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Scrutiny told last year of blaze block problems

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Residents drew up a long list of complaints as renovation work was undertaken at Grenfell Tower in Kensington, while there was no mechanism for collective complaints, it has emerged.

Minutes from a January 2016 meeting of Kensington & Chelsea RBC’s housing and property scrutiny committee showed the £10.3m project had marked the “first example” of renovating a tower in the borough.

So far 17 people have been confirmed dead, while 37 are still being treated in hospital. Prime minister Theresa May has today ordered a full public inquiry into the fire at Grenfell Tower which has resulted in the deaths of at least 17 people. Thirty-seven people are still being treated in hospital.

The tower had been “in desperate need of refurbishment and the heating system had been a big issue,” minutes from the meeting on 6 January, 2016, noted but new cladding, now thought to be among potential causes of the fire, “improved the look of the building”.

The minutes said the works had been “intrusive and would have undoubtedly been difficult for residents who would have faced considerable disturbance” as workers required access to individual homes.

There had been a series of disputes about new boilers, which in some flats were sited in hallways rather than kitchens, leading to complaints these could be obstructions and dangerous to children. Original plans had been to site boilers in kitchens but “it had then been considered easier to place these boilers in the hallways which had been conveyed to residents”, the minutes said.

Robert Black, chief executive of the borough’s Tenant Management Organisation (TMO), which is responsible for the tower’s management, told the meeting: “The TMO board had addressed every issue that had been put to them.”

But Edward Daffarn, lead representative of the Grenfell Tower Residents Association, told the committee that problems had included “poor workmanship and site management” and that residents “had experienced threats, harassment, lies and intimidation”, although it does not state from where these came.

It added that Mr Daffarn said: “People with vulnerabilities had been targeted by the TMO and some were told that they would not have heating if they did not provide access to workmen.”

He asked the council for “urgent scrutiny of the management of the works that had been carried out which needed to be conducted as an independent investigation”.

Councillors agreed to set up a working group to learn lessons, although scrutiny chair Quentin Marshall (Con) said he was “reluctant” to establish the group until other groups had completed their investigations into other matters. He said any urgent complaints should be dealt with but the committee heard there was “no mechanism for collective complaints”. Cllr Marshall “suggested there may be a gap in governance” and recommended the TMO “look at their procedures in this regard”. Mr Black agreed to do this, the minutes said.

LGC reported yesterday how residents repeatedly complained about fire safety at Grenfell Tower to both Kensington & Chelsea RBC and the organisation responsible for managing the building.

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