before proceeding, so I would surmise that they are unlikely to take any decisive action before, I would guess, sometime in 2022 (?). However, there is one possible silver lining to this seemingly interminable cloud of gloom. According to the Guardian (18 July 2018) detectives investigating the fire have interviewd several individuals under caution and are actively considering gross negligence manslaughter charges as well as corporate manslaughter and breaches of the Health and Safety Act. The main, and possibly only, positive in this is that charges of gross negligence manslaughter would be brought against individuals who, on conviction, could be punished by terms of imprisonment. In my opinion only this outcome could provide the justice that so many are seeking.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jul/18/grenfell-police-carry-out-three-interviews-under-caution

Finally, I am grateful to the many who have kept faith with this blog over the last couple of years and who continue to visit regularly in hopes, I assume, of finding new content. That new content has, all too often, failed to appear. I owe you all my apologies for that. I owe apologies also to those with whom I have recently collaborated, particularly Ruth London and her colleagues at Fuel Poverty Action. It was always my intention to continue to support the FPA Safe Cladding and Insulation (SCIN) initiative and I regret that I was unable to meet that challenge.

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2018/05/05/fpa-new-campaign-for-safe-cladding-and-insulation-now/

Sincerely,  Francis

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Grenfell Inquiry – Stage One Conclusions Of An Expert Witness

Grenfell Tower – Fire Safety Investigation:

Phase 1 Report – Section 2
Conclusions and Next Steps

REPORT OF
Dr Barbara Lane FREng FRSE CEng
Fire Safety Engineering
5th November 2018

2.9 The primary failure – the Rainscreen cladding system

2.9.1 A high degree of compartmentation forms the most important basis of the single building safety condition Stay Put.

2.9.2 Approved Document B (ADB) 2013 states there are two main objectives for compartmentation:

(a) to prevent rapid fire spread which could trap occupants of the building; and

(b) to reduce the chance of fires becoming large, on the basis that large fires are more dangerous, not only to occupants and fire and rescue service personnel, but also to people in the vicinity of the building.”

2.9.3 Compartmentation relied on the performance of the external wall at Grenfell Tower, because the external wall connected every flat, and every flat must be a separate compartment.

2.9.4 The external walls were required to comply with Regulation B4 External Fire Spread:

“The external walls of the building shall adequately resist the spread of fire over the walls … having regard to the height, use and position of the building.”

2.9.5 In Section 8 and 11, of my Expert Report, I have identified the materials forming the rainscreen cladding system, and assessed their compliance with the relevant statutory requirements.

2.9.6 Based on the relevant test evidence submitted to the Public Inquiry, the construction materials forming the rainscreen cladding system, when either considered individually or when considered as an assembly, did not comply with the recommended fire performance set out in the statutory guidance of ADB 2013 for a building with a storey 18m or more above Ground Level.

2.9.7 These materials as installed on Levels 4-23 were:

a) Aluminium windows supplied by Metal Technology Ltd;
b) Insulating core panels as infill between windows, formed of combustible Styrofoam (extruded polystyrene) supplied by Panel Systems Ltd;
c) Window fan inserts specified as the combustible Kingspan TP10 insulation;
d) 100mm thick Celotex RS5100 combustible PIR insulation board applied to columns;
e) 80mm thick Celotex RS5080 combustible PIR insulation board (two layers) applied to the spandrels between floors;
f) Kingspan K15 combustible phenolic foam insulation (two layers) applied to the spandrels between floors
g) Arconic Reynobond 55 PE Cassette system ACP (smoked silver metallic);
h) Arconic Reynobond 55 PE Cassette system ACP (pure white)- Level 3 only;
i) EPDM weatherproof membrane between the new windows and the existing concrete structure;
j) Siderise Vertical cavity barriers on the columns;
k) Siderise Horizontal cavity barriers;

2.9.8 Additionally, I conclude the entire system could not adequately resist the spread of fire over the walls having regard to height, use and position of the building. Specifically, the assembly failed adequately to resist the spread of fire to an extent that supported the required Stay Put strategy for this high-rise residential building. The assembly failed adequately to resist the spread of fire to an extent that supported the required internal fire fighting – Defend in Place fire fighting regime.

2.9.9 There were multiple catastrophic fire-spread routes created by the external wall materials, the arrangement of the materials, as well as the construction detailing of those materials.

2.9.10 In addition, as I have explained in Section 9, the construction detailing created to seal the gap between the old and new windows, in each flat, meant that the materials and the arrangement of those materials, increased the likelihood of a fire breaking out of the flat and into the large cavities contained within the cladding system surrounding those windows. Those cavities were formed of and contained combustible materials.

2.9.11 Attempts had been made to subdivide the column cavities, and to provide vertical and horizontal fire stopping at key compartment lines. However, both the horizontal and vertical fire stopping were defective in their installation, but more importantly there is no evidence these fire stopping products have ever been proven, by fire test, to perform in an ACP based rainscreen external wall system of the type installed at Grenfell Tower.

2.9.12 The window openings were not provided with fire resisting cavity barriers. These unprotected openings themselves were instead surrounded by combustible materials, which acted as a means of fire and smoke spread.

