TENANTS of the Grenfell Tower warned time and again about the dangerous building they were living in, but their cries for action fell on deaf ears – they were ignored, insulted and made to feel like ‘troublemakers’ and ‘sub-citizens’ the Inquiry heard last week.
The Kensington and Chelsea Council’s TMO (Tenants Management Organisation), refused to take heed of the litany of health and safety hazards, fire risks and urgently needed repairs.
The TMO would not listen to the chilling predictions of the residents association within Grenfell Tower, which warned of a ‘catastrophic fire’ unless action was taken.
The tenants did everything they possibly could to alert the council of the dangers, but the council ignored their warnings until it was all too late, and on the 14th June, 2017, when the horrific fire broke out, it took the lives of 72 men, women and children.
Eight months before the Grenfell fire, the Grenfell Tower Residents Group posted this chilling prediction: ‘It is our conviction that a serious fire in a tower block or similar high density residential property is the most likely reason that those who wield power at the KCTMO will be found out and brought to justice!’
Edward Daffarn of the Grenfell Tower Residents Group wrote a blog with Francis O’Connor the year before the fire which predicted: ‘It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO, and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders.’
Daffarn gave evidence to the Inquiry last week in which he defended his description of the TMO as a ‘mini-mafia’. Daffarn told the public inquiry his description of the organisation was not ‘glib, shoot-from-the-hip expressions’. He said he had ‘spent a long, long time thinking how to describe this organisation’ but he ‘wouldn’t change a single word of it’.
In a closing comment, Daffarn said the building’s management ‘didn’t treat us with respect or humanity or empathy and if they had done, we wouldn’t be here now’.
Lee Chapman, the secretary of the Grenfell leaseholders’ association, told the inquiry that the health and safety of the building is ‘a life and death issue’ that ‘just wasn’t being dealt with’ by Kensington and Chelsea Council and the TMO. Chapman represented a small number of residents who owned their flats.
He told the inquiry: ‘Ultimately, we were people who wanted to feel safe in our homes, and this should not have been perceived by the TMO as something which was annoying or bothersome. I also believe that as residents in a so-called “social housing block”, we were treated as sub-citizens or sub-class.’
Disabled residents of Grenfell Tower told the inquiry that no-one discussed with them how to escape the 24-storey building in an emergency.
Mahboubeh Jamalvatan, who lived on the third floor, said she had never been given any instruction on fire safety. On the night of the disaster, she had to slide, step-by-step, down the stairs on her bottom because she was unable to walk.
Maher Khoudair, who used crutches after contracting polio as a child, said there was no escape route with disabled access from the 9th floor flat where he lived with his wife and three daughters. The only route he could take was the stairs, and no-one had explained to him what to do in a fire.
Hisam Choucair said his mother, Sirria, lived on the 22nd floor and used a walking stick due to a bad back. A personal evacuation plan was never made for her, he said. She died in the fire.
The council were warned again and again that the building was unsafe and did nothing about it.
The Inquiry heard last month that the cladding company Arconic and the insulation company Kingspan were aware that their products were flammable. The refurbishment company Rydon was chosen by the council because it was the cheapest option.
Meanwhile, the London fire service was being stripped to the bone by the then-London Mayor, Boris Johnson.
The TMO, Kensington and Chelsea Council, Arconic, Kingspan, Rydon, and the Tories all played a role in the lead-up to the Grenfell fire.
All those responsible must be arrested and jailed!