The Cladding Controversy – Back Stabbing And Dirty Tricks

The RIBA statement in the appendix to this blog is indirectly related to a convoluted train of events which has had profound repercussions for me and involved a deliberate process of victimisation which I bitterly resent.  Today’s blog will, therefore, seek to elucidate the main details and implications of what transpired. Some of the less important detail in the email exchanges to which I will refer has been left out in the interests of simplicity. If Bhatt Murphy Solicitors or Grenfell United have any problem with these omissions I would be more than happy to publish the email exchanges in full.

On the afternoon of Friday 5 October I received a telephone call from the solicitor, Shamik Dutta of Bhatt Murphy, who until recently had represented me in relation to the Grenfell Tower Fire and the Grenfell Inquiry. To my complete surpise he castigated me over a blog I had posted the previous day and demanded that I delete it or rewrite it in a manner that he found acceptable and considered consistent with a policy he had agreed with his other Grenfell clients, mostly, I have since discovered, members of Grenfell United. The blog in question was:

FLAMMABLE CLADDING – NO UNIVERSAL BAN

When I published this blog I had no knowledge of the policy which Shamik Dutta has since alleged that I breached, having been excluded from all discussions that took place with his other Grenfell clients (ie Grenfell United), all of whom enjoy Core Participant status in the Grenfell Inquiry. I have repeatedly been denied CP status at the Inquiry despite three applications, (an initial application followed by two subsequent appeals lodged by my legal team).

During the above mentioned ill-tempered telephone exchange Shamik Dutta made it clear to me that unless I deleted the blog in question, or radically altered the content, he would withdraw the legal representation that Bhatt Murphy had hitherto provided to me (although not always to my satisfaction). In effect he was threatening me with the most severe consequences within his power unless I agreed to his demands. Having thought this over I ultimately refused to capitulate. At the end of this exchange he said that he would consider the matter further over the weekend and would inform me of his final decision on the following Monday. I believed that this final decision would almost certainly depend on whatever actions I took or compromises I agreed to in the meantime.

Shortly after the end of this telephone exchange I received a lengthy email from Mr Dutta explaining the nature and rationale of the policy that Bhatt Murphy had agreed with their ‘other’ clients. This concerned the minimum future standard of combustibility they would be seeking from government for external cladding systems on high-rise buildings in the UK. He also revealed that this policy had been agreed in tandem with what he called the G4 group of legal firms. I presumed this G4 to be composed of other legal firms acting on behalf of the majority of the bereaved and survivors of the Grenfell fire, but not the wider Lancaster West community. He claimed both my blog and the Dear Kitty blog, on which it was closely based, had fundamentally breached the policy in question and accused me of a serious and deliberate breach of trust on this issue.

He made it clear that Bhatt Murphy, in tandem with other G4 members, had agreed with (or convinced) the majority of their clients to lobby against all materials that failed to meet the A2 standard of ‘limited combustibility’ and he accused me of explicitly supporting the stricter A1 standard that the FBU, and I later discovered, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) favoured and to which Bhatt Murphy strenuously objected. He described my blog as “depressingly inaccurate” and said it was “the collective view of the G4 legal team that the A1/A2 debate is a distraction” (and apparently an unwelcome complication of the pursuit by the G4 of their preferred A2 objective).

It seems to me that describing an opposing policy objective held by both the FBU and RIBA in such unduly dismissive terms does justice to neither body and disrespects both in the process. Furthermore, I believe that the Grenfell and other affected communities are entitled to be fully informed of both sides of this argument and allowed to debate the merits of both positions openly, to enable them to make an informed decision as to which standard is preferable. Restricting all discussion and decision making power to those with Core Participant status (ie only to former residents of Grenfell Tower) denies the right to participate in this process to all other Lancaster West residents and is fundamentally exclusive and anti-democratic.

