GRENFELL TOWER PUBLIC INQUIRY

In their infinite wisdom and supreme arrogance – what else could we expect of them? – the British Government have announced, without any attempt at public consultation or any attempt to consider the sensitivities of the bereaved, who lost loved ones in the Grenfell Tower Inferno, or of those fortunate enough to have miraculously survived it, the appointment of retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick to lead the Grenfell inquiry.

Sir Ken Knight has been named as chair of a new panel looking at safety, a man who previously opposed fitting sprinklers in tower blocks and recommended £200m in cuts to the fire service.

The Secretary to the Inquiry has been named as Mark Fisher CBE who was formerly Social Justice Director at the DWP responsible for the prevention of multiple disadvantage and long term welfare dependency and was previously Jobseekers and Skills Director at the DWP, responsible for designing and delivering the Work Programme.

The Radical Housing Network said:

“The appointment of Sir Martin Moore-Bick as the judge in the Grenfell inquiry is deeply distressing. Sir Moore-Bick has a track record of facilitating the social cleansing of London, approving Westminster Council’s decision to house a single mother with five children in Milton Keynes, 50 miles away from her family and networks, a decision later overturned by the Supreme Court. The government are clearly preparing a stitch-up, trying to put a judge at the heart of the establishment in charge of the inquiry, who supports the inhumane housing policies which have led to Grenfell.

How can we have faith in this panel to deliver the protection we need? These appointments are yet further evidence that the establishment is not committed to providing justice for Grenfell residents, and are unwilling to put in place measures which will prevent a tragedy of this enormity from happening again.”

Pilgrim Tucker, who worked for a while with the Grenfell Action Group and is continuing to support local residents, added:

“Residents from Lancaster West Estate asked Theresa May to involve them in the decision making on the Grenfell Inquiry. In appointing Sir Martin Moore-Bick, she has ignored them, and appointed a completely inappropriate judge. We have no faith that this inquiry will produce justice.”

On Sajid Javid’s letter of 28th June, claiming that all residents made homeless by the Grenfell catastrophe will be permanently rehoused in social housing at social rent, the Radical Housing Network said:

“After over two weeks of uncertainty, and flip-flopping, it is good that the authorities have committed to housing all those made homeless by the fire, regardless of tenure, in permanent social housing at social rent. This is the absolute minimum that should be provided for people who have lost so much.

“However, after appearing to promise homes in borough, the government have backtracked. People housed in neighbouring boroughs could end up living many miles away from their jobs, families and communities. We know Kensington and Chelsea council could afford local homes if they wanted to.”

In a statement Lancaster West Estate Residents also responded:

“Residents are shocked and disappointed at Theresa May’s ‘failed promises’ on Grenfell Tower fire inquiry.”

Residents in the estate surrounding Grenfell Tower expressed disappointment at Theresa May’s failure to consult them on the Public Inquiry into the fire, despite her previous promises to include them. Resident Amanda Fernandez, said:

“Prime Minister Theresa May did not even respond to our email requesting direct involvement on the establishment of the public inquiry. She has already appointed a judge who has told us the inquiry will be very narrow. She promised to consult us on this, but has completely gone back on that promise. We are deeply disappointed.”

Without consulting residents May has started appointing establishment figures residents feel are not appropriate, compromising the scope of the investigation from the start.

Residents say trust and confidence in the Government and the Inquiry are now very low, and residents are demanding the appointment of the right people to lead this Inquiry in order to prevent the same failures being repeated again.

“We now have a complete lack of confidence in the inquiry’s ability to address the history of negligence that led to the fire, or the authorities failures in the aftermath of the fire. For the truth to emerge and justice to be done we must be involved in shaping this inquiry”  said Ms Fernandez.

You can contact Lancaster West Estate Residents at: lancasterwestresidents@gmail.com

The Radical Housing Network, to whom we are grateful for much of the content of this blog, is a network of housing campaigns from across London. (Grenfell Action Group is a member).

The Radical Housing Network has a website at :  http://radicalhousingnetwork.org/

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FREE TRIP – Chessington World of Adventure

Attention parents from Grenfell Tower and the Walkways;

Grenfell, Hurstway, Testerton, and Barandon Walks.

