Socialist Worker

Housing bosses ignored tenants' warnings

Issue No. 2559

The Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation ignored residents warnings

The Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation ignored residents' warnings (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) is responsible for maintaining social housing in Kensington and Chelsea. Its board members and officers are directly responsible for the deaths at Grenfell Tower.

In November 2016 the KCTMO board of directors proposed that it should increase “the frequency of comprehensive Fire Risk Assessment reviews”.

But Grenfell Tower hasn’t been risk assessed since December 2015, soon after the refurbishment which saw lethal cladding installed.

A new heating system was put in during the refurbishment. In order to do that, fire safety protection was temporarily removed. Whether it was reinstalled correctly has not been confirmed.

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) said that where “breaches of fire safety legislation” pose a “serious” risk it will provide “formal enforcement notices”. It issued seven notices in Kensington and Chelsea this year alone.

On 23 December 2015 KCTMO was issued with an enforcement notice after a fire ripped through Adair Tower. The LFB ordered KCTMO to improve access to fire escape routes and install self-closing devices on all doors in the block.

Thankfully no one died but lessons were not learned.

Warned

Residents fleeing Grenfell on Wednesday morning said they could not hear a fire alarm. The council was repeatedly warned about the dangers at Grenfell.

The Grenfell Action Group lists ten warnings, from 2013 to this year, on its website.

The council ignored the people whose deaths it is now responsible for.

A 2009 independent review into KCTMO found serious problems with the way the body treated residents’ concerns. It was compiled by Local Governance Ltd.

“It is noticeable how some TMO staff have reverted back to the original culture of ignoring complaints,” the report said.

“Some residents are receiving sub-standard services.”

Victims and local people are being told to wait for answers and more fire safety protection until reviews and inquiries are published. KCTMO said, “All our focus is on supporting the rescue and relief operation.

“The cause of the fire will be fully investigated and we will keep people informed.”

But the failings are there for all to see—except KCTMO. In July 2016 it deemed the fire safety approach at Grenfell to be so good it resolved to extend it “to all major works projects”.

KCTMO has blood on its hands and its officers must be held responsible.


What is a TMO?

A Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) manages social homes. The legal structure varies from a cooperative model to a corporate one. KCTMO is the latter.

KCTMO has a board of directors, a series of officers with specific responsibilities and a layer of elected resident representatives. It is also listed as belonging to the national federation of ALMOs.

ALMOs, introduced in 2002, are designed to provide a buffer between councils and ordinary people to prevent real accountability.

We’re told that ordinary people can’t understand complex housing policy.

The Grenfell fire shows the lie in that argument.

Ordinary people knew the risks. They told KCTMO and the council about them. They were ignored.


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