Shamik Dutta also asserted (and I understood this statement as indicative of the threat he was making against me);

“…the mere fact of the Grenfell Action Group promoting a view which is contrary to our advice is detrimental to my other Grenfell clients’ interests”

However, the allegations he had made against me were fundamentally flawed in a number of respects. Firstly, the allegation that I had promoted the A1 standard in opposition to the A2 standard (agreed without my knowledge by the G4) is completely false. I invite my readers to re-read the blog (Flammable Cladding – No Total Ban) to which he had so aggressively objected (and the Dear Kitty blog from which it is derived). They will find that neither blog contains any reference to either the A1 or the A2 standard.

Moreover, prior to receiving his email, that had quickly followed the fraught telephone exchange on Friday 5 October, I had never encountered the terms A1 or A2, and had no knowledge of what they signified. Nor had I any knowledge that Bhatt Murphy and its ‘other clients’ (many or most of whom it was now revealed are Grenfell United members) had agreed to promote the A2 standard while the FBU had opted to promote the stricter A1 standard. This difference of opinion had led, apparently, to a significant conflict between Bhatt Murphy and the FBU on what appears to have been no more than a minor policy difference. Shamik Dutta had failed to inform me beforehand of the existence of this disagreement, and of the fact that the FBU were not alone in their preference for the A1 Standard, as the RIBA statement in the appendix below illustrates.

Ironically the same email that Dutta had sent me on that fateful Friday also contained the following passage;

“A1 and A2 materials are very similar, the figures for relative thermal energy outputs of A1 and A2 are 2MJ/m2 and 3MJ/m2 respectively (this is a negligible difference) and the experts in the Inquiry do not address a significant difference in behaviour between the two.”

More than ironic, I find it deeply troubling, that Dutta (and presumably his favoured clients at Grenfell United) would describe the difference between the A1 and A2 standards as ’negligible’ while at the same time expressing significant hostility towards the FBU and their support of the A1 standard. Furthermore the imposition of a strict boycott on anyone within Bhatt Murphy’s sphere of influence – in this case myself – who dared to quote the FBU general secretary, Matt Wrack, regardless of whether or not that quote included any reference to the FBU’s preference for the A1 policy or indicated agreement with, or adherence to that policy strikes me as unacceptably arbitrary and unreasonable.

For the avoidance of any confusion or misunderstanding I reiterate again that I had expressed no such agreement with or adherence to either the A1 or A2 standard or the FBU preference for the A1 standard.

I have still not adopted a position favouring either the A1 or A2 standard and do not yet feel well enough informed to make such a choice.  I wrote to Shamik Dutta late on Sunday night 7th October defending myself defiantly against the outrageously false allegations he had made against me, drawing his attention to the inconsistencies in the lengthy email he had sent me on Friday 5th October and defending my right to publish whatever material I saw fit in the Grenfell Action Group blog, regardless of his opinion of it. I had no expectation that he would respond positively to this communication so I didn’t mince my words, but I did specifically ask him how it could be reasonable for him to penalise me for allegedly failing to agree with a collective policy, shared by the G4 and their clients, all knowledge of which had been withheld from me and discussion of which I had been entirely excluded from. This question went unanswered then, as it remains unanswered now.

Sure enough, and exactly as expected, he emailed me on Monday ignoring my protestations of innocence and confirming what he had threatened right from the start.  I reproduce below the key conclusions which he expressed in that email;

 “At this stage your legal team considers it inadvisable to support the FBU position, there is evidently a risk of conflict where you appear to publicly disagree with the position I am instructed to advance on behalf of other clients. The matters set out above mean that I cannot now represent you in relation to a renewed application for core participant status or in the preparation of a statement for the inquiry and your best interests will be properly served by seeking alternative representation from a solicitor who does not find him or herself in a position of conflict.”