Would you and your children (aged up to 16) like a FREE trip to Chessington World of Adventure today Sunday 2nd July?

Call our friends at The Real Community on 07376 867829 to register.

If anyone deserves a break, our families do, so please take advantage!

Apologies for short notice so PLEASE SHARE THIS!

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Grenfell Tower – The Truth Will Out

On Wednesday 21st June the Chief Executive of RBKC resigned. In a statement CEO Nicholas Holgate said that the Government’s Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, had ‘required’ the leader of the Council to demand his resignation. Council leader Nick Paget-Brown, affectionately known as ‘Piglet’ to those who know and love him, is shown on the left in the picture above. Beside him is the infamous Robert Black, CEO of Kensington and Chelsea TMO, and on the right is Rock Feilding-Mellen, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regeneration. Rocky is not so affectionately known to the Grenfell Action Group as ‘Little Lord Rock Weilding Felon’.

Holgate’s resignation came after intense criticism of the Council for the way it responded to the Grenfell Tower tragedy and for its historical neglect of social housing and of the poorer residents of the borough. We have to ask why Holgate was sacrificed while these three rogues remain in power and in office. They need to go, and the sooner the better.

Before the fire that claimed so many innocent lives it was widely believed among Grenfell Tower residents, a belief that still persists among survivors of the disaster, that the cladding had been installed not merely, or even primarily, for the benefit of Grenfell residents, but to satisfy the ulterior motives of the TMO and RBKC to assist in the creeping gentrification of the area. There is some documentary evidence that supports this belief. The decision notice granting planning permission for the project contained the following: Grenfell Tower Planning Consent Notice

This extract from the planning consent notice is noteworthy for its insistence on ‘ensuring that the character and appearance of the area are preserved and the living conditions of those living near the development are suitably protected‘. This can be construed as a reference to the nearby conservation areas and also to prospective future residents of the luxury apartments currently under construction on the Bomore Road corner of the Leisure Centre. Equally noteworthy is the insistence that ‘… samples of materials shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority before the relevant part of the work is begun and the works shall not be carried out other than in accordance with the details so approved and shall thereafter be so maintained’

The first part of this requires no further explanation and the significance we would attach to the latter statement is that the responsibilities of the planners at RBKC did not end once they had granted planning permission for the works. They remained responsible for inspecting the materials used and ensuring they were as specified in the planning application and that the works also were carried out according to specification. It is our understanding that Council inspectors visited the site on numerous occasions to carry out inspections intended (?) to discharge that ongoing duty of scrutiny and care.

According to the Guardian, Omnis Exteriors supplied a cheaper, more flammable version of the two available Reynobond cladding panels for use on Grenfell Tower. Managing Director John Cowley confirmed that Omnis supplied the aluminium composite (ACM) cladding, He said Omnis had been asked to supply Reynobond PE cladding which is £2 cheaper per square metre than the superior fire resistant alternative Reynobond FR. According to Cowley Omnis supplied this cheaper flammable cladding on the orders of the Design and Build Team of the Grenfell Regeneration project. Sub-contractors Harley Facades confirmed that they installed the panels supplied by Omnis.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/16/manufacturer-of-cladding-on-grenfell-tower-identified-as-omnis-exteriors

Underlying the cladding was a polyisocyanurate (PIR) insulation foam named Celotex RS5000. According to studies this material burns when exposed to a fire of moderate heat and intensity. Once ignited it burns rapidly and produces intense heat, dense smoke and irritant flammable gases which are extremely toxic. The toxic gases produced include carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide. The burning PIR attached to the exterior of Grenfell Tower is believed to have released enough poisonous hydrogen cyanide gas to potentially fill every dwelling in the building, and the simultaneous release of carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide is more lethal than if they are released separately.

Section 2.1 of the Grenfell Tower Planning Application Sustainability & Energy Statement concerned the insulation that underlay the rain screen cladding referenced above. It specified that Celotex FR5000, and not Celotex RS5000, was to be used at Grenfell Tower (please note that the prefix ‘FR’ signifies that the product is designed to be fire resistant).

