Grenfell inquiry releases update
DESPITE THE first phase’s recent conclusion and the second phase not beginning until 2020, the inquiry has issued an update on its work.
Last year, the inquiry began looking at the ‘factual narrative’ of the events, with expert witnesses describing the various safety failures in the tower and a ‘culture of non compliance’. After the inquiry resumed once more, a fire station manager stated that ‘vital’ plans for the tower were not able to be found in the lobby of the building. It then heard from 999 operators that due to a policy not to recontact callers, residents were not told to evacuate when policy changed.
In September last year, one of the fire commanders stated that ‘the building let us all down’, before London Fire Brigade (LFB) commissioner Dany Cotton admitted that she had no knowledge of cladding risks despite an LFB presentation created only a year before the fire. Recently, the inquiry heard two different experts note that flames spread in ‘just over 10 minutes’ to the outside of the tower, and that cladding issues ‘have been known for decades’.
In November, the inquiry heard that the architectural ‘crown’ of cladding designed to make the tower ‘look nice’ was ‘instrumental’ in the fire’s spread around the tower, and that the fire was ‘most likely started by overheated wiring’ within a fridge freezer. Then, the inquiry heard that LFB had ‘failed residents and firefighters’, and that a post Grenfell audit of the building’s management company found only ‘minor weaknesses’ in its approach.
Finally, in December, the second phase ‘is unlikely to start’ until the end of 2019, according to chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick, because there are ‘more than 20,000 documents still to disclose’, with this ‘probably not’ completed before this autumn. This second phase will examine the ‘wider issues surrounding the fire’.
Since the inquiry began, it has sat for almost 100 days and collected and disclosed 20,000 documents, with 686 firefighter statements submitted and 88 officers giving oral evidence. In turn, 307 statements were received from the bereaved, survivors and local residents, with 35 giving evidence in person, and an interim report will be produced ‘as soon as possible, having regard to the volume of information that has to be digested’.
The Fire Brigades Union gave a closing statement with its hopes for future change, and Arconic - which manufactured the cladding used on the tower - gave a 'combative' statement saying that other materials were to blame for the fire's spread. Earlier in 2019, reports on the refurbishment of the tower and the cladding and insulation were released.
The inquiry’s update noted that over 20,000 documents have been disclosed in the first phase, and it stated that if ‘further relevant’ material is provided ‘this will be disclosed’ to core participants, with all documents relative to the first phase’s report continuing to be published on its website’s evidence page. Disclosure of phase two documents is underway meanwhile, with over 14,000 documents disclosed to those participants so far.