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Grenfell Tower Inquiry Will Consider Council’s Actions

Grenfell Tower Inquiry Will Consider Council’s Actions

Grenfell Tower Investigation

The government has said that the actions of Kensington and Chelsea Council are to be examined in the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire.

The inquiry will also examine the adequacy of regulations, the tower's recent refurbishment, and the response of authorities in the aftermath of the tragedy.

While more wide-ranging questions on social housing will not be within the inquiry's terms of reference, Theresa May said she was "determined" these questions would not be left "unanswered" and said further proposals on social housing would be set out "in due course."

Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the judge who is heading the public inquiry, had previously written to the prime minister with recommendations for its terms of reference. No 10 said the decision not to include social housing policy was taken by Sir Martin.

The extent of the inquiry had been a source of controversy since Sir Martin's appointment was announced. He immediately angered survivors by suggesting the investigation would be "pretty well limited" to examining the cause of the fire, how it spread and how to prevent future incidents – but later said he would consider a "broad range of evidence" including why residents' previous warnings about fire safety were allegedly ignored by authorities.

The All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group has previously said the inquiry must examine why “clear and consistent recommendations and warnings that the system was in danger of being compromised” following the Lakanal House fire in south London in 2009, when six people died and at least twenty were injured, were not acted upon by government ministers.

Campaign group calls for diversity in inquiry

Lawyers for some of the survivors are preparing to launch judicial review proceedings against the government over the way preparations for the inquiry have been handled.

BMElawyers4Grenfell has accused ministers of failing to consult interested parties about the composition of the inquiry panel, the appointment of retired court of appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick as chair, and the selection of expert advisers to the panel.

The campaign group has said it strongly opposes any form of “limited” inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire disaster and had urged Sir Martin Moore-Bick to make his investigation wide-ranging, including an examination of local and national social housing policy and whether “it increased risks to residents.” The group has said the inquiry should investigate not just Kensington and Chelsea Council but also Government departments including the Home Office, the Department for Communities and Local Government and 10 Downing Street.

In a letter sent to Sir Martin and copied to the prime minister, the home secretary and the lord chief justice, the lawyers said diverse appointments would reflect the various backgrounds of the survivors and those who died in the tragedy.

David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham in north London who lost a close friend in the fire, said Sir Martin was a "white, upper-middle class man" who had "never" visited a tower block housing estate and should not have been appointed to the inquiry.

Government’s borrowing cap limited refurbishment budget, says council

The renovation of Grenfell Tower was scaled back and costs cut to a minimum because of Government-imposed limits on the amount a council can borrow to spend on housing, new documents suggest.

Records from 2014 show that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKC) estimated over the next five years it would need £110m to maintain its housing stock – but was only able to set aside £64m.

A spokesperson for RBKC said: “Refurbishment works are likely to feature in the upcoming public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire . . . We want to be open and transparent, but we hope people understand that we also do not want to prejudice the fair conduct of the public inquiry in any way.”

The proceedings are due to begin in September.

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