2.9.13 There were combustible lining materials located within the flats, above and below the window openings. These materials support the spread of fire and smoke, from an incident adjacent to a window, also.

2.9.14 Therefore, in the event of any internal fire starting near a window, there was a
disproportionately high probability of fire spread into the rainscreen cladding
system.

2.9.15 This was also true in the event of a fire remote from the window, unless the fire brigade extinguished it early enough to prevent heating of the rainscreen system via the window openings or via the window opening surrounds; or the fire was prevented by some other means from developing into a scenario which could cause the heating of the window opening or the heating of the materials surrounding those openings in a flat.

2.9.16 The interface between the kitchen window, and the window reveal lining materials, in Flat 16 and (a) the column rainscreen system and (b) the above window horizontal rainscreen system, was the primary cause of the early stages of fire spread.

2.9.17 The type of window reveal lining materials and how they were arranged around the window provided no means to control the spread of fire and smoke, from the small kitchen fire which was the source of the fire.

2.9.18 In addition, the type of materials in the rainscreen system and how they were arranged around the windows in the kitchen, contributed to the speed at which the fire spread from the flat of fire origin to a multi storey external fire within the rainscreen system.

2.9.19 Once the fire entered the rainscreen system outside Flat 16 on the East elevation, the Reynobond 55PE rainscreen cladding panel coupled with the ventilation cavity backed by the Celotex insulation or Kingspan K15 insulation, incorporating defective vertical and horizontal Siderise fire stopping material, and missing cavity barriers around the window, failed to control the spread of fire and smoke.

2.9.20 The Reynobond 55PE contributed to the most rapid of the observed external fire spread.

2.9.21 There were also Aluglaze extruded polystyrene core insulating panels installed between every window, in front of the existing window infill panels. Polystyrene produces large quantities of black toxic smoke; and supports rapid fire spread as evidenced during the fire.

2.9.22 The assembly – taken together with the insulation material on the existing external wall, the missing and defective cavity barriers – became part of a successful combustion process. This process generated substantial fire spread over 6 distinct pathways. A full geometric grid was created by means of the construction materials, which connected (in the event of an internal fire, cavity fire or external fire) every flat on a storey; and every storey from Level 3 to roof Level. These pathways also supported the spread of external fire back into the building, through the windows, and created a series of internal fire events.

2.9.23 The consequence of this was that any individual flat of fire origin was no longer in a separate fire rated box as is required. The compartmentation required in the building was breached by the ability of the fire to spread on the external wall from that compartmented flat to the next.

2.9.24 I conclude that the required single building safety condition Stay Put, was not
provided for, as was required, as a result of the rainscreen system installed during the primary refurbishment.

2.9.25 As a result, the arrangement and type of construction materials in the rainscreen system caused:
(a) A rapidly advancing and continuous external flame front which impacted flats on multiple stories;
(b) The generation of large quantities of polymeric based smoke which entered many flats;
(c) The flame front caused additional internal fires, many of which underwent a flashover fire (this in general occurred where external firefighting was not possible by LFB); these internal fires also produced smoke;
(d) The external fire and internal fires then affected the active and passive fire protection measures in the building.

2.9.26 The rainscreen system, installed during the refurbishment in 2012-2016, was therefore non-compliant with the functional requirement of the Building Regulations.

2.9.27 In my Phase 2 report I will investigate how this state of affairs came to exist at Grenfell Tower.

2.10 The failure of the early external fire fighting activity

2.10.1 I do not consider it reasonable that in the event of the installation of a combustible rainscreen system on a high rise residential building, the fire brigade should be expected to fully mitigate any resulting fire event. That is particularly so in circumstances where the fire brigade had never been informed that a combustible rainscreen system had been installed in the first place. Further, there are so many combinations of events, that could fall entirely outside the reach of external firefighting activity. This is important when only internal firefighting arrangements are made for high-rise residential buildings by statutory guidance at this time.

2.10.2 I have found no evidence yet that any member of the design team or the construction team ascertained the fire performance of the rainscreen system materials, nor understood how the assembly performed in fire. I have found no evidence that Building Control were either informed or understood how the assembly would perform in a fire. Further I have found no evidence that the TMO risk assessment recorded the fire performance of the rainscreen system, nor have I found evidence that an LFB risk assessment recorded the fire performance of the rainscreen system. I await further evidence on these matters, which I will explore in my Phase 2 report.

Dr Barbara Lane report – section 2 (Phase 1 – supplemental).pdf

 

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RHN PROTEST AT KENSINGTON TOWN HALL

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DISPATCHES – GRENFELL ACTION GROUP REPLY

Our last blog was a repost of a statement issued by Matt Wrack, the General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, in anticipation of a programme Channel 4 Dispatches were preparing to broadcast on Monday 18th February. Our repost attracted a lot of attention among our readers and garnered more than a thousand views during the following week.

We watched the programme (several times) in which Dispatches claimed to have uncovered new evidence suggesting that systemic failures in the London Fire Brigade had led to many people dying who could have survived. We saw no new evidence supporting this claim and we regard it as merely the latest in a long list of attempts to scapegoat the LFB with regard to the horrific events of June 2017 in which 72 of our friends, neighbours and loved ones died in an inferno from which, for far too many, there was no escape.

