Tag Archives: RBKC

When we fail others

It happens, we fail others. At times it cannot be helped, it seems naturally that people forget about safety issues and condemn a whole building with bad cladding. It is just one of those things. Especially in Melbourne when after the 2014 fire in the Lacrosse Building, an apartment block in Melbourne’s Docklands 170 buildings were found to be non-compliant. Almost 5 years later, 19 months after the Grenfell tower event in London where 72 people lost their lives, we are now confronted that with 2000 buildings audited 360 are a high risk, 280 are moderate risk and 140 are low risk. You can drizzle it down, yet the cold fact is that 40% of the buildings are a risk, so over 5 years not one fuck was given for the safety of people (was that diplomatic enough?)

It is even worse when we see: “Last year those regulations were tightened in Victoria to ban the use of aluminium composite panels that contain more than 30% polyethylene“. Yet this is not the whole picture, it is actually a lot worse. The BBC gave us (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-43558186) in April 2018: “In the standard European tests for “reaction to fire”, products are rated A to F – with A being the top rating. Reynobond PE had a certificate based on a rating of B

The part that is missing is the part I gave view to in June 2017. The brochure itself gives us: “What is interesting is the mention on page 5 of the brochure: “It’s perfect for new and retrofit projects less than 40 feet (three stories) high” This is an interesting part because the ‘why‘ comes into play, why only 3 stories? That part becomes a point of discussion, as page three shows a 7 story high building in the images. On page 6 we see the safety rating form flames and smoke as a pass with Class A as per ASTM E84. That part revealed two elements. One is the mention ‘This test method measures flame growth on the underside of a horizontal test specimen, using the Steiner tunnel test‘, the operative word is ‘horizontal‘”. I wrote this in the article ‘Under Cover Questions‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2017/06/23/under-cover-questions/). How did the BBC miss this? Then there is the fact that the flame test was done on a horizontal piece. Two direct questions that are clearly constructed from the mere brochure of the product. So how did officials in the UK and Australia miss these parts? That is before questions come up regarding the limit given of: ‘perfect for new and retrofit projects less than 40 feet (three stories) high‘, so how high was Grenfell, a mere 40 feet? How high was the Melbourne building? For me the line: “Laws introduced last year include a new funding three-way model that would allow owners’ corporations to take out a commercial loan to replace cladding and then pay it back through their council rates in an effort to encourage owners to act more quickly, but so far that model has not been used” is merely met with laughter. From my point of view, any participant who was part of the installation and acceptance of this cladding should be banned from construction for life. Unless you all agree that reckless endangerment of life is merely a trivial matter, I reckon that the family members of the 72 Grenfell victims feel a lot less trivial about the mess.

I also think that the quote “Victorian planning minister Richard Wynne says removing flammable cladding from the most high-risk buildings in Melbourne is a ‘complex problem’” I believe that Richard Wynne is off his rocker, the careless endangering of lives is not complex at all. And if this falls on the municipality to fix, it should come with the automated stage where anyone involved in allowing for this cladding should be banned for life in the construction or retrofitting of anything that receives any government funding, never to be allowed to be involved in anything that has more than two floors. It was not that complex was it? There is the additional part where he quoted 14 hours ago where he stated that 60 buildings were higher risk, whilst reliable sources (read: the guardian) has that number at 360, which is a 600% difference, a little too high a difference. In addition there is the stage of: “The average cost of replacing combustible cladding is between $40,000 and $65,000 per apartment unit, leaving “total rectification” of a block in the millions of dollars“. In that regard, why did the police not raid the offices of the involved parties confiscating all papers and contracts so that they could be scrutinised?

The facilitation towards the incompetent as I personally see it is just a little too overwhelming at present. It gets worse when you realise that this is not just Victoria, In NSW we see: “An audit found more than 1000 buildings across NSW have the dangerous cladding“, which now gives me the thought, did anyone ever look at the Reynobond PE brochure? Two essential and elemental questions were raised (the 40 foot limit) as well as the horizontal flame test. Both should have immediately disregarded Reynobond as an option, so how come that the hard questions that need to be placed at the side of Richard Wynne, as well as his NSW counterpart are missing? I would like to add the question on how this is suddenly very complex, but that might just be me.