I don’t know why or how Shamik Dutta chose to be so willfully deaf to my protestations of innocence, but what I do know, with complete certainty, is that this ‘deafness’ must have been willful, contrived and disingenuous and was therefore inconsistent with the ethical standards expected and required of someone in his profession, just as they are of any other human being with moral integrity and a moral compass. This leads me to conclude that something more macchiavelian was afoot here, a power play of which I had hitherto been entirely ignorant, but which I am now, as the victim, at last beginning to comprehend.

Ultimately I suspect that ‘what done for me’ may have been posting, in several Facebook groups, beneath the link to the blog I had posted on the previous Thursday, what I considered to be a relatively mild but well deserved rebuke to Grenfell United for hobnobbing too closely with the Tory Government, naively believing the lies they had been peddled by the Cabinet Member for Housing, James Brokenshire, and pre-announcing those lies publicly. Brokenshire’s policy announcement to the Conservative Party Conference on 1st October contradicted promises he had earlier made to representatives of Grenfell United. Those promises had been disingenuous and Grenfell United should have known better than to naively swallow his lies hook, line and sinker.

The comment I had posted on Facebook was as follows;

“The softly-softly approach of Grenfell United (cosying up to Brokenshire) didn’t help. Believing in their own self-importance they pre-announced a total ban and prematurely congratulated themselves on their great achievement. Fools rush in…..”

When I posted it I was completely unaware, as I’ve indicated above, that many, if not most Bhatt Murphy Grenfell clients are members of Grenfell United. I didn’t know this because I had never been told, just as I had never been told about the A1-A2 conflict with the FBU and had been entirely excluded from the decision making process during which Bhatt Murphy and its CP clients had agreed to promote the A2 minimum standard.

In that final email in which Shamik Dutta withdrew legal representation from me he made a point of referencing my criticism of Grenfell United as though it was a serious breach of trust and implied some future intention on my part to publicly contradict evidence given by Grenfell United members to the Grenfell Inquiry;

“In the event you are granted core participant status in the Inquiry or choose to submit a witness statement for the Inquiry and wish to repeat these or similar criticisms of Grenfell United and its members you are free to do so but it would place me in a position of conflict because I am unable to advance that position on your behalf at the same time as properly representing my other clients’ interests.

The proposal that I might “repeat these and similar criticisms of Grenfell United“ in evidence to the Inquiry is utterly ridiculous and Shamik Dutta knows it. I had no intention, and had expressed no intention, of criticising Grenfell United or their members in any evidence I might give to the Inquiry, but that, it seems was entirely irrelevant. What mattered was that representatives of Grenfell United had clearly complained privately to Bhatt Murphy about my comment and Shamik Dutta had acted on their instructions. I had posted the comment on five closed Facebook groups of which I have membership and it had attracted no response. It seems, therefore, that Grenfell United members clearly resented my criticism, but preferred the cowardly back stabbing approach of complaining to Shamik Dutta rather than engaging in open debate with me.

From my perspective, all the signs suggest that Bhatt Murphy and Grenfell United conspired together to contrive my expulsion from the Bhatt Murphy fold and that this whole sordid affair was designed to justify this expulsion of a lone independent voice, without powerful friends, who no longer fit whatever secretive ideology they had cooked up without my knowledge or agreement. There may be more to my expulsion, and there probably is, than the A1-A2 issue, but I believe it is vital that they debate this issue with RIBA and the FBU and any other bodies who disagree with their A2 policy. I don’t believe their machiavellian scheming and backstabbing, or their bully-boy tactics, will serve them well in that debate – but then I have seen no sign so far that they have any intention of engaging in any such debate.

I am now without any legal representation and it seems highly unlikely, given that I have been repeatedly refused Core Participant status, that I will be giving evidence to the Grenfell Inquiry, regardless of the value of the evidence I have to offer and which I have previously published on the GAG blog, including strong evidence of a culture at RBKC and KCTMO of complacency, incompetence and negligence, especially with regard to fire safety issues at Grenfell Tower, dating back at least as far as 2004. It is a great pity that the Inquiry may now be deprived of that evidence.

