The public inquiry probing the systemic failings that led to 2017’s Grenfell Tower fire has pledged its final report will be delivered “as soon as possible” as the sixth anniversary of the disaster is marked.
Today represents 72 months since the tower-block inferno claimed 72 lives. The Grenfell Tower Inquiry released first-phase findings in 2019 that blamed the building’s botched refurbishment for wrapping the structure in a highly-flammable combination of insulation and cladding that caused it to be engulfed flames following a kitchen fire on 14 June 2017.
But last month the inquiry, which is chaired by former Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, acknowledged that its full second-phase report is now unlikely to be published before 2024.
In a statement yesterday, the inquiry panel recognised the wait that survivors, the bereaved and neighbours have endured to hear its final findings on the underlying reasons behind the disaster – which will include construction industry failings and government regulation of building safety.
“As the anniversary of the disaster at Grenfell Tower approaches we remember all those who died, those who lost friends and members of their families and all those in the community whose lives were shattered by the fire,” the inquiry panel said in its statement.
“We, the panel, and the whole inquiry team offer them our deepest sympathy and can assure them that we are working hard to complete the report as soon as possible in order to bring the waiting to an end and enable the full story behind the tragedy to be told.”
Last month, the inquiry published a financial report stating that its operating costs had been just under £170m since it was established in the weeks following the disaster. The biggest detailed expense in the report was legal representation for “core participants”, which was itemised at £69.7m.
The cost of the inquiry secretariat, accommodation and operational costs were listed at £36.9m; inquiry chair, panel and counsel was £28.2m; hearing-room support services and legal technology services were £21.8m; and inquiry assessors and experts were £13.5m.
In contrast, Rydon Maintenance, the main contractor that secured the Grenfell Tower refurbishment contract in March 2014, did so with a bid of £9.2m. Its client, Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, immediately sought to reduce the project budget by a further £800,000, according to evidence heard by the inquiry in 2020.
Phase Two of the inquiry questioned the TMO about whether its budget for the project was “unrealistically low”. It also quizzed numerous past and present officials at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities who had involvement with building regulations.
DLUHC now has ownership of the site where Grenfell Tower stands. Community engagement over the future of the building is ongoing. A commission chaired by Thelma Stober and Lord Paul Boateng is progressing work on a memorial.
£100,000 director sought to lead building-safety unit
DLUHC is currently recruiting a £100,000-a-year director for its Recovery Strategy Unit, which has been created as part of the government’s response to the building-safety crisis that the Grenfell Tower disaster gave national prominence to.
Earlier this year, parliament’s Public Accounts Committee heard that 24 high-rise buildings were still fitted with Aluminium Composite Material cladding like that added to Grenfell Tower and that work to remove it or make it safe had yet to commence.
DLUHC estimates that some 11,000 buildings require remediation to deal with issues such as unsafe cladding.
The Recovery Strategy Unit is tasked with demonstrating the government’s “ongoing commitment” to protecting leaseholders and holding those responsible for unsafe building work and poor practices to account.
Its work involves pursuing firms and individuals that have failed to make buildings safe and making them pay to fix the issues they created. DLUHC says it “takes forward the most egregious cases, holding the worst actors to account, delivering for leaseholders, reducing risk and helping to restore confidence in the housing market”.
The department said the unit has already launched legal action against freeholders who are not remediating their buildings fast enough and was “instrumental” in pushing 42 developers to sign remediation contracts to fix their buildings in recent months.