Anger over Grenfell contractor forces reversal
THE GOVERNMENT had placed Rydon, the builder that ‘oversaw the disastrous refurbishment’ of Grenfell Tower, as an approved contractor, but retracted this decision after criticism.
The Guardian reported first on the government’s decision to place Rydon on an ‘official list of firms recommended to build high-rise housing’, which ‘sparked fury among survivors’, as Rydon had been the main contractor for recladding the tower. The news outlet added that the decision to name it on a new £30bn seven year construction framework agreement had been criticised as ‘adding insult to injury’, with Rydon set to face ‘intense scrutiny’ in the inquiry’s second phase next year.
Rydon had been named as one of 12 of the firms on the government framework agreement, which helps public sector bodies find builders for projects, and a spokesperson for Grenfell United commented that ‘it is totally unacceptable that Rydon, one of the companies required to answer questions for its role in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, would be put on a government list that promotes it as a reputable contractor for other high-rise towers.
‘It makes us question the government’s intention to learn the lessons of Grenfell. Robert Jenrick must suspend Rydon from this list and explain how the contractor under investigation for Grenfell ended up there’. A government spokesperson responded: ‘There is absolutely no guarantee of a company securing government contracts just because they are on a framework. Under existing EU rules, we are not legally allowed to preclude Rydon Construction from bidding for government contracts.’
However, the government then ‘backtrack[ed]’ and told Rydon ‘to stop bidding for public contracts’ in an ‘abrupt U-turn’, Housing Minister Robert Jenrick stating that it should stop doing so ‘until the truth’ about the cause of the Grenfell Tower fire ‘was established’. He stated: ‘I understand why survivors and bereaved do not want to see public contracts awarded to the main contractor for the Grenfell Tower refurb until we have the full results of the inquiry. The contractor should not bid for further work until we know the truth.’
The Guardian also reported that London Mayor Sadiq Khan had suspended Rydon from its list of firms recommended through a city wide procurement agreement on the same basis, long before the government’s change of mind. He had signed a 2018 order ‘asserting it was not in the public interest to allow’ the company to bid on works until the inquiry ‘reported on the extent to which any Rydon group companies or employee contributed to causing or exacerbating’ the fire.
The news outlet noted that Rydon had qualified to be on the list of companies recommended to build residential led developments, but Mr Khan ‘quietly suspended it from the list’, with City Hall said to have been ‘willing to take a risk that its decision would be challenged by Rydon’ due to the same EU procurement rules the government cited.
A spokesperson for the mayor said: ‘The GLA [Greater London Authority] considers that it is in the public interest not to allow RCL to bid for contracts under its panel until the Grenfell Tower inquiry has reported on the extent to which any Rydon group companies or employee contributed to causing or exacerbating the Grenfell Tower fire.’