The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government agreed a £5m strategic consultancy contract connected to the ongoing management of the Grenfell Tower site in the weeks after it formally took control of the block and its immediate surroundings, transparency data has revealed.
Survivors and their families were assured that former landowner the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea would have no ongoing role with the site of the fire where 72 lives were lost in June 2017 and the government completed its acquistion in July last year.
The west London site is expected to host a memorial to be designed in conjunction with the local community. MHCLG said last year that a legal restriction had been placed on the land so it could not be used for any future purpose other than that decided by the community. The government has said that if the community does not want the site to be redeveloped, it will not be redeveloped.
The month before MHCLG formally acquired the tower site, then-communities secretary James Brokenshire wrote to Grenfell survivors and the wider communtiy, telling them the same team that had safeguarded the site since the fire would continue managing it after the transfer – and that the department would be covering the cost.
In July, Brokenshire wrote to Doug Patterson, independent site management lead, thanking him and his team for their work and the benefit of their ongoing help.
“I am pleased that you and your team are able to provide all those who live and work on and around the site with continuity after the government has taken ownership,” Brokenshire wrote.
“I look forward to continuing to benefit from your experience and advice as we take this important step forward.”
MHCLG said the £5m consultancy spend identified in last month’s transparency publication was to cover work keeping the tower and its surroundings “safe and secure”.
“We are working with strategic consultancy services to manage the site in the safest way possible, and ensure our risk, operational and programme management systems are robust,” a spokesperson said.
“The maximum amount for the contract for these strategic consultants currently working with us is £5m.”
MHCLG said the contract expiry date was January 2022, but that it was extendable for two further 12-month periods.
This week, MHCLG announced that 7/7 bombings survivor Thelma Stober and Independent Office of Police Conduct director general Michael Lockwood had been chosen by the community in the area surrounding Grenfell Tower to co-chair the Independent Memorial Commission.
Stober is head of legal and company secretary at the Local Government Association, and sits on the government's Victims' Panel that advises on improving the criminal justice system. Lockwood is a former council chief executive who was brought into the local area to help bereaved families and survivors after the Grenfell Tower fire, and to head up site management efforts.
The commission will also include 10 community members, who will be made up of bereaved families, former Grenfell Tower residents and residents of the wider Lancaster West Estate.
MHCLG has launched a pre-procurement market engagement exercise for support services for the commission.