THE DISEMPOWERED OF GRENFELL TOWER

meerkats

The Grenfell Tower power surge issue remains unexplained and unresolved despite the best and constant efforts of ourselves, and especially the dogged leadership of the Grenfell Tower Leaseholders Association who have lobbied and campaigned continuously since the appalling negligence of May 2013 first came to light.

We recently reported on the discussions about the much delayed Grenfell Tower refurbishment project which took place at the RBKC Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee in July. The Report to the Committee also included a section on the power surge issue, but we decided to feedback separately on that, to avoid confusion and because it warranted special attention, but also because the report contained little on the power crisis that was new or informative, and much that was misleading if not thoroughly deceitful. For most of this we can probably thank the TMO officer(s) who provided the briefing for the report.

We believe that the power surges at Grenfell Tower posed a major fire risk to many residents but this is not highlighted in the Committee report. Residents witnessed smoke coming out of light fittings and other electrical appliances, some of which literally exploded. Despite the fact that these dangerous and highly alarming incidents were reported to the TMO on 11th May no serious action was taken until the problems escalated out of control on 29th May 2013.

Rather than highlight the seriousness of the situation the Committee report appears to have been designed to minimise and understate. For instance, at one point it contains the following:

“There has been a considerable volume of communication from a small number of residents in the form of blogs and open “round robin” e-mails, some of which is from people who are not residents of the block. This communication contains a lot of speculation about the cause of the problem. KCTMO has not responded directly to this communication and has focused on keeping residents informed of the facts through direct communication.”

Apart from the fact that the TMO has done anything but focus on “keeping residents informed…by direct communication” this piece of blatant propaganda clearly implies that all the fuss has been created by a ”a small number of residents” some of whom “are not (even) residents of the block”

Actually, the only recent agitator, as far as we are aware, who was not a Grenfell Tower resident, happens to be yours truly, the editor of this blog. We make no apology for this. But in any case the Grenfell Tower Leaseholders Association, who have done most of the lobbying on this issue, had organised, and arranged to have presented to the Committee, a petition signed by no less than 94 Grenfell Tower residents – this represented the vast majority of Grenfell Tower households, thus contradicting the TMO’s pathetic attempts to present this as a minority issue.  Regrettably this kind of detail would appear to be of no interest to TMO propagandists. We are still awaiting the Council’s response to the petition, and whether or not this will satisfy the petitioners remains to be seen.

A supporting verbal report given on the night, presumably by the same TMO officer(s) who had informed the report, claimed that:

“There was no smoke, it was in fact steam caused by water from a leak dropping on to something hot in the flat below “

In our opinion it is most unlikely that the TMO officer who made this claim actually believed anything of the sort, and this can only have been a crude and disgraceful attempt to discredit reports made by residents that they saw and smelt smoke coming from various electrical appliances on the morning of 29th May. This was the day the whole electrical system went into meltdown, and by the TMO’s own admission, fused several key meters and damaged or destroyed electrical appliances in 40 individual residences. In our opinion this also exemplifies the generally contemptuous attitude the TMO are widely believed to have towards residents, especially those who happen to live at Lancaster West.

Do they really expect anyone to believe this tripe? Do they take us all for fools? – Certainly.

Do they take the Scrutiny Committee members for fools also? – Possibly.

Or maybe they just expect the Committee members to passively collude by pretending to believe this and any other nonsense they cobble together.

Apart from the above there was little else of interest on the power issue. The report stated that it was too early (three months on from the earliest reports of power surges) to say whether the problem had been fully resolved, although they were confident that it had. The TMO also claimed that it was too early to determine where responsibility lay. The cause of the problems was declared to have been arcing in the mains supply cable, but no attempt was made to explain what caused the arcing, and there was still no report of progress on compensation payments, beyond the fact that details of affected residents had been collected, a complete log of all damaged equipment and property had been created, and claim forms had been made available to anyone who wanted them.

Apart from being furious about the delay a number of residents have also expressed dissatisfaction at some of the questions posed on the claim forms, and Councillor Blakeman, who presented the petition to the Chair of the Scrutiny Committee declared that she was;

“…not satisfied that RBKC and the TMO explained adequately about the delay in responding to residents’ initial concerns, nor the delay in compensating them for their losses”.

On the face of it there appears to have been little point in submitting this issue for discussion by the Scrutiny Committee.  As far as we are aware they expressed no opinion, formed no judgement, and made no recommendations on the matter.

SAME OLD.  SAME OLD.

Here’s an interesting footnote to finish on:

The most recent Fire Risk Assessment for Grenfell Tower was conducted in November 2012. We have a copy of the assessment report from which we previously quoted the following passage when we were campaigning on fire safety in Grenfell Tower and the Grenfell Tower area. It said in part:

“RGE Services are under contract to TMO to provide portable fire fighting equipment, testing, servicing and maintenance. The fire extinguisher in this building, the basement boiler room, the lift motor room, the ground floor electrical room plus other areas were out of test date according to the contractors label on the extinguishers. The last test date was on the 8th August 2011. Some located in the roof level areas had “condemned” written on them in large black writing with a last test date of 2009 or 2010”.

Coincidentally, the same company (RGE) are contracted to do electrical wiring safety checks for the TMO and have replaced much of the domestic electrical wiring on Lancaster West Estate. We don’t know for sure whether RGE were responsible for regular inspection and/or maintenance of the mains electrical supply at Grenfell Tower, and so it would be inappropriate for us to suggest negligence by RGE  in this regard.

NONETHELESS THE COINCIDENCE IS STRIKING.

Meanwhile, the long wait for answers, and for compensation, goes on.

Don’t hold your breath people.

A FINAL NOTE: WE DIDN’T USE THE WORDS ‘COVER UP’ ANYWHERE IN THIS PIECE. PERHAPS WE SHOULD HAVE DONE.

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