It does not end there

You see, the issue is larger than what we see. ITV showed that yesterday (at https://www.itv.com/news/london/2019-02-11/fire-chief-stands-by-controversial-testimony-to-the-grenfell-inquiry/), it is at that point that we get treated to: “London’s fire chief says she stands by her controversial testimony to the Grenfell Inquiry, insisting she would not change a thing about the way crews responded.” you see, the part that people ignore, hiding behind emotions (some for all the right reasons) is: “I think it’s absolutely right that the inquiry will look at the whole process around not just our response but more importantly how the building came to be in that state because the building should never, ever have had that cladding on and had the lack of provisions for those people inside.” Too many players want to get around the one part that is at the heart of the matter ‘the lack of provisions for those people inside‘. The sprinkler issue, an issue that might make some sense when a building is 4 floors high, yet for a 20+ floors building there is no sense at all, and fire doors that were not there. The BBC gave a list in June 2018 (at https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-44351567).

  1. Most of the fire doors at the entrance to the 120 flats had been replaced in 2011 but neither they or the original doors still left in place complied with fire test evidence.
  2. The fire service had to pump its own water into Grenfell Tower – the building’s “dry fire main” system was “non-compliant” with guidance at the time of construction and was “non-compliant with current standards”.
  3. The smoke control system did not operate correctly, reducing the ability to improve both escape and firefighting conditions.

These are three elements that had a huge impact. The first two would have made delay and containment of the fire impossible and the ‘stay put’ order became a death sentence, no fire chief would have been ready for that. The overall failing in all this building alone warrants a large stage of arresting several players for corporate manslaughter and those were the obvious failings (beside the cladding), the last goes on a little longer making obvious question clear, ‘Why aren’t people in prison at present?‘ It is in that regard that the one person that should not be prosecuted is Fire Chief Dany Cotton. I do believe that this inquiry is essential as is her voice in this, yet this inquiry should be happening whilst several connected parties should be in prison awaiting the outcome, not watching it from a comfortable chair in the living room.

And it goes from bad to worse

Inside Housing reported three weeks ago: ‘Council to spend £500,000 keeping KCTMO running‘, so not only are we and the family of victims confronted with cost cutting measures and now we see that they require half a million to keep afloat? With: “Board papers from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) revealed that a total of £750,000 would be spent on Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KTCMO) in 2019/20, with £250,000 being found through the company’s reserves” the pressing question should be why management was not taken away and given to someone else? Even as we accept the quote “KCTMO must remain in existence as a legal entity throughout the Grenfell Inquiry so it can be held to account“, I am all for that, yet they can be parked awaiting prosecution, handing them half a million seems a bit much on every side of this equation.

As we contemplate the impact of the Grenfell disaster, we see that not only is there a larger issue in play, we need to realise that the current viewed inaction in both the UK and Australia should be seen as a larger problem. That is seen most clearly in two quotes. The first is: “The Neo200 apartment building on Spencer Street, which caught fire last week, was classified to be a moderate risk“, the second one is: “Neo 200 achieved certification and approval from the building certifier and relevant authorities at the time. We welcome the opportunity to support any investigation into the incident by authorities.

It gives direct rise to the concern that certification is as large an issue as well as allowing fire hazardous cladding to be applied to a building. So when we see that ‘Some 360 private buildings had been deemed high-risk‘, we need to conclude that the building regulations have now failed well over 360 times and in that regard, knowing that there were clear issues going back to the Lakanal House fire of 2009, when we realise that sources gave us “breaches of fire safety standards in UK are common and lessons from Lakanal House have not been learned“, we see that issues with building regulations, and breaches in fire safety have been allowed to go unchecked for almost a decade, in that light, stronger questions need to be asked of the political players as well as the policy makers. Even as the earlier failures by Southwark council are well documented, how is it even possible that these failings are still happening close to a decade later?

I fear that we are failing others by our inability to loudly ask the questions that require answers, and we are seemingly finding the response from Richard Wynne that it is a ‘complex problem which will take some time to fix properly‘, we are too accepting of an issue that should have reduced to the largest degree close to half a decade ago, the information of failing has been clearly shown since 2009, the fact that this is ‘still’ complex a decade later should anger a lot of people, especially those in apartments with flammable cladding. Feel free to disagree, yet when you do, don’t come crying when you end up watching your children burn alive. At that point you only have yourself to blame.

It’s harsh, but the inaction on flammable cladding is just that, harsh!

