“The Grenfell Pathway”- Will lessons be learned?

thumbnail_helloThe residents of Grenfell Tower know better than anyone how our landlord, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO), oppress tenants and leaseholders with impunity and how they use one hand to smash us in the face with a hammer and the other to pick our back pockets. The Grenfell Action Group believe that the TMO are a malign force, an “evil racket” who choose to act in a manner more akin to a mini mafia than a respectable social housing provider.

During the recent Grenfell Tower Improvement Works residents were lied to and bullied by the TMO. Despite the constant representations of the Grenfell Tower Resident Association (see link below) to obtain justice for residents, the RBKC and the TMO have quashed all our attempts to get sunlight shone onto our legitimate complaints and have used their immense resources and their combined in house propaganda machines to portray the Improvement Works as a great, trouble free operation:

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/grenfell-tower-residents-address-rbkc-scrutiny-committee/

We believe that, without being willing to admit to the many difficulties that accompanied the Grenfell Tower Improvement Works, the TMO is effectively burying it’s head in the sand and will simply make the same mistakes time and time again resulting in much misery and pain for innocent residents. At Grenfell Tower we recognise that we were, in effect, ‘guinea pigs’ for a wider refurbishment programme that the Council is set to undertake “pan-borough” over the coming years.  For example, we know that works will commence in due course at Treverton Tower and Raymede Tower, presumably also while residents are in occupation.

As well as sharing the resident viewpoint and experience on the GAG blog, we would like lessons to be learned from our experiences, so that a ‘Grenfell Pathway’ for future tower block refurbishments can be devised to assist the Council, the contractors, and the TMO in the future.  Our recommendations for this ‘Pathway’ would include:

  1. Promises made to residents are kept.
  2. Communications are clear and wherever possible made in person – and if anything changes in terms of what has been told to residents this will be communicated immediately and with clarity.
  3. There is enough flexibility in the approach to communication that alternative strategies can be employed if the situation evolves and different approaches are needed through the life of the project.
  4. Formal collective consultation arrangements are set in place at the start of any project, either through the setting up of a Residents’ Association or through a TMO Compact.  These meetings should be organised by the TMO and take place every six weeks once the works commences.  In addition, these meetings should be organised at an appropriate frequency before and after the works.  Communication through public meetings and/or residents’ association should be organised and led by TMO, involve the Contractor and any local Councillors and are maintained throughout the life of the project.
  5. The issues residents raise are treated as valid and accurate in the first instance, respected and dealt with fairly, quickly and appropriately.
  6. A personable and accessible-to-all process is put in place for the capturing and responding to residents’ issues.  Past experience has shown that the TMO complaints process is too cumbersome, only available to IT literate people and is not timely and efficient enough. In addition,  a process needs to be in place so that residents’ concerns are noted in real time (for instance, at when they are raised at public meetings), logged, tracked, actioned, and responded to.  A “You Said. We Did.” type of communication format could be used; but would only be effective with an improved process for dealing with issues.
  7. The TMO will dedicate one competent and personable Officer to deal specifically with matters arising from the project to ensure continuity and a speedy response.
  8. An independent Residents’ Advocate is appointed to have direct access to senior TMO management as part of a monthly meeting cycle, to expeditiously collate and progress residents’ individual and collective concerns, and to be kept aware and up-to-speed with progress on the project. This could be a salaried position as the resident advocate may have a near full time role in representing their community.
  9. There is a senior manager or director level resource on the project who is not “task orientated” but “resident” or “people” orientated.  This person would have executive accountability and budget control, such that they could action issues in a timely manner, and influence the whole project, including contractor actions.
  10. The TMO will ensure it knows and understands the personal circumstances of every resident and makes special arrangements where these are needed.
  11. Written communications will include a short paragraph pointing out that bringing a new-born baby into the home may be difficult when extensive building works are going on and asking anyone likely to be in that position to get in touch as quickly as possible so that individual arrangements can be made as required.  This also needs to be raised at all open meetings and with resident association representatives
  12. All the contractors’ Resident Liaison Officers will be fully trained to be alert to issues of the type in point 11 (above).
  13. It will be recognised that a “respite flat” available to other residents is by definition not suitable in these circumstances, since caring for a new-born baby is very special and needs peace and privacy.
  14. Everyone involved in the programme – residents, contractors, Council and the TMO  will be encouraged to acknowledge mistakes and learn from them, rather than adopt a defensive response.  This is only an attitude which can be encouraged as an “invitation to follow” for residents; i.e. if the TMO and Contractor do not exemplify civilised and courteous behaviour it is unlikely to be matched by all residents and even if the TMO and Contractor do take this approach they may have to be patient with some residents.
  15. Whenever possible, contractors will not use the same lifts as residents.(For example, there are external walkways at each floor at Treverton and Raymede, so it will be possible to install temporary external lifts for these work programmes.)

 The fact that our proposed “Grenfell Pathway” is as comprehensive and lengthy as it is is testimony to the myriad of contentious issues that arose between residents and the TMO during the Grenfell Tower Improvement works. It is a sad fact that the TMO would prefer to sweep these problems under the carpet rather than acknowledge the reality of their existence. We believe that any residents living in TMO properties facing refurbishment should ensure that the painful lessons from the Grenfell Tower Improvement Works are learned and that the TMO are held to account by the adoption of the “Grenfell Pathway” and are not allowed to continue their shameful abuse of tenants and leaseholders.

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