Grenfell Tower inquiry: Landlords had ‘reactive approach to maintenance’ before fire which killed 72


Grenfell Tower’s landlords appeared to have a ‘reactive approach to maintenance’ dating back to a report in 2013, a public inquiry has heard.

Andrew Kinnier QC, for the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, said that a document in 2013 viewed the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO), as having a ‘reactive approach to maintenance’ built more on compliance rather than breakdown.

The TMO was the organisation appointed by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) to run its entire council housing stock.

The document said there were issues which needed attention regarding planned maintenance.

It stated that ‘there are only a handful of arrangements in the policy’ and ‘many are missing’ such as pressure vessels, working at height and contractor management.

It added that ‘many of the fire arrangements have been bunched together and by doing so lack the detail in relation to what the planned preventative maintenance process should look like’.

Giving evidence to the inquiry on Monday, Sacha Jevans, of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, said she believed that work would have been done to address the situation by a colleague called Anthony Parkes.

Andrew Kinnier QC, for the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, said that a document in 2013 viewed the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO), as having a ‘reactive approach to maintenance’ built more on compliance rather than breakdown (pictured: the fire in 2017)

She said he would have ‘led on making sure that the policies are correct’ and that the follow-up from this report would have included putting in place redrafted polices if necessary.

This would have been done in conjunction with the contract management team and any other advice that was needed, she added.

Ms Jevans said she did not recall the suggestion that there appeared to be a lack of detail in relation to the planned preventative programme at the time.

Of the description in 2013 of the TMO as having a reactive approach to maintenance, Ms Jevans said she thought the organisation ‘understood about planned preventative maintenance’ and that it was working to ‘pick up this gap’.

Asked if she would have made any contribution in ensuring these deficiencies were fixed, she said: ‘I am sure there was discussion in the monthly health and safety meetings.

‘In terms of my technical input, I really do not have that technical background so it would not be for me to make comment on a ventilation system (as) I do not have that expertise.’

Mr Kinnier said that a full review of the property policy arrangements was recommended in the 2013 document.

Ms Jevans said this would have been the responsibility of Mr Parkes.

The document said there were issues which needed attention regarding planned maintenance, adding that 'many of the fire arrangements have been bunched together and by doing so lack the detail in relation to what the planned preventative maintenance process should look like

The document said there were issues which needed attention regarding planned maintenance, adding that ‘many of the fire arrangements have been bunched together and by doing so lack the detail in relation to what the planned preventative maintenance process should look like

Ms Jevans attended a meeting in December 2015 in which residents voiced various concerns.

This included the location of heating interface units, an independent investigation into what had gone wrong including the effectiveness of the complaints procedure, the state of the building and making everything good at the end of the process, along with compensation for residents who had spent their own money in having to sort out the work done in their own homes.

Ms Jevans was asked if she had any concerns about how Peter Maddison, former director of assets and regeneration at the TMO, and project manager Claire Williams had managed the refurbishment project.

She described the communication with residents about the scheme as ‘challenging’, adding: ‘We were trying very much to connect with residents and make sure we dealt with their issues of concern.’

A door knock exercise, which was done with the local housing management team, was carried out at the tower block in an effort to improve relations between the TMO and Grenfell residents and to directly hear the views of people who lived there.

Ms Jevans, who took part in the door-knocking exercise and said she heard nothing which caused her to change her views, added: ‘Actually when you door knocked most people seemed to be happy with the works.

‘They understood there was a lot of disruption with this type of work but it did seem to be at variance to the other view that was presented.’

A fire at the Grenfell Tower block in west London in June 2017 claimed 72 lives.

In her final comments to the inquiry which is examining the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the fire, Ms Jevans said: ‘I just want to say how devastating the tragic loss of life is and always will be.

‘I hope that lessons are learned and that changes are made so that it never happens again.’

The hearing was adjourned until Tuesday.

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