Theo Russell

Warnings of protests at Grenfell inquiry

Theo Russell

Warnings of protests at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry were voiced last week at a meeting between the Fire Brigades Union and the local community close to the site of the tragedy, as frustrations mount over the conduct of the inquiry.

The FBU and members of the Justice4Grenfell campaign are increacingly concerned at the direction of the inquiry the worst fire in the UK since the Blitz, where the presiding judge initially refused to take any questions from community members and survivors.

Moyra Samuels of the Justice 4 Grenfell campaign received loud applause from the meeting on Monday night when she said “there should be protests outside the inquiry to show the judge that people are not happy with it”.

Her call was backed by FBU general secretary Matt Wrack, who said “if a total ban on the use of external flammable cladding is not announced, maybe we should start protesting against the inquiry.”

Samuels told the meeting “We are a tough community, but unfortunately we discovered that through the fire at Grenfell. We need truth, accountability, change and justice”.

She dubbed Kensington and Chelsea council, the richest in Britain, “the Royal Borough of Murder and Profit”, and said that “trust between the North Kensington community and the council had broken down long before the fire”.

“We were told by fire experts that the refurbishment of the Grenfell Tower was safe, yet now a QC has told the Inquiry that it was actually a death trap. We have discovered that profit is more important than people”.

Matt Wrack said that a parliamentary committee was warned as far back as 1999 that faulty cladding posed serious fire hazards.

Now the inquiry has heard from Angelo Lucchini, an Italian architectural engineer, that the cladding used at Grenfell was equivalent to dousing the building with 32,000 litres of petrol, “enough to fill approximately 600 cars”.

The FBU is calling for a total ban on flammable cladding, which is used for weather and sound proofing, yet incredibly so far the inquiry has shown no signs of backing a ban.

But instead of calling for a complete ban the British government, has launched a consultation in which companies making the cladding will take part, despite an official admission that the cladding used at Grenfell was unlawful.

Matt Wrack told the meeting that “very powerful forces are lobbying against a ban, and they have the ear of the government”. These companies are part of a multi-billion pound building, construction and property industry.

Concerns about the tower’s emerged years before the fire. In 2013 the council threatened Grenfell resident Edward Daffarn with legal action after he blogged about fire safety, including power surges which caused computers and stereos to blow up filling rooms with smoke.

Daffam warned 7 months before the fire: "It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord."

Over 100 Grenfell residents claimed ay an emergency Town Hall meeting in 2015 on the block’s refurbishment that the council’s Tenant Management Organisation and the contractors were “using cheap materials and cutting corners”.

Fifteen months on from the fire many survivors are still in temporary accommodation. The day after the tragedy one of the messages on the tribute wall nearby read “Justice for Grenfell. Jail those responsible”.

Today the local community still wants to see those responsible sent to prison, and they want the cladding contractors and the senior politicians responsible to be included.

Hammersmith, Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea Trades Council