The programme was a pastiche of short clips composed of verbal evidence given on camera to the Grenfell Inquiry by LFB officers, who invariably spent long hours in the witness box facing a barrage of difficult, if not hostile, interrogation at the hands of counsel to the Inquiry. These clips were intercut with excerpts from emotive interviews with witnesses or survivors of the events of that night, generally expressing their anger, frustration and bewilderment at the failure of the LFB to order an early mass evacuation of the tower.

The Dispatches programme ran for a mere half hour – not counting the mandatory commercial break in the middle – apparently in an ill-conceived attempt to answer in some meaningful way one of the most vexed and complex questions addressed in stage one of the Public Inquiry – whether the London Fire Brigade suffered a ‘systemic failure’ on the night of the Grenfell fire. In our view there is no question that there was a systemic failure, but we do not agree that the LFB or its officers should be held culpable for this.

In our view the Grenfell refurbishment that preceded the fire and created the conditions that led to it, is the true locus of a massive systemic failure that can be identified clearly at all levels of the project, from the planning to the financing to the design and to many, if not all, of the building contractors and numerous sub-contracters who succeeded, through a combination of incompetence and criminal negligence in turning a highrise block that had stood the test of time, having been safe to live in for many years, into a firetrap that was consumed in the worst inferno in living memory within months of its refurbishment.

We are not prepared to accept at this point the Dispatches claim that the London Fire Brigade suffered a systenic failure on the night of the Grenfell Fire. The failure of the LFB  to cope with the situation that confronted them on that fateful night was preceded and precipitated by the complete failure of the building’s fire protection systems. In effect it was the failure of the building that caused the extremely high mortality and the Dispatches criticisms of the LFB are an unjustified attempt to scapegoat them for the loss of life and for the additional lives that the Dispatches team claims could have been saved had the LFB not failed in their duty on that night

The Grenfell fire was unprecedented in its ferocity and the speed with which it engulfed the entire tower and we know that the LFB were ill-equipped and insufficiently trained, due to major budget cuts, year on year, by central government that had significantly degraded their ability to cope under normal conditions, let alone the unprecedentedly extreme conditions they faced on that night. This was further complicated by the fact that the fire crews had not been trained in the logistics or hazards involved in the evacuation of a densely occupied multi-storey residential block that was rapidly becoming consumed in by far the worst highrise fire they had ever encountered.

In any case any claim of systemic failure by the LFB  hangs entirely on the failure, between approximately 1am and 2.30am, of senior LFB officers to order the abandonment of the ‘stay put’ policy in favour of a strategy of search and rescue and self evacuation wherever possible. This matter has been the subject of intense scrutiny by the Public Inquiry. No conclusions have yet emerged from that source so we must await publication of the Inquiry’s findings. Meanwhile we can only speculate about the alleged failures of the LFB as we don’t yet have the evidence necessary to make properly informed judgements.

In fact the decision to abandon the ‘stay put’ policy, opting instead for mass evacuation, was by no means as simple or straightforward for those responsible as the LFB’s critics woud have us believe. It carried with it a host of additional risks and dangers that could not be predicted or quantified and might themselves have led to disastrous consequences. Nor must we forget that this whole crisis had unfolded within a very short timescale, between 1am approximately, when the first fire crews arrived on scene, and 2.30am approximately when the decision to abandon the ‘stay put’ policy was finally taken.

We may reasonably assume that it would have been considered premature to make such a drastic decision during that first hour, but according to the evidence submitted to the Inquiry by expert witness Dr Barbara Lane, the ‘stay put’ strategy had effectively failed by 1.26am. The ‘defend in place’ firefighting strategy upon which it relied had also failed and the LFB had no effective means of attacking the fierce external fire which was the only firefighting strategy that was then left to them.

We also know that, by this time, much of the stairwell and many of the lobbies were smoke logged. Who could have predicted the rapidity or ferocity with which this sequence of events would occur? Nor is it any wonder that the senior officers charged with making the crucial life and death decisions, who did not have the benefit of the forensic evidence now available to Dr Lane and other experts, did not or could not, react with the speed and hindsight that the Dispatches team would clearly now expect and demand of them.

The extended interview with Marcio Gomes, broadcast near the end of the programme is, in our view, a crucially important part of the whole Dispatches programme. It clearly reveals the terrible dilemma Marcio and his family were confronted with, particularly when attempting to self evacuate, which they had tried on several occasions, only to be driven back by the thick black toxic smoke that confronted them every time they tried.

Strangely, the interview with Marcio is immediately preceded by a voiceover that is, in our view, the most reckless, misleading and preposterously flawed statement that the Dispatches team used as part of the foundation for their vendetta against the LFB:

” The Inquiry has heard that the whole tower could have been evacuated in seven minutes”.

