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A journalist with 13 years of experience on trade publications covering construction, local government, property, pubs, and transport.
July 7, 2017

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Grenfell

Grenfell Tower disaster: weekly round-up

This week (3-7 July) has seen more testing of cladding, meetings between the chair of the public inquiry and victims, rehousing of tenants, and Firex featured in Private Eye magazine.

Monday

Satirical news magazine Private Eye published a cartoon by David Ziggy Greene in its latest magazine, illustrating SHPOnline’s sister event, Firex 2017, and which visualised the issues around Grenfell discussed at the show.

 

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Communities secretary Sajid Javid

Communities secretary, Sajid Javid

Also on Monday, Communities secretary, Sajid Javid, gave a statement to the House of Commons on the Grenfell Tower disaster response from the government, and the safety inspection of cladding on other tower blocks.

He said 181 panels had now failed fire safety testing – continuing the 100% failure rate from previous weeks. He said this was ‘disturbing’ and even checked the testing regime by the Building Research Establishment by having it independently reviewed. The Research Institutes of Sweden verified the accuracy of the tests.

He also said the victims unit was working directly out of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) with head of the response unit, John Barradell, the chief executive of the City of London council, working alongside local groups, London Councils and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea on multi-agency support.

When questioned by shadow housing minister, John Healey, on whether there was funding available to retrofit sprinklers and install new cladding, Javid said local authorities should ‘get on’ with the work – and any housing associations or councils that required funding should talk directly to the DCLG.

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Tuesday

Met police commander, Stuart Cundy

Met police commander, Stuart Cundy

Victims families and survivors had their first official meeting with investigators of the disaster, Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy and Westminster coroner, Fiona Wilcox.

The Grenfell Muslim Response Unit said the families had found the meeting ‘very upsetting’ and it was revealed that Wilcox described the scene of the fire as ‘apocalyptic’.

Details of compensation payments were made during the meeting with £10,000 offered to those seriously injured by the fire. Next of kin of victims of the fire would receive £20,000 and those that needed to be re-housed due to the disaster would receive a £10,000 ‘fresh start’ fund.

There was concern raised as well by the length of time it was taking to identify the dead, and solicitors Bindmans, who are representing a number of families impacted by the fire, said there was a series of questions the victims hoped were answered.

These included: the length of time for the criminal investigation, who has been identified as potential suspects, what offences are being investigated, whether police were attempting to seize minutes from tenant management organisation meetings and correspondence between the local authority and residents, documentation regarding building regulations, and the inspection of cladding as well as other works at the tower block.

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Wednesday

Housing minister Alok Sharma

Housing minister, Alok Sharma

It was revealed that only 14 families out of 158 had accepted temporary re-housing offers, and instead would await permanent homes.

The Grenfell response unit said it was working at ‘the pace of individual families’ and some had not been offered housing due to family members still being in hospital.

In his statement to the Commons, housing minister Alok Sharma, said:

“We also understand that one of the big issues holding people back is the lack of trust. Some families were told that they were moving into Grenfell Tower on a temporary basis, and then, years later, they were still there. Their concerns are entirely understandable, and this is a trust that we need to work hard to earn.”

The Home Office also announced a 12-month immigration amnesty for survivors of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

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Thursday

Sir Martin Moore-BickSurvivors called on Sir Martin Moore-Bick to wait a further three weeks to set out the terms of reference for the inquiry during a three-hour meeting with the public inquiry chair.

The meeting, which is the first time Moore-Bick had formally met with residents, was described by the former judge as ‘very useful’, although there were reports that he was heckled.

He said he ‘knew what it was to be impartial’ due to his 20 years as a judge and would ‘find the facts as I see them from the evidence’.

“That’s my job, that’s my training, and that’s what I intent to do,” he said.

Inquest, an organisation that supports the bereaved in coronor’s courts, said the government should ensure relatives of victims were provided with adequate legal advice and representation.

It warned families would otherwise ‘immediately start at a disadvantage’ compared to public bodies and organisations which had the resource to limit the scope of the inquiry.

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