Socialist Worker

Grenfell boss stalled vital information

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2631

Marching in Norwood, south London, last week for victims of the fire

Marching in Norwood, south London, last week for victims of the fire (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The Grenfell Tower Inquiry heard shocking revelations last week during evidence from Robert Black, chief executive of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO).

Black revealed a catalogue of errors on his part, and on the part of the TMO, which was responsible for managing the building.

He was confronted with evidence showing that the most up to date list of vulnerable people living in Grenfell Tower was dated February 2002.

That means changes made to the building at the time of its refurbishment in 2016 were not included in the report.

Flammable cladding was installed on the outside of the tower and access routes changed.

Giving evidence, former TMO head of housing Teresa Brown claimed the faulty document was not circulated to other agencies on the night of the fire by TMO staff. Black delayed in passing accurate information to other agencies.

A local authority liaison officer requested a list of known residents of the tower, but this was delayed.

Black had received the list at 5.24am. He did not forward it until 7.56am.

Brown’s evidence showed how important that lack of information was. She described being approached by a firefighter. “He said, ‘There are a number of bodies on the 11th floor and we need to know what numbers are on that floor.’,” said Brown.

Urgent

“I just remember the circumstances in which he was asking those questions. I knew it was urgent and I knew it had to be accurate.”

Black was on the scene on the night of the fire. He arrived at about 3am and left at about 9am to attend a Gold Command meeting at Kensington and Chelsea town hall.

He was supposed to help coordinate the response.

But when he could have been forwarding the lists of those inside to the appropriate authorities, he was sending emails to the TMO management team.

He warned there would be “questions about the cladding and spec. Questions about how [the fire] spread.

“We need to pull some of this together pretty fast in terms of health and safety compliance. We need all the information about the refurbishment as this will be a primary focus.”

When asked at the inquiry if he had any conversations with the London Fire Brigade on the night of the fire, Black said, “Not as far as I recall.”

A TMO member of staff said Black had told him at 7am he had not received the list of residents.

Barrister for the inquiry Richard Millett QC asked Black if he remembered being told that.

Millett also asked, “Do you recall ever, during the course of the night, making any call to anybody within your organisation seeking a list of residents of this building?”

Black replied both times that he didn’t remember.


Protest in Clapham

The Clapham Park estate in south London is under threat from developers. Residents could be forced to move out as soon as January next year.

There are currently some 2,000 homes on the estate managed by the Metropolitan Thames Valley housing association.

The proposed redevelopment would create 4,080 homes with 53 percent of them “affordable”.

This includes homes for rent at 80 percent of market rates as well as shared ownership.

Residents and their supporters were set to protest this Thursday outside Metropolitan’s head office—99 New Park Road, SW2 4AX—at 10am.


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