Having arrived at this point of the narrative I have struggled to construct, I realise that there is no need for further argument from me. I already have in my possession a lengthy extract from the statement submitted by Dr Lane at the conclusion of phase one of the Inquiry. It describes in excruciating detail and in a far more articulate form than I could ever attempt, the conditions that existed in Grenfell Tower on that fateful night and that confronted all those inside the tower during that crucial hour when the building was lost. I will finish this blog by quoting the words of Dr Lane directly from her statement.

(CAUTION: Those still struggling to cope with the events of that night may find parts of what follows extremely painful reading.)

2.19.1 The conditions in the lobbies created intense fear amongst the residents which is likely to have affected the ability of many of them to leave their flat and descend the stair. As the fire progressed, and conditions worsened in the lobbies, but also directly on the external wall of their own flat, and adjacent flats, it was even more difficult to overcome this fear, even when they were eventually instructed to do so.

2.19.2 The evidence from the residents has emphasised this stark dilemma for them all too clearly.

2.19.3 The residents were left in conditions that appeared life threatening to them. So much so that even with a flame front entering their home or neighbour’s home, entering the staircase was believed to be a fatal option. In some cases, this belief appears to have seriously impacted their decision making process with respect to self-evacuation. It is my opinion that they required very specific advice tailored to overcome their fear of the lobby conditions, and to be informed, for example, that there was a concerted effort to meet and rescue people in the stairs.

2.19.4 Their experiences created a belief that entering the staircase was a fatal option, specifically:

2.19.5 For some residents they had already experienced conditions in the stairs and considered them to be life threatening and so turned back

2.19.6 For other residents, they had entered the stairs or approached the stairs, and heard instructions not to go down the stairs at all, and again had turned back.

2.19.7 Many residents had been told it was safer not to self-evacuate for up to an hour, and the change seemed to overwhelm those that ultimately stayed in place.

2.19.8 There were substantial signals of danger to residents, and to firefighters. This included large quantities of thick smoke impacting sight and breathing immediately outside flat entrance doors, intense heat outside flat entrance doors, heat and smoke within the stair itself; rapidly advancing fire and smoke entering flats from the external wall, and ultimately horrific and rapidly increasing numbers of fires for the residents to attempt to escape away from within their own flats.

2.19.9 It is my opinion that the conditions created difficult, and at times life threatening conditions, for the LFB. The conditions greatly restricted their ability to implement their standard processes and procedures, regarding firefighting, once the fire had spread beyond Flat 16.

2.19.10 The LFB appear to have stopped attempting to fight the multiple and ever increasing flat fires and focused on attempting rescue activities.

2.19.11 The conditions caused the requirement for a scale of rescue that overwhelmed the LFB’s standard rescue processes. The details of this are being addressed by other experts to the Inquiry.

2.19.12 Because of the external wall fire, a complex building fire occurred, and so the single escape stairs and its lobbies became the single most important life safety feature. As I explain further in later sections, I have considerable concern as to the standards of fire safety provision in the lobbies and the stair, whilst acknowledging the extreme and primary hazard the external wall presented.

2.19.13 The failure of this life safety feature meant that after 01:40, and particularly after 02:00, worsening conditions limited the ability for rescue to occur, and created more and more barriers, or perceived barriers, for residents to overcome in order to safely self-evacuate. Ultimately, 71 persons were not able to do so.

2.19.14 The timing of this decision is relevant to my work because the active and passive fire protection measures are required to provide a safe working environment for the fire and rescue services. However, their failure cannot be considered in isolation, because the LFB continued to invest in rescue after the building safety condition failed.

2.19.15 I consider the Stay Put strategy required from the Building condition, to have effectively failed by 01 :26; the Defend in Place fire fighting upon which it relies had also failed – there was no ability to extinguish the external fire early as became required.

2.19.16 Therefore, there was a need for the LFB to recognise this building failure by 01:26, when the fire had spread up to Level 23 from Level 4, and to recognise the impact this building failure was having, and would continue to have, on standard fire fighting and rescue processes and procedures.

2.19.17 There was a particular need to recognise this failure by the time the major incident was declared at 02:06, in order to improve the means available to residents to self-evacuate, as this had now become the most likely method to mitigate the risk to their lives.

2.19.18 There is a need to recognise now, if interventions could have been made before 02:06, and then before 02:35, in order to prevent such a tragedy happening in the future.

2.19.19 An important topic also for investigation is residents who could not evacuate without assistance (residents who could not walk down stairs). I will incorporate the final numbers of persons requiring assistance when that evidence is finalised. There was no active facility available to them for self evacuation (this is dealt with in detail in Section 15, 16 and 18 of my report”

https://grenfellactiongroup.files.wordpress.com/2019/02/dr-barbara-lane-report-section-2-phase-1-supplemental.pdf

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FBU Responds to upcoming Channel 4 Grenfell Dispatches programme

On Monday 18 February, Channel 4 Dispatches will air a programme titled Grenfell: Did the Fire Brigade Fail?

The FBU has not yet seen the programme, but understands that it will be highly critical of the London Fire Brigade’s response to the Grenfell Tower fire.

Ahead of the programme’s broadcast, Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

“Firefighters risked their lives that night to save others, and were placed in an utterly impossible situation because of the failure of the building. Before any firefighter arrived, before any 999 calls were made, the building was a potential death trap. The building was wrapped in flammable cladding which caused the fire to spread at an unprecedented, and rapid rate.