If I can so easily be cast into outer darkness on trumped up charges, the first of which has no basis in fact and the second of which comprises a relatively mild but well deserved criticism I dared to express of Grenfell United, then this flies in the face of natural justice and of the ethical standards required of Shamik Dutta and the legal firm he represents.

A pox on both their houses!

Francis O’Connor – Author/Editor Grenfell Action Group

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Appendix:

RIBA calls for comprehensive ban on combustible materials

14 August 2018

The RIBA has submitted evidence to the Government’s consultation on banning the use of combustible materials in the external walls of high-rise residential buildings.

After a lengthy investigation, the Institute has concluded that a ban on combustible materials is the only way to ensure that our buildings are safe and fit for the future.

The response was made to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) consultation that was launched in the wake of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety. The architect’s body argues for A1 ‘non-combustible’ certification, contrary to those who continue to suggest that products of ‘limited combustibility’ should be permitted. The Institute also strongly recommends that the ban is extended to include any high-rise buildings, such as offices and educational buildings, to ensure that the public is properly protected in the event of a fire.

Adrian Dobson, Executive Director Professional Services says,

“The RIBA strongly recommends that the Government supports a comprehensive ban on combustible materials for all high rise buildings. Continuing to allow materials of ‘limited combustibility’ (A2 classification) is unacceptable in the wake of the tragedy at Grenfell Tower and the evidence from the UK and around the world that these materials do not provide adequate protection for the public.

There is a lot of confusion in the industry over what materials are, and should be, permitted on both new buildings and in the retro-fitting of existing buildings. Banning these materials is the first step towards restoring the trust in our regulatory system and the building industry.”

The RIBA Expert Group on Fire Safety set out four key recommendations for baseline prescriptive requirements:

  • Non-combustible cladding – significant products in external wall construction for existing or new buildings over 18m in height must be certified ‘non-combustible’ (European classification A1) products only.
  • More than one means of escape – in all new multiple occupancy residential buildings, a requirement for at least two staircases, offering alternative means of escape, where the top floor is more than 11m above ground level or the top floor is more than three storeys above the ground level storey (as required for commercial buildings).
  • Sprinklers – retro-fitting of sprinklers / automatic fire suppression systems and centrally addressable fire alarm systems to existing residential buildings above 18m from ground level as ‘consequential improvements’ where a building is subject to ‘material alterations’.
  • Mandatory requirement for sprinklers/automatic fire suppression systems and addressable central fire alarms in all new and converted residential buildings, as already required in Wales.

The key RIBA recommendations to the MHCLG consultation include:

  • A ban on combustible materials in external wall construction on buildings over 18m in height must be imposed.
  • The ban should restrict window spandrels, balconies, brise soleil, and similar building elements to European classification A1 products only
  • The ban should restrict plasterboard to European Classification A2-s1, d0 products and above only.

In addition, within external wall construction, the ban should restrict sheathing boards, insulation and outermost cladding products to European classification A1 products only. The ban should not include the buildings primary structure. The primary structure should have adequate fire protection (see Building Regulations Requirement B3). The RIBA recommends European Classification A1 rather than A2 in the external wall construction, to protect against production of smoke and flaming particles/droplets. If the government decides to proceed with the ban using the lower classification (A2), the RIBA recommends that this be strictly limited to A2-s1, d0. This would ensure very limited smoke production and no flaming particles/droplets from the products included in the ban.

https://www.architecture.com/knowledge-and-resources/knowledge-landing-page/call-for-a-comprehensive-ban-on-combustible-materials

Combustible materials: RIBA’s position explained;

https://www.architecture.com/knowledge-and-resources/knowledge-landing-page/combustible-materials-ribas-position-explained

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KCC APOLOGISES FOR WORNINGTON SALE

 

  • Sale of College’s Wornington Road site in 2016 ‘plainly wrong’ and not in the interests of its local community
  • Sale process characterised by management failings and poor governance
  • Negotiations with Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea underway to determine how the Wornington Road site should serve its local community into the long term
  • College sets out ‘complete break with the past’ and ‘relentless focus’ on serving the needs of its communities, students and staff in Kensington and Chelsea

Kensington and Chelsea College today publishes an independent review by the investigative consultancy Kroll into the July 2016 sale of the College’s Wornington Road site to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC).