Sustainability & Energy Statement-952368

Following the inferno at Grenfell Tower Celotex posted a series of press releases on their website beginning on Thursday 15th June and with updates on Friday 16th June and Saturday 17th June in which they confirmed that they had supplied Celotex RS5000 for use at Grenfell Tower, and not Celotex FR5000 as specified in the Planning Application.

In each update they included platitudes expressing sympathy for all those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire. Additionally the update on 16th June claimed that Celotex RS5000 had a fire safety classification of Class 0 in accordance with British Standards. Class 0 indicates that the product meets the highest fire safety standard.

However, on Saturday 17th June Celotex did a complete U-turn announcing that they would cease supplying RS5000 for use in rain screen cladding systems on buildings over 18 metres tall.

Celotex RS5000 updates

This raises serious questions that must be answered about this Celotex debacle, such as how, or even if, the highly flammable RS5000 achieved a Class 0 fire safety rating, and who, if anyone, approved its use at Grenfell Tower, and on what authority. Similar questions should be asked about the Guardian’s claim (above) that Omnis Exteriors supplied cheaper flammable cladding, on the orders of the Design and Build Team for the project, when a safer fire resistent alternative was available at a slightly higher cost.

A curious footnote to the Celotex saga can be found in the Health & Safety Datasheet for Celotex FR5000 which, unlike Celotex RS5000, one might reasonably expect to achieve a Class 0 fire safety rating, which it almost certainly did. The Health & Safety datasheet for this product contains the following guidance note:

Strange that a clearly combustible product that emits toxic fumes when ignited should be declared non-hazardous by the manufacturers and achieve the highest fire safety rating possible under British Standards. What do you think about that my friend?

Celotex FR5000 H&S datasheet

Finally, the Grenfell Tower refurbishment was completed in May 2016, but that’s not the end of the story. Some months later a fire safety consultant for Kensington and Chelsea Council approved the installation of new gas risers and pipes in landings and stairways following a gas leak, but only if they were clad in “fire-rated” boxing. Sacha Jevans, Director of Operations at the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, said that the National Grid assured the Council on 27 March 2017 that the pipes would be protected, but two-thirds of the horizontal pipes were still exposed when the disaster happened on 14th June. The works were originally undertaken by the National Grid’s gas distribution arm. In March, the firm was sold to a consortium, that included the Qatari government, and renamed Cadent Gas. Cadent said the ‘work was still ongoing to box in the horizontal pipes’ when the fire occurred. Gas pipes should never have been installed in these crucial fire safety zones in which no combustible material should have been allowed.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/27/grenfell-tower-gas-pipes-left-exposed-despite-fire-safety-experts-orders?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Inbox

We usually end each blog with some carefully chosen wry or sarcastic comment. Under present circumstances that seems inappropriate. The point of this blog was to present as much evidence as we were able to unearth with our limited resources and access to the relevant documentation. This we have done. It is up to others now to use this evidence to help determine the causes of this terrible tragedy that has befallen our community and to assign the blame for what happened to those who should answer for it.

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What Future For Wornington College?

As with the fire safety issue at Grenfell Tower and elsewhere in the borough, this is another issue which we have covered at some length, since May 2016 when it first came to our attention.  Below is a list of links to our previous blogs on this important issue:

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2016/05/26/crisis-is-kensington-and-chelsea-college-under-threat/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2016/06/12/wornington-college-threat-confirmed/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/03/20/brickleys-travels/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/kcc-board-coming-apart-at-the-seams/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/wornington-road-school-a-history/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/management-and-financial-failures-at-kcc/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/wornington-college-the-smoking-gun/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/kcc-clear-and-present-danger/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/01/22/save-wornington-college/

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Grenfell Tower Fire – The Forgotten Forgotten Victims

“When society places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet; its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual.”

These words were written by Friedrich Engels in 1845, in ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’. Over 170 years later, Britain remains a country that murders its poor. When four separate government ministers are warned that Grenfell and other high rises are a serious fire risk, then an inferno isn’t unfortunate. It is inevitable. What happened wasn’t a “terrible tragedy” or some other studio-sofa platitude: it was social murder.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/20/engels-britain-murders-poor-grenfell-tower

Today’s blog will be about the plight of a particular section of the Lancaster West community who have become the forgotten forgotten victims of the Grenfell Fire Atrocity. The graphic above (borrowed from Google Earth) shows Grenfell Tower shaded red on the left of the picture. It also shows an extensive complex of low rise blocks, two smaller blocks adjacent to Grenfell and three long blocks (‘the finger blocks’) radiating away from it. This blog will focus on the plight of the hundreds of households in these low rise blocks.

