Grenfell authorities’ response ‘badly flawed’, report says

Volunteers at GrenfellImage copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Voluntary organisations filled the void left by a lack of official direction in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, the report found

The “badly flawed” response by the authorities to the Grenfell Tower fire caused damage that “has been difficult to repair”, a report has found.

The review criticised “weak leadership” at Kensington and Chelsea council with volunteers left “on the front line”.

The council said it “would not be right to comment” as the public inquiry into the fire continues.

Grenfell authorities’ response ‘badly flawed’, report says
Grenfell authorities’ response ‘badly flawed’, report says

However, it confirmed it is planning to replace fire doors in the borough, after failed safety tests nationally.

The government has yet to respond to the BBC’s approach for comment on the report.

The review also found the voluntary sector was “very much on the front line”.

Commissioned by Muslim Aid, it said: “The consequences of the disaster were compounded by the weak leadership of the response initially led by the local council, which was slow to provide direction, co-ordination and information and to address multiple pressing needs.”

The report said it would be easy to dismiss Grenfell as “a one-off, compounded by the failings of a particularly flawed local authority”.

But it warned that aspects of the tragedy could play out again “at a time when the frequency of disasters in the UK is likely to increase due to climate change, vulnerability to terror attacks and the inherent risks of life in crowded, unequal cities”.

Image caption A total of 71 people died in the blaze which ripped through the Grenfell Tower block on 14 June

Muslim Aid’s CEO, Jehangir Malik, said: “I would have expected this chaos in a developing country, because almost always there is poor infrastructure.

“I honestly thought we had better disaster preparedness and response systems here in the UK.”

The report also recognised that, in certain respects, the voluntary sector “came up short, with some systems, structures and approaches not fit for purpose”.

It recommended that, in a major disaster, local secular and faith organisations could draw on their “local rootedness” to act quickly and sensitively to help their communities.

“The Grenfell Tower disaster must be a wake-up call to those in a position to effect change and find 21st Century solutions to 21st Century challenges,” the report concluded.

‘Whole, unvarnished truth’

Authority councillors are set to meet on 6 June to consider the replacement of fire doors in its social housing blocks across the borough, after the Manse Masterdor type, used across the country, failed safety tests when they did not resist fire for the required 30 minutes.

“The Secretary of State James Brokenshire has said all Manse doors across the country must be replaced, but stated that ‘the risk to public safety remains low’,” the council said in a statement.

“However, Kensington and Chelsea Council believes that the replacement programme must be started as a matter of urgency.”

The authority estimates that 4,000 new front doors will be needed, at a cost of around £3.5m.

Referring to the Muslim Aid report and its criticisms, the council said they were a matter for the current public inquiry, which is reviewing the events surrounding the authority’s response to the fire.

A spokesman said: “It is our responsibility to ensure that the whole, unvarnished truth is told so that lessons can be learned and to ensure that such a tragedy can never happen again.

“We will work with the inquiry to ensure this happens.”

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