The report catalogues a failure of management and governance in several areas including:

  •  lack of consultation with the local community in the period before the sale;
  • failure to consider and evaluate alternatives to a sale to RBKC (for example, potential proposals from private developers);
  • shortcomings in determining the final sale price of the Wornington Road site; and
  • ‘excluding’ of College student and staff governors before the final decision to sell the College to RBKC.

Kensington and Chelsea College Interim Chair Ian Valvona said:

The sale of the College’s Wornington Road site to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea was plainly the wrong thing to do – even when you consider the College’s very difficult financial situation in 2016.

Today the College apologises for that sale and I want to recognise the role of the local community and the Save Wornington College Campaign for helping to ensure that the full details of this sale finally saw the light of day.

The College’s core mission is to focus relentlessly on outstanding teaching and learning for our students and meet the needs of our local communities.

Selling the Wornington Road site to RBKC in 2016 was not in the interests of that mission or the College’s local community but the College is now determined to look forward and work with the community, staff and Borough to build a bright future together.”

 Kensington and Chelsea College Chief Executive and Principal Andy Cole said:

 “The report highlights shameful behaviours of past management in excluding staff, students and the local community from its discussions and decision making over the sale. There has been a complete break with the past across the last year at Executive Leadership as well as Board level and we are in negotiations with RBKC to determine how the Wornington Road site will serve the needs of its communities into the long term.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank staff for their continued professionalism in focusing on raising standards in the college – standards that now firmly position the college as one of the highest performing in the capital.

Notes to Editors:

  1. Kensington and Chelsea College (“K&CC”), a further and higher-education college located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in West London, is split into two centres: the Kensington Centre, located at Wornington Road, London, and the Chelsea Centre, located at Hortensia Road, London.
  2. On 19 July 2016 K&CC sold the Wornington Road building and land freehold to RBKC on a sale and three-year leaseback agreement. Under this sale and leaseback agreement, RBKC agreed that K&CC could lease the Wornington Road site from the Council for three years following the sale at an annual rent of GBP 1,100,000. The headline value of the transaction was GBP 28,650,000, from which GBP 3,300,000 was deducted to take account of the three-year lease agreement. The net cash sale value to K&CC was therefore GBP 25,350,000.
  3. Ian Valvona has been interim Chair of K&CC since 9 July 2018. Andy Cole has been Chief Executive and Principal since 24 February 2018. Biographies of all of K&CC’s governors can be found here – 9 new since October 2017 and 1 re-elected October 2018.
  4. K&CC engaged Kroll in May 2018 to undertake an independent review in order to provide a clear and accurate account of the sale and leaseback of the Wornington Road building. Kroll, a division of Duff & Phelps, is a leading global provider of risk solutions. For more than 45 years, Kroll has helped clients make independent risk management decisions about people, assets, operations and security through a wide range of investigations, cyber security, due diligence and compliance, physical and operational security, and data and information management services. For more information, visit www.kroll.com.
  5. Media Enquiries can be directed to the Kensington and Chelsea marketing team at news@kcc.ac.uk or 020 7573 1321.