We should begin with a short history lesson. Before the recent ‘improvement works’ that replaced the heating system in Grenfell Tower, this whole part of the Lancaster West Estate was served by a communal heating system that was powered by a series of massive gas fired boilers in the basement boiler room of Grenfell Tower. The so-called ‘improvement works’ freed Grenfell Tower residents from dependence on this outdated and dysfunctional system by installing individual heating systems in all of the Grenfell Tower apartments. However, everyone else living in the nearby low rise blocks remained dependent on the communal heating system – in the Grenfell Tower boiler room.

This boiler room no longer exists and, since the night of the inferno, the many hundreds of households living in the low rise blocks have been left without hot water and without gas, which most use for cooking. Their homes no longer satisfy the ‘Decent Homes’ standard and so they they should be entitled to rehousing until such time as the gas supply is restored to their homes and new heating and hot water systems can be provided. Many have appealed to the TMO and the Council for rehousing – and all have been refused.

These same forgotten households are also subject to other hidden dangers that no-one, not a single official or media reporter – has made any public reference to. ASBESTOS. There was lots of this in Grenfell Tower, notably in the artex coated ceilings of every apartment, and there were small solid asbestos panels in all apartments too. When challenged about this several years ago KCTMO technical services officers assured members of the local Estate Management Board (now defunct) that all this asbestos was safe as long as it wasn’t disturbed – by sanding for redecoration or drilling it etc. These assurances were offered as justification for a policy of avoiding the substantial cost and disruption of removing the asbestos. Most people in Lancaster West know already that asbestos is dangerous but may not know if there’s any in their own homes, and if so where it is located.

Here are some of the facts:

In the 1970’s , when Lancaster West was built, asbestos was widely used as a fire retardent in public buildings and in social housing, especially high rise blocks. Artex was commonly used to fireproof ceilings. Until the mid-1980s Artex coating was made with white asbestos to strengthen it and make it fire resistent. These older coatings that contain asbestos, pose particularly serious health hazards. Inhaling microscopic asbestos fibers can cause asbestosis, a fibrosing lung disease; pleural mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung; and peritoneal mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the abdomen. Those most at risk are the young because these diseases typically take many years to manifest.

The Grenfell Tower inferno has surely released large amounts of asbestos laden smoke, dust and ash into the air of the entire surrounding area and who knows what other toxic substances, lead and other metals etc, may have been reduced to ash and carried by the wind and smoke all over the neighbourhood.  So why has no-one in authority made any public statement about this risk to public health, or begun the process of measuring the concentration of these deadly toxins in the air and the local environment?

Here’s another little conundrum. According to Transport for London, following the Grenfell Tower inferno, Latimer Road Tube station has been closed on the instructions of the London Fire Brigade, and some London Underground services have been suspended ‘due to the risk of falling debris from Grenfell Tower’. The blackened shell of Grenfell Tower stands at least 50 yards from the viaduct carrying the tube line that passes by. There is no danger of debris falling from the Tower landing anywhere near that tube line.

What they are not admitting is that there may well be a risk that the weakened structure of the burnt out shell of Grenfell Tower may collapse. If it does it still seems unlikely that such a collapse would reach the tube line. It might well, however, fall on the low rise blocks that are so much closer to it and, as stated above, are still very much inhabited.

So what’s going on? Is the attitude of contemptuous indifference towards local residents that caused the Grenfell Catastrophe continuing still? Are they (the authorities) already covering up the unpalatable truths behind the crime against humanity that the Grenfell Disaster represents, a crime that is screaming from the rooftops just as the screams of the bereaved could be heard in the background when the Queen came to visit?

Finally, returning to the right to rehousing of those left without gas or hot water, a local resident, who knows about such things, has prepared a guide for residents of the finger blocks to use when seeking temporary rehousing and are met with bland refusals.

