Socialist Worker

Grenfell survivors’ anger as they say authorities have tried to shift blame

by Isabel Ringrose
Issue No. 2753

Protesting outside the inquiry this week

Protesting outside the inquiry this week (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Grenfell Community Campaigners protested on Wednesday outside the inquiry into the fire that killed 72 people in 2017.

Giving evidence this week were the tower’s managers—Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO).

Protesters loudly and angrily chanted that TMO project manager Claire Williams and director of assets Peter Maddison have “blood on their hands”.

Cries of “Shame”, “Justice for Grenfell” and “You knew” were loud enough to be heard inside the inquiry.

The inquiry heard that residents were not told that the smoke ventilation system was not working for at least a year.

The London Fire Brigade issued the TMO with a notice about the smoke ventilation system in March 2014. Around a quarter of the “automatically opening vents within the smoke ventilation system were found not to be in working order”.

The TMO was given a six-week deadline to fix it, but missed it and confirmed in October 2014 it was “beyond repair”.

Williams told the inquiry she did not consider telling residents about the defective system.

A new system was eventually installed, but it also failed on the night of the fire in 2017.

Scrutiny

And Maddison revealed that the group responsible for health and safety within TMO agreed to “not disclose” more than 1,000 fire risk assessment actions to the London Fire Brigade. This was to avoid “scrutiny”.

The TMO also removed door closers from “about ten” fire doors. This made the fire doors “illegal” because they would not self-shut.

Disabled residents of the tower told the inquiry that nobody discussed with them how to escape the 24-storey building in an emergency.

Lawyers for residents and the bereaved have called the fire in June 2017 “a landmark act of discrimination” against disabled people.

The protest on Wednesday was also called following anger at the treatment of Ed Daffarn and other survivors who gave evidence last week.

Daffarn, who lived on the 16th floor of the tower, co-founded the Grenfell Action blog that warned of the risk of a “serious fire in a tower block”.

Faulty

He raised issues with the TMO and Kensington and Chelsea council (RBKC) about the lack of evacuation plans and access for emergency vehicles, faulty fire doors and changes to floor numbers during the refurbishment of the tower.

All contributed to the fire and loss of life.

Leearna from the Grenfell Community Campaigners told Socialist Worker that last week “was meant to belong to those directly at the centre of the atrocity”. But that “once again RBKC cast a shadow over the validity of their suffering.”

“As a consequence it has left me personally with a mistrust of the validity of the Grenfell Inquiry process and who it is there to scrutinise and who they are protecting,” she added.

Grenfell inquiry hears from residents who raised the alarm
Grenfell inquiry hears from residents who raised the alarm
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Daffarn was “stigmatised as a troublemaker” by the TMO. But on the blog he warned, “Only an incident that results in serious loss of life of KCTMO residents will allow the external scrutiny to occur that will shine a light on the practices that characterise the malign governance of this non-functioning organisation.”

Daffarn told the inquiry, "They didn’t treat us with respect or empathy or humanity. The culture of the TMO and the lack of scrutiny by RBKC, I believe and many residents believe, is a causative factor in what happened.”

Leearna added, “He wasn't guilty of anything and that it wasn't his responsibility, and he wasn't paid to produce and monitor fire risk assessments.

“This direction of questioning clearly intended to confirm the TMO label of Ed as a rebel and disruptive influence. The whole day was repugnant.

“Survivors, who barely managed to escape, were made to look like it was their fault that they didn't know what to do if there was a fire.”

The inquiry into the fire continues.


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