KCC 2018-10-17_Press Notice Final

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The Grenfell Tower Atrocity by Gordon MacLeod

The Grenfell Tower Atrocity: Exposing urban worlds of inequality, injustice, and an impaired democracy

The fire that erupted in Grenfell Tower in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in west London on 14 June 2017 is widely acknowledged to be the worst experienced during UK peacetime since the nineteenth century. It is confirmed to have resulted in 72 casualties and 70 physically injured. It has also left a community physically and emotionally scarred. That the catastrophe occurred in the country’s wealthiest borough added to the shock while the circumstances surrounding it also begged questions relating to political and corporate responsibility. The UK Prime Minister swiftly established a public inquiry which is ongoing and anticipated to stretch well into 2019. This paper offers a preliminary analysis of what some are interpreting to be a national atrocity. It begins by describing the events at the time of the fire while also identifying the key controversies that began to surface. It then examines the local geography of Grenfell Tower and the surrounding Lancaster West Estate revealing an astonishing landscape of inequality across the borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The paper then uncovers how such inequality was combined with a malevolent geography of injustice whereby for several years residents raised regular warnings about the building’s safety only to be disregarded by the very organisations which were there ostensibly to protect and safeguard their livelihoods: the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea municipal authority and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation. The paper then deepens the analysis identifying how these organisations disavowed the local democratic process, in doing so dishonouring so tragically the Grenfell residents. It then finds this democratic disavowal to be multiscalar: for amid an incremental neoliberal political assault on the national welfare state, public housing across the country has become wretchedly devalued, stigmatised, and the subject of scandalous maladministration. A final section offers some preliminary analysis of the early stages of the Grenfell Inquiry, while also revealing the dignified resistance of the Grenfell community in the face of London’s increasingly plutocratic governance.

Dr Gordon MacLeod
Associate Professor (Reader)
Department of Geography
Durham University

MacLeod 2018 CITY Grenfell Tower atrocity

GRENFELL ACTION GROUP COMMENT:

A must read, this is everything that O’Hagan’s travesty was not. Beautifully written, with empathy and compassion for all who inhabit the working class ghettos of the UK, it deftly exposes the politics of greed, indifference and austerity administered by those who enjoy the entitlement and privilege of wealth and power and who enabled the badly botched refurbishment of Grenfell Tower that led directly to the tragedy of the Grenfell Fire.

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FLAMMABLE CLADDING – NO UNIVERSAL BAN

Flammable cladding will not be banned from existing buildings, Tory Housing Secretary James Brokenshire announced at the Conservative Party conference this week. This is despite the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), survivors from the Grenfell Tower fire and the Royal Institute of British Architects all demanding that it is immediately banned and stripped.

Brokenshire announced that combustible cladding is only to be banned from newly built schools, hospitals, care homes, student accommodation and residential buildings in England and only if the building is above 18m (60ft) tall.

The ban will not be applied retrospectively to materials already fitted.

In his keynote address to the Conservative Conference, Brokenshire was expected to say:

“It’s been over a year since the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire.

“This unimaginable horror has rightly shocked us all and underlined the need to do all that we can to see that such a disaster cannot happen again.

“My work with Grenfell United and the wider community has been hugely helpful in keeping this issue right at the top of the Government’s agenda.

“And that is why today I can confirm that I will change the building regulations to ban the use of combustible cladding for all high-rise residential buildings, hospitals, care homes and student accommodation and bring about a change in culture on building safety.”

However, the ban he announced to conference fell short of what he had promised and will cover only combustible materials, including cladding, on new buildings, but will not be applied retrospectively to buildings where such materials have already been fitted.

After the horror of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, where flammable cladding rapidly spread the fire, buildings were tested around the country. It was discovered that there were 468 high-rise buildings in England which tests subsequently identified as being covered in flammable cladding similar to that which had caused the Grenfell inferno.

Firefighters union the FBU has called for a complete ban on combustible cladding and the immediate removal of flammable cladding from all buildings in the UK.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said :

“This is not the outright ban on combustible cladding that firefighters have been calling for. The Westminster government continues to allow cladding of limited combustibility for any building work in the future. The FBU called for a universal ban on these flammable materials.

“These measures do not deal with the existing cladding on nearly 500 buildings across England where people live and work every day. The government’s proposals only apply to buildings over 18 metres high, plus hospitals, care homes and student accommodation – when they should apply to all buildings, whatever their height or use.”

