I’m not a fan of London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan because I’m not a fan of the contemporary Labour party, but I think I have something to add to the debate about who is to blame for the flammable cladding on Grenfell Tower. I was a chair of a housing association management committee in Scotland and have been involved in tendering processes for similar amounts as have been said to change hands for the Grenfell cladding.
Glasgow is a far smaller city than London, but even so the Lord Provost – our equivalent of a mayor – was not involved in the tendering process. No politicians from any party or at any level were involved. And they knew better than to ask to be involved, as even the request would have exposed us, the management committee members, to accusations of being vulnerable to political influence.
According to the Evening Standard, a former chair of the firm acting as landlord for Grenfell Tower, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), stepped down because of “concerns” about how the firm was being run, as did residents who were part of the management committee. It is with the commercial arm of this firm that the investigation into the fire must begin, and also the investigation into the tendering process, which must also have the remit to inquire as to whether management committee members had the latitude not to accept the lowest amount tendered.
Then the investigation must go to the firm which supplied the cladding, Harley Facades. Did this firm use “green” legislation to bypass safety concerns, or did it flog KCTMO the cheapest stuff it had lying around claiming it would win green brownie points with the council? How many more lives are presently endangered by such green issues?
And finally there is the number of dead. Do either Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council or KCTMO know or care how many people were actually living in its property? I ask because the whole nightmare could be a parable of the fate of working-class people in the face of the Establishment, crammed into a concrete box and forgotten. And at the end, the dead have only one right: to be remembered.