You can download the guide from here:       Obtaining Hotel Accommodation

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Grenfell Tower – The KCTMO Culture Of Negligence

The many who lost their lives in this catastrophe were our friends and neighbours. We tried to speak for them in life and we will continue to speak for them now. We share the pain of the homeless, the injured and the bereaved to whom we offer our heartfelt sympathy, condolences and solidarity. We also share the sense of anger and injustice that has troubled this community for years. That is why we started this blog and that is why we will continue as we started, speaking truth to power whether or not they choose to listen.

Even the dogs in the street know that the flammable cladding encasing the exterior of Grenfell Tower played a major part in spreading and accelerating what began as a single dwelling fire with such rapidity that the entire interior of the 24 storey building became a raging inferno in less than an hour. It is incumbent on us also to state our firmly held belief that the cladding in question was not introduced for the benefit of the residents of Grenfell Tower but because Kensington and Chelsea Council had redeveloped the surounding area, building another of their flagship academy schools right next to Grenfell Tower, and a new sports and leisure centre next to that. The cladding on Grenfell Tower was intended to pimp it up so that it wouldn’t spoil the image of creeping gentrification that the Council are intent on creating, here and throughout the rest of North Kensington.

According to an article published on 14th June in the Guardian government ministers were warned numerous times that breaches of fire safety standards are common in the UK and that the use of cladding on high-rise blocks is unsafe. The government  ignored the advice of these fire experts. In the 1990’s the Home Office received a damning report by architect Sam Webb following a survey of hundreds of residential tower blocks. The study found that half of the buildings inspected did not meet basic fire safety regulations. Webb described the state of Britain’s tower blocks as ‘a disaster waiting to happen’.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/14/disaster-waiting-to-happen-fire-expert-slams-uk-tower-blocks

The Lakanal House fire in Southwark in 2009 subsequently proved him right. Six people, including three children, died when a fire in the high rise block in which they lived spread from the ninth floor to the tenth and eleventh floors of the building via flammable cladding that had been fixed to the exterior of the block.

Southwark Council subsequently pleaded guilty to four breaches of fire regulations. Labour MP Harriet Harman, whose constituency includes Lakanal House, said that those who had escaped with their lives were those who had ignored fire brigade instructions to ‘stay put’ and fled the building via the emergncy stairs. Those who died were those who obeyed instructions to stay in their homes. The advice to stay put would have been correct were it not for the recent obsession with cladding high rise buildings and in particular with the use of cheaper flammable cladding, which renders the standard fire safety advice redundant, and caused the fires at Lakanal  house and at Grenfell Tower to spread so rapidly and uncontrollably from floor to floor. The Lakanal inquest arrived at a number of conclusions and recommendations which included the following;

Since then there have been a number of high profile high rise fires in which the presence of cladding played a key role, notably in Dubai where, in February 2015 fire engulfed the 79 storey Torch skyscraper, one of the tallest residential buildings in the world, and the 63 storey Address Hotel where, on New Years Eve 2016, there was a similar fire. In both of these cases external cladding was implicated in the extremely rapid spread of the fire up the exterior of both buildings. There was one fatality and 14 were injured in the Address fire and no casualties at the Torch. It would seem that the rich of Dubai are far safer in their luxury skyscrapers than the poor of Kensington were in the 28 storey Grenfell Tower.

The fire risks from cladding of high rise residential blocks have been known for years. The Government dragged its feet after the Lakanal fire, despite the recommendations of the inquest judge and a report the Government commissioned in 2013 that recommended an urgent review of fire safety policies for high rise blocks. We believe the dangers of cladding must have been known by the Council and TMO technical staff involved in planning the Grenfell Tower ‘improvement works’ and by the contractor Rydon and sub-contractor who carried out the works and seems to have opted for cheaper highly flammable cladding.

Needless to say none of this information about the known fire risks associated with the use of cladding was ever communicated to the residents of Grenfell Tower

Of course there is more to all this controversy than the media have so far reported and we have evidence that we will present here that strongly supports the widely held local belief that a culture of complacency, indifference and negligence has continued for many years at the KCTMO and with which the RBKC are complicit and equally negligent.

