Dismore: Grenfell Inquiry a damning indictment of privatisation, de-regulation and the pursuit of profit

At today’s Mayor’s Question Time, Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden Andrew Dismore AM used his last Mayor’s question before retirement  to tell  the Mayor that the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 2 evidence was a damning indictment of privatisation, de-regulation and the pursuit of profit over public safety.

Mr Dismore asked the Mayor:

‘Do you agree that evidence at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 2 is a damning indictment of privatisation, de-regulation and the pursuit of profit over public safety?

‘It is the case isn’t it, that the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 2 has brought into sharp focus  the ineffective regulation and  weak building control that  allowed – it could even be said encouraged-  profiteering at the expense of safety by installing   flammable cladding on Grenfell and  -as we now know-  on hundreds of other buildings, jeopardising the safety, financial  security and mental health of their  many thousands of residents .

  • Kensington and Chelsea TMO told Rydon the main contractor not to add further fire protection and participated in deciding on cladding panels which reduced fire performance.
  • Rydon, in turn, promised five times to appoint fire safety advisors but failed to do so
  • Arconic, the cladding manufacturer, knew that the panels were not suitable for building facades in Europe and had failed in-house fire tests
  • Celotex, who sold the flammable insulation used on Grenfell, marketed a product that it too knew had failed in-house fire tests.

‘And it is also the case, isn’t it, that the Conservative Government’s response has been ineffectual?

‘Would you agree that the Government’s response has been piecemeal; and years on still hasn’t bottomed out the consequences of their scandalous failures. They started with a woefully inadequate fund for ACM, then a second fund for other dangerous cladding, then an extension of that fund, then a pledge to protect leaseholders in buildings over 18m, then EWS1 forms that trapped leaseholders in dangerous homes, then changed the EWS1 rules, then a waking watch relief fund that doesn’t do anything of the sort – and so it goes on.

‘London’s leaseholders are trapped in homes they can’t sell, can’t remortgage, struggle to insure and with waking watches they can’t afford. Just how important is it that there is at long last a comprehensive, fully funded, strategy to resolve the many risks in our built environment, both for London’s leaseholders and also for the LFB?

‘How can the Conservative Government be trusted, when they voted down Labour’s amendment to put into law the Grenfell Inquiry’s recommendations?’

The Mayor said that he was grateful to Mr Dismore’s service on the Assembly, especially his commitment to the LFB. He said that it was important to remember the 72 lives lost during the national tragedy of the Grenfell Tower Fire. In considering the Inquiry phase 2, a light has been shone on the placing of profit over people by some private companies. This corroborates the findings of the Hackitt Review, which found corners cut in a race to the bottom. The vast scale of the building safety crisis is systemic, and public safety became an afterthought, when it should have been of paramount importance.

When ministers announced that they were “cutting red tape” as part of their planning reforms, this raised alarm bells with the Mayor and members of the Grenfell community. In his response to the consultation, he said that in this instance, ”red tape” saved lives. The Mayor’s new plan does include fire safety considerations as part of the planning process, which will ensure fire safety is considered through the whole life cycle of a building. New GLA commissioned homes will also be required to meet higher fire safety standards.

In addition, the Mayor said that the impact of deregulation has produced a list of failures. Grenfell was 4 years ago, and progress has been piecemeal and ministers have failed to tackle the core of the problem. Residents are suffering sleepless nights because of the anxiety of living in unsafe homes, and the massive costs of waking watches.

The House of Lords voted to take away the burden of the cost from leaseholders for remediation works, and the Mayor hopes that the House of Commons keeps this amendment. He said the Government should do the remediation works now, and have a discussion later about the funding. At the moment there is a postcode lottery, which is a mess.

Finally, The Mayor said that members of the Government who voted against the Labour amendment to the Fire Safety Bill should meet with members of the Grenfell community to look them in the eye and explain their vote.


Notes for editors

For further information call Andrew Dismore on 07957 625 813, number not for publication.

Grenfell Tower Inquiry (GTI) Phase 2 

The Hackitt Review, ‘Building a safer future’ found that ‘the current system of building regulations and fire safety is not fit for purpose and that a culture change is required to support the delivery of buildings that are safe, both now and in the future.’[1]

The GTI phase 2 has highlighted the poor system of regulation and building control that allowed flammable cladding to be attached to Grenfell Tower. Evidence provided to the Inquiry includes:

  • Kensington and Chelsea TMO told the contractor Rydon not to add further fire protection to the building and participated in the decision to use ‘cassette’ cladding panels which had reduced fire performance due to their shape.
  • Rydon, the main contractor for the project, promised five times to appoint fire safety advisors but failed to do so
  • Arconic, the cladding manufacturer knew that the PE panels used on Grenfell were not suitable for use on building facades in Europe and had previously failed in-house fire tests
  • Celotex, who sold the flammable insulation used on Grenfell, marketed a product that it too knew had failed in-house fire tests.