Earlier this year, the Royal Institute of British Architects called for a total ban on flammable cladding, as well as a requirement for sprinklers to be fitted, and a second means of escape for high-rise residential buildings. Of 295 blocks of private flats across England with combustible cladding, including 28 high-rise hotels, only two have been been made safe by removing these deadly cladding systems.

Of 159 social housing blocks that have cladding that failed fire tests in the wake of the Grenfell disaster, only 15% have had the cladding removed. The government has refused to say which buildings are clad in flammable material. They claim this information could ‘endanger the mental and physical health of people living in the buildings and could compromise their safety.’

Meanwhile, in a number of councils the truth has already emerged. For instance, in the London borough of Hackney in east London, three blocks at Lincoln Court, in Bethune Road, Stamford Hill and at Hugh Gaitskell House in Stoke Newington unsafe flammable cladding is present.

Wardens are also patrolling seven-storey Burbage House in Poole Road, Hoxton, from 8pm to 8am to ‘keep an eye on the building’ because of its aluminium composite material with unmodified polyethylene filler which tests have shown do not adequately resist fire.

Alarmingly plans to re-clad Landmark Heights, in Daubeney Road Lower Clapton ‘are to be shelved’. Landmark Heights is privately owned but was originally built by the council.

The Conseratives are responsible for killing more in the Grenfell Tower fire than all the terrorist deaths in the UK since the 90’s. So if they can fund wars on terror (claiming it’s for our safety), surely they can afford sprinklers and the replacement of these deadly flammable cladding systems. Or do they not care at all about the low waged, and are happy to let them burn? Or does the war on error not matter, assuming it was a catalogue of errors that caused the Grenfell fire?

Perhaps paying attention to something other than Brexit would help. But they have no shame, and there’s no one calling them out. They gift wrapped almost 500 buildings in flammable cladding and charged the residents. Now, they keep those residents in death traps and have offloaded the ownership of many of these buildings onto private companies, so that when they burn the government can’t be sued. That’s the conservative way. Protect and serve… themselves, and no others.

Reposted (with some minor edits) by kind permission of Dear Kitty Blog;

https://dearkitty1.wordpress.com/2018/10/02/grenfell-flammable-cladding-continue-british-conservatives-say/

SEE ALSO:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/grenfell-tower-cladding-fire-high-rise-building-flammable-panels-a8564136.html

Please share this.

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Housing Associations Versus Freedom of Information Act

CLICK ANYWHERE ON THE GRAPHIC ABOVE TO OPEN THE PETITION SITE.

ALTERNATIVELY;

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/221577

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URGENT KCTMO EGM BRIEFING

Kensington & Chelsea’s Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) – which managed all council-owned properties before the Grenfell Fire – recently told its resident members that it will face closure as a company unless they agree to radical changes to its current constitution and management structure that would allow the current Board complete and permanent control of the organisation, including how it responds to any criminal investigation, the public inquiry, or civil action it may face.

Currently, a majority of seats on the KCTMO Board are reserved for resident members and any changes to its operation or management structure can only be implemented if they receive a majority vote from resident members.

At last year’s AGM, held after the Grenfell Fire, residents used their voting power to block an attempt by RBKC, backed by the KCTMO Board, to seize control of the organisation. Despite concerns that the police investigation and public inquiry would be hindered if one organisation under investigation, RBKC, gained complete control of another organisation under investigation, the KCTMO, this proposal would have succeeded had resident members not turned out in force to vote against the controversial proposal.

Under the new KCTMO proposals, such action would no longer be possible because the voting power of resident members would be removed and the Board would be reduced to five members. Three members of this new Board would be chosen by the existing KCTMO Board, which has been in power since before the Grenfell Tower disaster. Residents would no longer be permitted to serve on the Board and would also lose the right to vote on rule changes or other major decisions. The three Board members selected by the current Board would then select the final two Board members and these five would then have the sole power to make any rule changes or other decisions they see fit without any scrutiny, oversight, or fear of veto from residents.