 

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Blame and culpability are not the same

The setting is one that has been going on for a while. We can hide, we can blame. Yet the culpability is one that is much larger and it is seemingly aimed at the wrong people. The one that did set me off most was not some Murdoch article, you would expect that. No, it was the Times with: ‘The Grenfell fire inquiry has revealed serious shortcomings in firefighters’ training, but none so serious as a reluctance to react to fast-changing events‘. If we look at certain elements, we can deduce that part and give that a thumb up rating. Yet, I do not believe that this is the case, I believe that certain players are setting the stage and the lighting on the people in this oversized drama, whilst the light is moved away from the actual events and the actual players behind the screen. You see a lot of issues were clear within 5 minutes (always the case after the facts), I spoke about them in my blog of June 2017 ‘Under cover questions‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2017/06/23/under-cover-questions/). The brochure alone gave me so many red flags that this was a much larger danger. So before there were firefighters. There were the people behind the renovation, there were the decision makers, there were the architects of the plan, there were the people who gave the final word. These people were to be fried, baked and were to be interrogated in a very uncomfortable way. When I wrote it, I also saw the Guardian article ‘Complex chain of companies that worked on Grenfell Tower raises oversight concerns‘ raising a few additional concerns. So when we look at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. We see (at https://www.grenfelltowerinquiry.org.uk/news/prime-minister-announces-inquiry-terms-reference) the following points.

(a) the immediate cause or causes of the fire and the means by which it spread to the whole of the building;

(b) the design and construction of the building and the decisions relating to its modification, refurbishment and management;

(c) the scope and adequacy of building regulations, fire regulations and other legislation, guidance and industry practice relating to the design, construction, equipping and management of high-rise residential buildings;

These are the first three points, and it seems to me that this should have been the order. Now, I can accept that they are working on the firefighters first, as the better it is in their memory, the better the quality of the statements. Yet, it is my personal believe that the Times misfired (one of the least likely events in the history of journalism) for the simple reason that nothing about this fire was normal. Anything that could have gone possibly wrong did and when we go back to one of the scariest parts in all this was talked about in my earlier blog too. The footage (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUtjSspO_BU) gives us the recordings on the fireman still on route trying to get TO the fire. They were in disbelief that this was real, so even we hear the talks on the fire fighters being banned talking to the media. Now we see the disgraceful words of the Times (which is an unique in my view as well). The revelations by John Sweeney (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrzcjUhf61w) give us even more (not at present, but at the initial point), it gives us that the first fire engine arrived in 4 minutes. The BBC gives a much better light and the one part that I stated in the beginning and still believe that is true, is that the Firefighters should have been made untouchable by the media until the inquiry is done. Even as we see the critical answers that BBC Newsnight received by Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union is an internal one and he is stating that certain things needed to be looked at. Certain protocols had to be changed. Yet here too the bigger story is not merely what was missed, or what was done. It is what should have been there from the earliest beginning and we see close to zero on that. Yet there were water pressure issues, it was not enough to fight fires, and it became worse when all the levels of concrete hindered communications. Yet the first light was given by Sky News on November 27th 2017 when we hear (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pS3cIF6g24), at 0:45 we hear “we had a push to insulate buildings and easiest, the cheapest way to insulate them is to use these combustible materials“, a clear danger, the Reynobond PE brochure calls even more questions on the failing, yet all eyes are on the fire fighters and I found the Times article the most upsetting one. So, we would not have been surprised to the Telegraph giving us: “The inquiry has previously heard from Dr Barbara Lane, a leading fire engineer, that the controversial stay put policy had “substantially failed” by 1.26am when flames could be seen to have reached the top of the 23-storey tower block“, I expected more and better from the Times. You see, the ‘Stay Put’ protocol makes perfect sense, if all the proper elements are in place and we learned later that not only were they not in place, we see the effect of a fire growing outside of a CONCRETE building that caused the dangers. A danger I correctly identified in less than 5 minutes, and that included the time required to Google search the Reynobond brochure, downloading, and reading it.

We are also given from several sources that repeated warnings were ignored. And that gets us to part 4 of the inquiry. There we see:

(d) Whether such regulations, legislation, guidance and industry practice were complied with in the case of Grenfell Tower and the fire safety measures adopted in relation to it;

There is an important overlap between part c where we see “industry practice relating to the design, construction, equipping and management of high-rise residential buildings” as well as part (d) where we see: “whether such regulations, legislation, guidance and industry practice were complied with“. Here we get to understand the setting of the stage for the fire, yet the stage is larger. The entire consideration by the decision makers on the refurbishment of Grenfell and what happens after are receiving governmental isolation from the event and there is where we see the setting of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO). When we consider the message on September 27th 2017 where we are treated to: “Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKC) has voted unanimously to terminate its contract with the landlord of Grenfell Tower“, we still see that there is not one, but there are two elements missing in the dock and the people have a right to grill these two players as well. It is my personal view that there is a systemic failure here, but the reach of the failure is a little in the wind as we are unaware of all the legalised settings of responsibility, that is also an element that we should look at, because the deeper the failure goes, the larger the problem for London and its mayor Sadiq Khan.