“We have longstanding criticisms of fire and rescue policy in the UK, and have in the past made many criticisms of individual fire and rescue services, including the London Fire Brigade. The FBU has made urgent recommendations for a review of the stay put policy, but we are clear that this is a national matter which government should initiate. The government has been too slow to respond, both in terms of unsafe building materials and reviewing national fire and rescue policy.”

https://www.fbu.org.uk/news/2019/02/15/fbu-responds-upcoming-channel-4-dispatches grenfell?fbclid=IwAR0_0V3pk9IIszw8YaAgKaSe1jiNaoOllxFmoDPlcUDzC7TRhhsodsyKwcM

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Fuel Poverty Action – An Open Letter to the Secretary of State

Sixteen months after the Grenfell fire, on Wednesday 17 October, 50 people stood together in the the rain, outside of the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to deliver an Open Letter that demanded safe and warm tower block homes. The demonstration was organised by Fuel Poverty Action. Many of those who came, spoke out.

Speakers included residents living with Grenfell-style cladding, people from the Grenfell community, and supporters. The speeches covered a wide range of issues, including the plight of children at Grenfell, the needs of disabled people in high rise blocks, and the threat of climate change and associated extreme cold weather to residents whose insulation has been removed. The common thread of safe and warm homes tied it all together, and many, including the Fire Brigades Union, Unite Housing Workers and other major trade union bodies, pledged their support to the campaign for Safe Cladding and Insulation Now (SCIN). This support lays bare the outrage felt because thousands are still living in tinderbox homes or homes that are freezing, mould-ridden and expensive to heat when winter comes.

When the speeches were through, the letter was unrolled. Now standing at nearly 150 signatories, which includes 28 MPs from four major political parties, 5 national trade unions, 20 other union bodies and branches including the National Union of Students (NUS), 5 councillors, 44 housing and Grenfell-related groups, 16 poverty and discrimination organisations, 15 environmental and anti-fracking groups and many others, the letter carried real weight. Three people living with Grenfell-style cladding and a member of FPA walked into the MHCLG to hand-deliver the letter. The group spoke with a civil servant from the department, who took down details of specific affected towers, listened to the grievances of the residents and promised that the letter would arrive on Secretary of State James Brokenshire’s desk that day. FPA are awaiting the promised swift response.

Following delivery of the letter the demonstrators marched to the House of Commons and held a two hour long meeting, including Emma Dent Coad, the Grenfell MP, Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and Alison Stoecker, secretary to John McDonnell MP. Residents and MPs declared their commitment to the campaign and discussed how to – together – force action to ensure that residents are protected both from fire and from cold.

The last event of the Day of Action – 17th October – was a crowded tenants and residents meeting called by Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations. Held to highlight the lack of accountability in councils and the way tenants organisations are increasingly disempowered, beaten down, and deprived of resources when they try to campaign for better housing conditions, the event echoed some of the demands of the Open Letter. As the Hackitt Review into the Grenfell fire acknowledged, it is residents who hold the key to housing safety.

Whilst FPA and SCIN campaign supporters demonstrated in London, Right to Energy Coalition held a solidarity action outside of the British embassy in Brussels. Marking this as a transnational Day of Action and just one of many steps to achieve safe and warm tower block homes for all.

The Letter (with signatories) is reproduced below:

The Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP
Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
17th October 2018

Dear Secretary of State,

We were very glad to hear of the government’s intention to fully fund replacement of flammable cladding on social housing tower blocks. The announcement (16 May) brought hope to many homes. However, the commitments made so far are not nearly enough.

The government’s history on this issue is disgraceful.

Eleven months after the Grenfell fire, when this announcement was made, only 7 out of over 300 tower blocks had been re-clad. On a third of the 158 social housing blocks deemed to be in danger, work had not even started. People who were initially told they could move out of dangerous buildings have been denied the opportunity to do so. On private blocks, leaseholders have been told to fund the works themselves – which they cannot afford – or continue to live in a fire-trap. Leaseholders in these blocks often have trouble meeting even their normal heating bills, and many go cold each winter. Nothing had been done, or offered, for people in danger in flammable office blocks, hotels, or other workplaces, or in schools or hospitals.

Then, after months of refusing urgent requests from local authorities, the government promised to fully fund re-cladding costs for social housing, estimated at £400 million, to be taken from housing budgets. Yet BBC research in December 2017 found that the cost of planned post-Grenfell fire safety measures for councils and housing associations alone had already reached at least £600m, a figure said to be likely to be a considerable underestimate. Safety from fire requires both non-combustible exteriors and safe windows, doors, compartmentalisation, and sprinklers. Shelter cites one social landlord that originally estimated £2 million to replace cladding but found it cost £18 million in the end. Meanwhile MHCLG handed back £817 million to the Treasury in unspent cash, money also originally earmarked for housing.

The government must now fulfill its promise of June 2017: “We cannot and will not ask people to live in unsafe homes.” Costs must be met in full, and without delay.

Moreover, the health and safety of residents must not be sacrificed during the process that the government now promises to fund.