A coalition of resident members from council homes across the borough has worked to create alternative proposals that recognise changes are necessary to KCTMO’s constitution but that maintain the need for member voting on changes to the constitution and resident representation on the board, but which ban residents involved in legal disputes against KCTMO and anyone with a direct or indirect relationship to RBKC from serving. These proposals, submitted as a motion for debate at next week’s KCTMO Emergency General Meeting, and within the required 14 days advance notice, have been rejected by KCTMO.

The fact that proposals submitted by the Borough Wide Alliance of Council Residents Associations (BWRA), which was highly influential in bringing about the Council’s decision to end its management contract with the KCTMO, proposals which had been vetted by independent legal experts, were rejected by KCTMO is highly controversial. The KCTMO has instead opted to create proposals that would remove external scrutiny and grant power to a Board whose decisions are currently under criminal investigation and opened the company to civil liabilities, clearly shows that KCTMO’s aim is to insulate itself and its employees from proper scrutiny whilst also frustrating police and public inquiries.

The KCTMO has called an Emergency General Meeting (EGM) for Thursday the 27th September, at the Town Hall.

Survivors of Grenfell Tower, residents of the wider Lancaster West Estate, and council residents from the rest of the Borough will again be forced to attend a meeting simply to vote against proposals which serve selfish interests, when all we want is openness and honesty from an organisation which has serious questions to answer about issues that could have implications for the future of social housing across the country

KCTMO EGM : An Explanation for Residents

 What is the problem?

KCTMO is a limited company; this means that it must have published rules that govern its operation and administration. These rules are in KCTMO’s Articles of Association and Constitution but these were designed for a company that would manage residential properties on behalf of RBKC. As it no longer fulfils this role but needs to remain in existence to respond to the criminal investigations, public inquiry, and civil litigation it will face for its role in the Grenfell Tower fire, there is a need for changes to be made to the rules to reflect its new purpose.

KCTMO have said their changes will address this issue, so what is the problem?

KCTMO’s proposals do FAR MORE than address this problem; they are seeking to remove resident members from the board and the power that resident members currently have to vote on proposed rule changes of any kind. The current board may have questions to answer related to decisions they made during their tenure and may even face criminal charges if they are judged to have any responsibility for decisions that led to the fire; KCTMO’s proposals would grant these people power to select future board members and this is clearly a worrying development that could hinder or completely derail Grenfell investigations.

OK, but KCTMO’s proposals require 75% of members at the EGM to vote in favour – they will NEVER get this – so what’s the problem?

KCTMO have a significant amount of proxy votes, delegated to them by existing members, with broad discretion on how to use these. In previous years, they have used the proxy votes to push through decisions which were widely opposed by residents and it is feared they will try to do this again unless we attend the EGM and vote against them.

I am willing to attend on Thursday 27  September and vote against them, so will many other residents, so what’s the problem?

KCTMO are demanding pre-registration, by postal application, if a member wishes to attend. This is clearly designed to prevent access to the EGM by residents who care enough to attend and ensure that KCTMO acts in an open and honest manner – with proper accountability and oversight.

What is the solution?

We urgently need resident members to either attend on Thursday, or appoint a trusted fellow resident to act as their proxy. There is no limit to the number of proxy votes a person may cast, but the form MUST be completed and returned, by post, using the pre-paid envelope with the pack, to the Southampton company KCTMO has chosen to administer the process.

 

The above is the text of a Press Release from the Kensington & Chelsea Borough Wide Alliance of council Residents’ Associations (BWRA)

For further information and comment contact:

Cllr Monica Press  – Tavistock Crescent RA and RBKC Councillor – 07503 568263 or Cllr.Monica.Press@rbkc.gov.uk

Tom Fitch – Swinbrook Estate RA – Tom@cash-online.org.uk

Gordon Futter  – Campden House Residents’ Compact – 07540 845365

Joe Delaney – Lancaster West RA – 07985 196199

 

 

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