THE GRENFELL TOWER EMERGENCY LIGHTING CRISIS – 2004/5

Early in 2004 Lancaster West Estate Management Board received leaked information indicating that the emergency lighting system in the staircase at Grenfell Tower was in a dangerous state of disrepair. This information proved to be entirely accurate and strongly suggested that the contractors who were responsible for inspecting the emergency lighting system had been falsifying their inspection certificates for several years and giving the system a clean bill of health. The reality was that the system had been badly neglected for years and by 2004 two thirds of the lighting units were non-functional because the battery packs that powered them were too old, worn out, and useless. In response to this information the EMB began a campaign aimed at ensuring that all emergency lighting systems at Lancaster West were functioning properly and seeking answers to the serious questions the lapse at Grenfell Tower raised. For several months the TMO denied there was any problem or negligence, but the EMB continued to press them and eventually they relented and commissioned an independent investigation of the issues. This was conducted by Peter West of Capita Symonds Ltd and was completed in May 2005.

Mr West’s investigation was based on a study of all relevant documentation including the report submitted by the EMB in August 2004 which he found to be ‘substantially accurate’. Some of his conclusions were based on inconsistencies in the available documents held by the TMO and the unexplained absence of some essential documents. His report was as thorough and comprehensive as could be expected under the circumstances and its main conclusions were summarized as follows:

  • Lack of suitable communications between the contractor and the TMO
  • Lack of suitable communications within the TMO
  • Failure to acknowledge the importance of undertaking urgent remedial works by both the TMO and the contractor.
  • Lack of communications between the TMO and the EMB
  • Inadequate installation standards of the contractor
  • Lack of adequate strategy planning by the TMO, suitably supported by the contractor

The West Report also concluded that all aspects of the contract conditions and management required extensive review in order that the TMO ‘could be proactive in its approach and be able to develop a specification that reflected the skills and resources available to appoint and manage a suitable contractor’. It also recommended that the TMO should review whether the current contractors were suitable to continue with the contract, and whether they should even be allowed to submit a bid for a new contract.

According to the Report the primary causes of the problems were the contractors poor administration, communication, management procedures and the quality of installation works. However, it also stressed that the TMO had a responsibility to the Borough, the public and the residents of Grenfell Tower, to ensure that contractors comply with their specification requirements and provide a duty of care to residents. This objective, it found, had not been demonstrated and it had been concluded that a considerable effort would be required to amend the culture and procedures at the TMO to ensure effective management. The West Report ultimately led to replacement of all emergency lighting systems at Lancaster West and a thorough overhaul of systems throughout the borough.

THE GRENFELL TOWER FIRE RISK ASSESSMENT – November 2012

We somehow acquired this fire risk assessment report some time ago and blogged it at the time, but were unable to acquire any of its siblings. We may have simply googled it and got one single hit. The 32 page report is unremarkable except for the section of inspector’s ‘comments or observations’ quoted below from page 28 which gives serious cause for concern;

‘The fire extinguishers 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. This seems to indicate that monthly occupier inspections are not being carried out.

It is not known if the caretaker is undertaking the monthly occupier’s tests of the installed emergency lighting system, fire extinguishers and structural items as per the caretakers check list. This would include the external stairs and lift checks with the results being kept as a record of testing having been undertaken.

From the asset records provided by the TMO the emergency lighting and fire alarm systems along with the dry riser, fire fighter lifts and the hose reels installed in this building are all subject to a maintenance contract. Testing, servicing and maintenance is carried out by professional third party contractors on a planned preventative maintenance programme with records kept centrally by the TMO and by the contractor for all these systems. No test certificates have been seen to confirm this.’

Most alarming is the fact that the inspector could not locate any of the test certificates pertaining to inspections of the emergency lighting and fire alarm systems (and other vital fire fighting equipment) which were supposedly held centrally by the TMO. We are entitled to suppose that he requested these certificates from the TMO who were unable (or perhaps unwilling) to produce them. This raises crucial questions about whether the remedial actions and protocols agreed after the 2004 emergency lighting crisis had ever been followed through and whether the culture of negligence and incompetence evident from the Capita Symonds Report of 2005 had ever changed, as it absolutely should have done.