Cold, like fire, kills. Even in a normal year, thousands die each year when they cannot heat their homes. Residents in many blocks already going through re-cladding know that when cladding is off in the winter, uninsulated flats are places of constant cold, condensation, damp and mould, and astronomical bills. Works can go on for months, with families constantly ill. Some are scheduled for nearly two years.

It is difficult for residents to legally enforce their human rights to decent housing. Nevertheless, landlords have a duty of care to the residents of their properties. The government must ensure that this duty is fulfilled, and for social housing must provide the necessary funds.

On 16 May the Prime Minister accepted that paying for re-cladding works “must not undermine” housing providers’ “ability to do important maintenance and repair work”. Similarly, paying for residents to keep safe and warm until the works are completed must not undermine local budgets — either housing budgets, or already devastated budgets for health and social care.

In the light of the appalling history of residents not being listened to, of promises being broken, and work necessary for health and/or safety being delayed, done badly, or not done at all, we believe it is essential to establish some principles for how the new funding will be implemented in practice.

For social housing, the government must “fully fund” replacement of all flammable cladding and insulation, and other necessary fire safety measures, regardless of the £400 million estimated total. No housing provider must be turned away. Both cladding and insulation components must be non-combustible.

For private housing, central government must cover the initial costs, and then seek to recover costs from landlords, developers and contractors. Student residences must also be covered.

All residents should be guaranteed that they will not pay more for using extra energy over the winter. Payments for extra costs should be paid direct to residents, and should be made in time to cover the bills or prepayment meter costs when needed.
Where cladding/insulation has been removed landlords are still responsible for protecting residents from cold, damp and mould, and other hazards.

Residents forced to live temporarily in blocks which still have flammable cladding should be protected, without cost to themselves, by fire wardens, alarms, and sprinklers. Where it is unsafe for people to remain in their homes, alternative local housing should be offered.
Until cladding and insulation are completely restored, residents should be offered a package of special measures. These measures should include, as required: approved damp and mould treatment; dehumidifiers; safe space heaters; draught-proofing; immediate repairs to faulty or inadequate boilers, heating controls, windows, and vents; enhanced out-of-hours services; hot meals for those who need them; warm and comfortable places to go in the daytime; and facilities to exercise (e.g. free gym/pool use). Again, where homes cannot be made fit for habitation, alternative local housing should be offered.

Consultation must ensure that residents are fully informed about options and cladding is replaced in accordance with their wishes. Residents must be kept informed about progress and timetables. Residents Associations must be supported and must have the opportunity to interrogate any delays or shortfalls and receive answers.

All new developments, and refurbishments, must be effectively monitored and inspected by authorities that are independent, and legally accountable. New and refurbished homes should be safe and well-insulated in practice, not just in theory.

Immediate safe, good, permanent housing must be offered in the area of their choice for Grenfell survivors; no deportations of affected individuals; criminal charges against those responsible for the fire.

To prevent such disasters in the future there must be a clear, quick and effective route for residents’ voices to be heard and listened to, and responsibility and accountability must rest with clearly identifiable senior individuals. These principles (recommended in the Hackitt Review), must apply to insulation from cold as well as fire safety.
The standards and practices that led to the Grenfell fire must not go on to cost more lives.