So even as Sky News treats us to the LFB chief testimony with: “The London Fire Brigade chief told the inquiry she would change nothing about her team’s response on the night of the fire and defended the crews’ “fantastic” actions – to which survivors in the room shook their heads“, I wonder how many saw the YouTube video where the firemen saw the blaze already going on and these people still ran into the fire with whatever they could. That in view of “At that point £300,000 was removed from the cladding budget and zinc panels were replaced with the aluminium composite material with the plastic core“, It is at this point when we need to realise that the Chair of Grenfell gives us what is actually important ion all this: “Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the chair of the Grenfell Tower inquiry which opens in full on 4 June, has said he wants to find out “what decisions about the exterior of the building … were made, by whom and when”. He also wants to know whether the cladding and insulation met building regulations and standards, who was responsible if they did not and “what factors or motives influenced the decisions”“, this setting as given by the Guardian in May 2018 reflects what I stated a year earlier, it is what matters and whilst everyone is having a go at the London Fire Brigade, whilst the initial phone call on a stove with a fire did not include the part: “We are about to call you to a fire that has (intentionally or not) been designed to become a roman candle, burning hotter than a crematorium, designed to kill as many as possible and leave nothing in working order when the fire is done, you will optionally never ever have trained for such an event, as this has not happened since the 1974 when John Guillermin created the Towering Inferno“, which with the eye on irony was actually made by heaven forbid, a British film director, all elements ‘clearly’ seen and not currently reflected upon in the inquiry until much later (not the movie part).

Yet the movie part still matters, you see, when we take a little trip back into time, we see the events of February 1, 1974, the same year the movie was made. Here we are treated to the story of the Joelma Building disaster. Here too we see that there was no sprinkler and no smoke alarms. The 1974 Joelma Building fire was the worst skyscraper-related disaster in history until the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, and when you realise that the fire brigade was left with no options and that the fire went out on its own because there was nothing left to burn, only then do you perhaps realise that this was a clear sign that the story was not about the firemen, it was about the 179 people who lost their lives. Add to this the setting of the Lakanal House fire of July 3rd 2009 in Camberwell London and when we realise that at a meeting of Southwark Council, Cllr Ian Wingfield called for a “full and independent public inquiry” into the fire, which was supported by the Fire Brigades Union and that no public inquiry was conducted into the Lakanal House fire. We end up being treated to three clear signs that Grenfell could have been avoided largely BEFORE the fire even started. We get that final part through: “the fire spread unexpectedly fast, both laterally and vertically, trapping people in their homes, with the exterior cladding panels burning through in just four and a half minutes“. All clear statements of facts, all evidence on what happened, not reflected on and with “At that point £300,000 was removed from the cladding budget“, we see what clearly might reflect on the criminal setting of Murder through optional intentional negligence. I wonder if the inquiry will ever touch on that, at present, with the Times giving us ‘shortcomings on fire fighters’ the survivors and for now living relatives of Grenfell, they are not given the whole setting and even as there is a governmental need to critically look at Grenfell tower, it should show a lot more because I am decently certain that the failure will remain after the inquiry. You see, I will call on another piece of evidence, it is the instructed actions by solicitor, Vimal Sama, dated 25th July 2013, where we see that Francis O’Connor was facing optional prosecution on: “defamatory behaviour” and “harassment.” (the Independent at https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/grenfell-tower-fire-blogger-threatened-legal-action-kensington-and-chelsea-council-health-safety-a7792346.html), in that part, when we see the actions of “Kensington and Chelsea Council threatened a resident of Grenfell Tower with legal action after he blogged about his concerns over fire safety“, so did the media ever give everyone in London that particular blog and those relevant stories? In addition that article also gives us: “It has also been reported that former housing minister Brandon Lewis “sat on” information and resisted making sprinklers a legal requirement because it would “discourage building”“. In light of that at what point will the chairman of the conservative party be asked a few questions on the wisdom of resisting making sprinklers a legal requirement? Was that after he left that the impact would have been noticed?

All these valid questions on the setting that matters in a few areas (perhaps not at present at this exact stage of the inquiry), yet it gives me the first and perhaps only moment when I feel that this might be the one and only time that I tell John Witherow, editor of the Times:

Bad Form! This was badly done!

 

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