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Khan accuses Grenfell Tower companies of putting profits before safety



The Mayor of London has called for an overhaul of the UK’s building control system, accusing decades of deregulation of allowing companies involved in the Grenfell Tower renovation to prioritize ‘profits’ over’ public security “.

In the closing statements of the second phase of the Grenfell Tower inquiry on Wednesday, Sadiq Khan said “the system is down”.

The mayor urged the inquiry, led by President Sir Martin Moore-Bick, to seize the opportunity to change the culture of the construction industry which has led “to the deaths of 72 Londoners”.

Speaking on behalf of Mr Khan, Anne Studd QC said: “The mayor, like many others, listened to the evidence for many months was appalled at the ability and willingness of the participating companies to shirk responsibility and to hold others accountable for what should have been the central consideration in everything they have done – safety.

“The evidence depressingly demonstrated that the safety of the tower, and the Londoners who live there, was not a priority during the shopping or renovation process.

Grenville Tower is a truly terrible example of what’s wrong with the regulatory system

Anne Studd QC

“Security considerations were non-existent and profit was paramount,” she added.

The Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organization (KCTMO) has been described as having “sold the interests and safety of survivors and bereaved residents to the lowest bidder”.

The entrepreneurs allegedly “showed a lack of knowledge, attention, coordination and skill, which was sometimes astounding”.

The mayor also criticized everyone involved in the project for not fully admitting their role in the 2017 disaster.

“The Grenville Tower is a really terrible example of what’s wrong with the regulatory system,” Ms. Studd said.

“Among other failures, the system has enabled the use and signature of non-compliant flammable coatings on scores of other residential buildings across the country.

“Contractors and subcontractors were able to use the ambiguity of regulations and guidelines to play the system and shift responsibility to another subcontractor in the chain assuming this was someone’s problem. else.

Dozens of people died in the Grenfell Tower fire (Jonathan Brady / PA)

“Throughout these two modules, we heard from some of the key players involved in the disastrous renovation of the Grenfell Tower. Behind them are many more people, the owners, directors and senior executives of the organizations involved who are collectively responsible for the culture in which they operate.

“This culture led to unacceptable priorities and ultimately to the deaths of 72 Londoners.

“As with so many tragic disasters in various industries, commercial interest has taken precedence over public safety. This will continue until recommendations are made and actions are implemented to ensure safety first. “

The mayor asked the investigation to ensure that in the future the results of tests carried out by companies on their own products are made available to regulators, other professionals, or even the public on request. .

He also said building control should be made completely independent and have sufficient resources with properly trained employees to do the job.

Rydon, who was in charge of the multi-million pound renovation of the West Tower of London, said deregulation had resulted in “systematic failures in the construction industry”.

However, the company – which has been embroiled in controversy over its involvement in cost-cutting measures that have led to the use of cheaper, highly combustible ACM coatings – has rejected most claims about its own guilt. .

The obsession with costs, the fragmentation of responsibilities and the lack of clarity on key design decisions are typical of many projects in the UK construction industry

Lawyers for bereaved and survivors

Instead, they said the responsibility should lie with coating manufacturers, such as Celotex, which they say has taken advantage of ineffective regulations to sell unsafe products, and specialists hired by Rydon to oversee the liability. fire safety authorities, as well as to regulatory bodies.

Marcus Taverner QC, speaking on behalf of Rydon, offered the company’s condolences and said: “It is understandable that the condolences of Rydon and those of us who represent them can be ignored as hollow, even stereotyped, by those who have suffered at the hands of work. supervised by Rydon. But they are sincerely sincere nonetheless.

Lawyers for some of the bereaved, survivors and residents berated all companies that testified at the inquest for “going on a money transfer merry-go-round.”

“The truth is that many individuals and organizations made a mistake and, as a result, the tower dwellers were unwittingly driven into the valley of death,” they said.

“However, these parties did not set out maliciously… to kill 72 people. What’s even more shocking than their incompetence is that the renovation was in many ways not unusual in the way it was purchased, designed, managed and built.

“The obsession with costs, the fragmentation of responsibilities and the lack of clarity on key design decisions are typical of many projects in the UK construction industry.

“However, we can be clear about this, the companies in module two have acted dishonestly by using a flawed regulatory system in the pursuit of profit rather than public safety.”

They also pointed out that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government had not yet apologized for what had happened under “government watch”.

“A complacent civil service and a revolving door of ignorant ministers did not appreciate the risks to life posed by a dangerous coating and did not introduce austerity into the regulatory process.”