Yours sincerely,

Syed Ahmed, Director, Energy for London
Judith Amanthis, Housing Association Residents Action (HARA)
Cathy Augustine, Women’s Officer, Wantage & Didcot Constituency Labour Party
Molly Ayton, Genesis Residents Association
Chris Baugh, Assistant General Secretary, Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)
Ben Beach, Cities Inquiry Group
Daniel Benjamin, Tenant, Salix Homes
Hannah Berry, Co-ordinator, Greater Manchester Housing Action
Sian Berry AM, London Assembly Member, Camden Councillor and co-leader of the Green Party
Miriam Binder, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) Brighton
Paul Blomfield MP, Sheffield Central
Brenda Boardman, Emeritus Fellow with Lower Carbon Futures Programme, University of Oxford
Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretaries, National Education Union (NEU)
Tom Brake MP, Carshalton and Wallington
Peter Brown, NV Buildings Salford Quays Management Limited
John Burgess, Branch Secretary, Barnet UNISON
Linda Burnip, Bob Ellard, Paula Peters, Steering Group members, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)
Ruth Cadbury MP, Brentford & Isleworth
Amy Cameron, Director, 10:10 Climate Action
Jumbo Chan, Councillor, Brent
Alison Clarke, Councillor, Liverpool Knotty Ash
Chris Claridge, Chair, Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations (SGTO)
Frances Clarke, Founder, Tower Blocks UK
Sarah Cleo, Architect, Concrete Action
Ellen Clifford, Inclusion London
Vernon Coaker MP, Gedling
David Collins, Former Chairman of Grenfell Tower Residents’ Compact
Rosie Cooper MP, West Lancashire
Vickie Cooper, Lecturer, The Open University
Kieran Crowe, Secretary, Barnet Trades Union Council
Jon Cruddas MP, Dagenham and Rainham
Alex Cunningham MP, Stockton North
Jim Cunningham MP, Coventry South
Ed Davey MP, Kingston & Surbiton
Durga Davis, South East London Sisters Uncut
Martyn Day MP, Linlithgow and East Falkirk
Michael Deas, London Renters Union
Aysen Dennis, Chair , Wendover Community Tenants and Residents Association; and Fight4theAylesbury
Emma Dent Coad MP, Kensington
Fleur Disney, Community Energy London
Divest London, Campaign, Divest London
Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography, Oxford, Personal Capacity
David Drew MP, Stroud
Jack Dromey MP, Birmingham & Erdington
Dr Rowland Dye, Scientist
Dame Louise Ellman MP, Liverpool Riverside
Andria Efthimiou-Mordaunt MSc, Coordinator, John Mordaunt Trust. Usersvoice.org
Almuth Ernsting, Co-Director, Biofuelwatch
Craig Farlow, UNITE the Union NEYH (North East, Yorkshire and Humberside)
David Forman, Secretary, Harlow Trades Union Council
Ishmael Francis-Murray, Former Grenfell resident and Film Maker, “Failed by the State”
Mick Gilgunn, Treasurer, Construction Safety Campaign
Roger Godsiff MP, Birmingham Hall Green
John Grayson, Co-chair, South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG)
Danielle Gregory, Co-founder, Ledbury Action Group
Sally Grey, Treasurer, Bevin Court Tenants and Residents Association
Scarlet Hall, Coal Action Network
Steven Hall, President, Greater Manchester Association of Trades Councils
Darren Hartley, Chief Executive, TAROE Trust
Revd David Haslam MBE, Methodist Minister
Carol Hayton, Treasurer, Defend Council Housing
Sam Hayward and Ruth London, Fuel Poverty Action
Wera Hobhouse MP, Bath
Dr Stuart Hodkinson, Associate Professor, School of Geography, University of Leeds
Ian Hodson, National President, Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU)
Zita Holbourne, National Chair, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK
Rachel Hopkins, Councillor, Luton
George Howarth MP, Knowsley
Emma Hughes, Switched On London
Lorraine Inglis, Frack Off London
Claire James, Campaign Against Climate Change
Barry Johnson, Branch Secretary, UNITE NE/406/29
Eva Crossan Jory and Zamzam Ibrahim, Vice Presidents of Welfare, and Society and Citizenship, National Union of Students (NUS)
Paul Kershaw, Chair, London Housing Workers Branch, UNITE the Union
Suzy Killip, Chair, Pembroke Park Residents Association
David King, Co-chair, Peabody Family Voice
Ted Knight, Executive member Croydon TUC; Regional Committee member UNITE Norman Lamb MP, North Norfolk
Adam Lambert, Regional Officer, UNITE the Union
Graeme Langton, Chair, Malus Court Tenants and Residents Association, Salford
Frances Leader, Anti Fracking International
Ellen Lebethe, Chair, Lambeth Pensioners Action Group
Jane Lee, Branch Officer, Greater Manchester Mental Health Branch, UNISON
Sampson Low, Head of Policy, UNISON
Rachel Loudain, Victoria Wharf Residents
Caroline Lucas MP, Brighton Pavilion
Hannan Majid, Co-Director, Rainbow Collective & Films For Food
Carl Makin, Secretary, Tenants Union UK
Fanny Malinen, Debt Resistance UK
Alec McFadden, Press officer, Salford TUC
Ian McIntyre, Branch Secretary, UNITEthe Union 0742M Branch (Runcorn)
Rob Miguel, National Health and Safety Advisor, UNITE the Union
Mr F Mohamed, Tenant, Chalcots Estate, London
Grahame Morris MP, Easington
Phil Murphy, Former Fire Safety Officer, Greater Manchester, Manchester Sustainable Communities
Tytus Murphy, Reclaim the Power London
Finnian Murtagh, Fossil Free London
Colin Nickless, Housing activist
Rev Paul Nicolson, Founder, Taxpayers Against Poverty
Steven North, Branch Secretary, Salford City UNISON
Tony O’Brien, Chair , Bermondsey UNITE Construction Branch
Francis O’Connor, blog author/editor, Grenfell Action Group
Saskia O’Hara, Focus E15 Campaign
Uzoamaka Okafor, Chair, Myatts Field North Residents Association and PFI Monitoring Board (MFN-RAMB)
Elizabeth Okpo, Spruce Court Action Group (Salford)
Danielle Paffard, UK Campaigner, 350.org
Robert Palgrave, Treasurer, Hereford Green Party
Steve Parry, Chair, Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition
Mick Patrick, Chair, Harlow Defend Council Housing
Jacky Peacock, CEO, Advice4Renters
Nadine Pfrang, Apartment Owner, Green Quarter, Manchester
Sue Plain, Vice-Chair UNISON National Service Group Executive (personal capacity)
Faisal Rashid MP, Warrington South
Fran Reddington, Leaseholder, Green Quarter, Manchester
Jonathan Reynolds MP, Stalybridge and Hyde
Beverley Reynolds-Logue, Representative, Green Quarter Residents, Manchester
Dereck Roberts, UNITE Retired Members Swansea Area Branch Equalities Officer; Former Local Councillor
Tina Rothery, UK Nanas
Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Brighton Kemptown
Rutiparna Saha, Leaseholder, building with type A3 ACM cladding in Bromley
Bridgit Sam-Bailey, Chair, Lewisham Pensioners’ Forum
Jacob Secker, Secretary, Broadwater Farm Residents’ Association
Anne Schuman, Secretary, Lewisham Pensioners’ Forum
Arthur Shaw, Treasurer, Bromley Trades Council
Jan Shortt, General Secretary, National Pensioners Convention
Tulip Siddiq MP, Hampstead and Kilburn
Anthony Simpson, Vice Chair, UNITE SIMA Wales Branch
Gee Sinha, Director, ReSpace Projects
Natasha Sivanandan, Equalities advisor, London
Diane Skidmore, Secretary, Tulse Hill New Community Group
Andy Slaughter MP, Hammersmith
Marilyn Smith, Executive Director, EnAct Energy Action Project
Paul Sng, Director, Velvet Joy Productions
Georgie Stephanou, Spoken word artist (Grenfell Britain), Potent Whisper
Jo Swinson MP, East Dunbartonshire
Franklin Thomas, Northumberland Park Decides
Steve Tombs, Professor of Criminology, The Open University
Steve Turner, Secretary, Chorley and District Trades Council
Anuj Vats, Citiscape resident
Matt Western MP, Warwick & Leamington
David Wilson, President, Lancashire Association of Trades Councils
Chris Williamson MP, Derby North
Gerard Woodhouse, Councillor, Liverpool
Tom Woolley, Architect
Matt Wrack, General Secretary, The Fire Brigades Union (FBU)