Grenfell Tower Fire Risk Assessment Nov 2012

THE GRENFELL TOWER POWER SURGE CRISIS – May 2013

In May 2013 a serious electrical fault causing multiple power surges at Grenfell Tower posed a major fire risk to residents many of whom witnessed smoke coming from light fittings and other electrical appliances, some of which actually exploded. Despite the fact that these highly alarming incidents were reported to the TMO on 11th May no effective action was taken until the problems escalated out of control on 29th May 2013.

The power surges had been ongoing for 18 days with multiple reports by residents of electrical appliances catching fire and sometimes exploding, but multiple reports to the TMO by Grenfell Tower residents were treated with a dismissive and sceptical attitude. When electrical engineers were sent to investigate they insisted that the apparent smoking of electrical appliances was probably caused by steam from water dripping onto the appliances. Residents found these dismissive theories deeply insulting and we believe they demonstrated a shockingly blasé and complacent attitude by the TMO and its agents.

Consequently no effective action was taken until a near catastrophic incident occurred on the weekend of Sunday 29th May which affected multiple households and damaged many electrical appliances beyond repair. On that Sunday there were severe power surges throughout the night that continued through the following morning. A flood of calls from Grenfell Tower residents to the TMO out-of-hours emergency repairs service finally prompted the TMO to order a more thorough investigation of the power surge issue. They installed specialised metering equipment that soon revealed that there were indeed serious power surges which were subsequently traced to arcing in a damaged mains power cable supplying Grenfell Tower. The cause of the damage, they claimed, was unknown. The mains cable was subsequently repaired and surge protection was later added.

The residnt groups, having been vindicated at last, were furious at the complacency and negligence of the TMO responses throughout the 18 days of the power surge ordeal. They appealed to the RBKC Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee and it was agreed that  representatives from Grenfell Tower would attend the meeting of the Committee on 16th July 2013 to report and discuss their concerns. The TMO also attended the meeting and presented their own report which contradicted the residents accounts of what had occurred and downplayed the seriousness of the matter and the fire risk involved.

Robert Black, the CEO of the TMO, also alleged that the Grenfell Action Group and other local stakeholders, such as the Grenfell Tower Leaseholders Association, had made misleading statements on our blog and in round robin emails. When we later challenged him to substantiate these allegations by specifying which of the statements he believed to be misleading he declined to do so and failed to provide any evidence for this and other derogatory statements he had made to the Scrutiny Committee.

When the residents groups were eventually able to study the minutes of the meeting and the report that was submitted by the TMO we were horrified to discover that the Scrutiny Committee had chosen to accept the TMO version of events and had given little creedence to the explicit health and safety concerns highlighted earlier by the resident groups in an email to the Chair of the Scrutiny Committee on 9th July.

Incidentally the Committee Report, submitted several weeks after the incident, included the following remarks: ‘It is too early to say whether the problem has been fully resolved and where responsibility lies for the cause. It is possible that the fault that has been rectified is not the primary cause.’ Grenfell Tower residents were never informed whether the primary cause of the electrical problem was ever identified.

It seems that RBKC social housing tenants can never win an argument with the TMO, despite the evidence overwhelmingly backing our accounts, and complaining to the Council is just as pointless because they will invariably treat residents concerns with the same contempt shown by their bedfellows and partners in crime the KCTMO.

A5. Grenfell Tower Update

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/the-disempowered-of-grenfell-tower/

We had hoped when we began writing this piece to keep abreast of breaking news, but that was a futile effort as the story developed and unfolded at such a pace that we couldn’t keep up. Nonetheless the opinion we expressed so strongly about the role of the cladding still holds good and we are confident it will remain a crucial part of the final account of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

We had another objective in mind when writing this piece. It was to chronicle the history of complacency, negligence and incompetence that has defined the RBKC and KCTMO for as long as we can remember. We had enough evidence in our possession to begin making that case and we believe it was vitally important to begin the task of recording it in the hope that those tasked with investigating the causes of the Grenfell Tower inferno would be forced to investigate this history and would be unable to ignore or bury it.

The short blog we posted on the night of the fire went viral, to our enormous surprise, and has been quoted and used as source material by a great many journalists. We are counting now on these same journalists to publicise the years of TMO and RBKC negligence that we have recorded today. We are convinced there is plenty more of such evidence waiting to be uncovered.

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