London’s Cladding Crisis

London is home to more than half of the high-rise buildings with ACM cladding (250 out of 461) [2]and more than half of the buildings registered to the Building Safety Fund  (1628 out of 2820).[3] There were 590 waking watches in place across the city as of 16 December 2020. The London Fire Commissioner has previously told The Assembly that “we do not know the full limit of what has happened inside the built environment over the past 10 to 15 years.”[4] The DMFR told December’s FREP meeting that “we’re learning more about the problems with the built environment on an almost daily basis through some of the Grenfell Inquiry questioning.”[5]

The crisis impacts upon thousands of London’s leaseholders The UK Cladding Action Group undertook a survey of affected residents in June 2020, which highlighted the severe impact on their mental health of living in buildings with cladding problems. 550 leaseholders and residents took part in the survey and key findings from this are:

  • 90 per cent didn’t believe the problem will be resolved in a year
  • 78 per cent said their mental health has been severely affected
  • 46 per cent had sought or were seeking medical help
  • 54 per cent had difficulty concentrating
  • 55 per cent experienced increased tiredness

Government Response

The Government work to support leaseholders has been piecemeal. It has so far:

  • introduced the Fire Safety and Building Safety Bills to parliament both of which have failed to bring into law the recommendations from GTI phase 1 or to protect leaseholders from shouldering the costs of remediation.
  • designed and implemented EWS1 forms with RICS in order to address concerns from lenders around property valuations. These were introduced for buildings over 18m in December 2019, then were consulted on for buildings over 11m in January 2020 and are now expected to be asked for on buildings over 18m.
  • announced the £30m Waking Watch Relief Fund in December 2020
  • announced in February 2021 that it would be extending the Building Safety Fund by an additional £3.5bn to a total of £5bn. It also announced a new levy and separate tax on UK residential property development. Whilst it pledged to cover remediation costs for those in high-rise buildings, for those in lower buildings of 11-18m there will instead be a long-term loan scheme

 Austerity, the record of the previous Mayor and LFB

 Since 2009/10, the London Fire Brigade has had to find nearly £106m in savings. Until 2014, most of these savings impacted non-operational staff and included reprioritisations and greater efficiencies. However, the then Mayor Boris Johnson cut the budget further for 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17. Additionally, nearly £50m was taken from London Fire Brigade reserves to fund the police.

In 2014, ten London fire stations closed, 14 appliances were removed, and 553 firefighter posts cut in order to deliver £28.8m savings that Boris Johnson ordered. The plan was rejected by LFEPA at the time.

Another of his broken promises after the 2014 cuts was that there would be no more cuts, but he axed a further 13 fire engines in 2015/16.[6]

Boris Johnson repeatedly dismissed the consequences of his cuts to the Fire Brigade. When questioned about the safety implications of the cuts he told Andrew Dismore AM to “get stuffed”.[7]

Over half the wards in London saw an increase in attendance times following these cuts. When Andrew Dismore AM challenged him about the 26 October 2015 Camden Road fatal fire, when the first fire engine took 30 minutes to get there because he closed Belsize Fire Station and no fewer than 10% of London’s fire stations were off the run, he replied, “You are talking total [dot dot]”. [bollocks][8]

[1] Gov.uk, ‘Building a Safer Future,’ May 2018.

[2] Gov.uk, ‘Building Safety Programme Monthly Data Release England: 31 January 2021,’ 31 January 2021

[3] Gov.uk, ‘Registrations to the Building Safety Fund,’ date accessed 8 March 2021

[4] London. gov, ‘Budget and Performance Committee 22nd September 2020 appendix 2’ [Date accessed 14.10.20]

[5] London.gov, FREP Committee, 16th December 2020. Youtube recording available here

[6] MayorWatch, ‘Boris overrules fire authority and orders axing of 13 mothballed fire engines,’ 2 March 2016

[7] BBC, ‘Mayor Boris Johnson tells opponent to “get stuffed”,’ September 2013

[8] Questions to the Mayor, ‘Fatal fire – Camden Road,’ GLA, 18 November 2015