The authors of this letter invited signatures from organisations, MPs, and others with relevant positions of influence or expertise. These signatures are above. Also appended are the names of private individuals, who although this letter was not a petition, felt strongly on the issue and have added their names:

Charlotte Aitken, Global Administrator, ITF International Transport Workers’ Federation
Deniz Akdogan, Senior Section Assistant, ITF International Transport Workers’ Federation
Fraser Anderson, Unite Member
Andrea, Unite Member
Simon Baker, Campaigner
James Bartholomeusz
Peter Bell
Steve Bennett, Shop steward, Unite the Union
David Bettles, Facilities Manager, ITF
Peter Billington, Secretary, Lancashire Association of Trades Councils
Alyssa Bougie, Development Assistant, EnAct Energy Action Project
Danielle Butler, Researcher
Kat Calderon, Writer/Photographer
Louise Calton, Unite Member
Patrick J Casey, Labour Activist
Ester Cervero, Unite Member
Ana Coric, Social Media Coordinator, The ENERGY ACTION Project
E.D. Crum
Damian Donnelly
Elizabeth, Fuel Poverty Action member
Emmaluna, Independent Community Support Volunteer
Julia Emmerson
Jodi Evans
Mariëlle Feenstra, PhD researcher gender and energy poverty
Victor Figueroa
Claudia Firth
Fozia, Community activist
Emilie Francois
John H Grigg
Ameen Hadi, Treasurer, Salford City Unison
Ali Howes, Our Public Transport programme
William Jarrett, Unite activist, Unite NE/408/26
Astrid Gabel Jeary, Claims Handler, ITF
Patricia jockins, Unite Member
L Johns, Unite Member
Katherine
Audrey King
Steve Kingsnorth, Mechanical Engineer – Steel Industry
Carole Lakomski
Bahir Laattoe, member of NEU and Minutes Secretary of Barnet TUC
Peter Lazenby, Unite Community member
Helen Le Fleming, Event Manager, Unite The Union
Steve Leggett
Chris Mason-Ryan, Trade Union Member and Delegate on the National Pensioners Convention
Denise Morgan, HR Manager, ITF
Michael Odriscoll
Christopher O’Connor, Shop Steward, UKDCA
Grace Omer-McWalter, Political Engagement Officer, Fire Brigades Union
Roger Paul, Unite Community Member
Stewart Pearson, Retired, County Council
Dave Postles, Unite Community member
Brian Rayner
Scott Reeve
Pam Remon
Susie Rundle, Admin, ITF
SANDRA, Citizen
Sean Sayer, ITF
Anne Schuman, Secretary, Lewisham Pensioners’ Forum
Anthony Simpson, CBM Tech
Sandra Smith
Kieran Stoneley, Union Activist, Unite the Union
Anita Sturdy, Concerned member of public
Gavin Sumpter, Systems Analyst
Andrew Sutherland, Tenant
Steve Tombs, Professor of Criminology
Evelin Tomson
Pilgrim Tucker, Community Organiser and Campaigner
Nichole Tugwell, Human being, mother, daughter, sister, teacher
Jimmy Tyson
Carmen Vazquez
Mr Derek Ware, Unite member
Andrew Wastling, Homeless Support Worker, Drug & Alcohol Abstinence Project
Dean Weston
Lynn Whittaker
Jane Williamson
Lillian Winter
Lisa Wormsley, Photographer, Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle
Neil Wynne, Electrical Manager
Steve Yandell, An individual citizen

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