Grenfell Inquiry must be ‘open and transparent’, Hackney tells ministers

The public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire must be broad and have freedom to investigate the role of contractors and building regulations, Hackney Council said today.

How the impact of years of government cuts to council budgets affected maintenance standards, as well as the impact of borrowing restrictions placed on local authorities, should also come under the scope of the inquiry’s work, the Council argued.

In their response to the consultation on the terms of reference of the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry, the Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, and Cabinet Member for Housing Services, Cllr Clayeon McKenzie, also said:

  • All Government test results relating to fire safety and cladding should be published immediately
  • The current system of housing regulation must be reviewed to put safety and residents first
  • The inquiry should examine the impact of cuts to local authority budgets since 2010 on fire safety
  • The role of ministers in implementing previous recommendations from the Lakanal House, Shirley Towers, Shepherds Bush fires should be within the scope of the Inquiry
  • Government documents should be provided to the Inquiry unredacted, with ministers and officials giving evidence in public

Unnecessary burdens placed on councils – including an arbitrary cap on how much they can borrow to finance maintenance work – should be removed specifically to pay for the implementation of lessons learned from the tragedy at a time of already overstretched local government resources, the Council’s letter said.

Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney
If both the families affected by the Grenfell tragedy and the wider public are to have confidence in this inquiry, it must be broad, open and allowed to investigate the wider causes of the fire.

Hackney has already started a wide-ranging fire safety review to make any immediate changes necessary to ensure the safety of our residents, as well as publishing fire risk assessments in our commitment to transparency.

We stand ready to make whatever changes the inquiry recommends in the interests of our residents, and it’s vital that no stone is left unturned in its work.
Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney

In Hackney, government funding cuts mean the Council has £110m per year less to work with than it did in 2010, despite increased demand for services meaning it is spending £42m more to provide them.

Currently, the Government places a cap on the amount councils can borrow against future income from rent to spend on housing repairs, maintenance and new housebuilding. Research by London Councils has shown that removing this cap could allow an extra £2.5bn borrowing capacity to be released across the capital.

Hackney Council has started a wide-ranging fire safety review to independently test cladding, check existing equipment and work with the London Fire Brigade to keep residents informed about evacuation plans.

An immediate inspection was completed within 48 hours of the fire, and confirmed that no Council housing in Hackney uses the same type of cladding that was installed on Grenfell Tower.

The review includes:

  • independent testing of all cladding installed on Hackney housing estates
  • additional fire risk assessments for priority blocks
  • rigorous checks on all fire safety equipment within buildings, including fire doors
  • reviewing appropriate completed refurbishment or maintenance work
  • investigating problems or issues raised by residents promptly, with repairs or other work carried out where necessary
  • commissioning a report from an independent fire safety advisor on whether sprinklers would improve fire safety in estates
  • reviewing fire safety guidance for tower blocks, in partnership with the London Fire Brigade
  • working with housing associations and other residential providers to share information and ensure any problems are investigated

The Council also outlined the need for the Inquiry to publish an urgent interim report to reassure those affected by the fire and give local authorities clarity on funding and safety issues.

To read the Council’s submission to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Terms of Reference consultation in full, download the letter [pdf, 156Kb].