EXCLUSIVE: Citizens allege council deleted Grenfell files from website as fire investigations widen

Grenfell Tower
Tom Coburg

Eagle-eyed members of the public have claimed that the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Council (RBKC) removed files from its website. The files relate to the Grenfell Tower refurbishment project. In the meantime, further investigations of contractors who specialise in fire safety measures are underway.

Disappearing files

According to Currentlydown, the RBKC website was not available between 5.30pm on Thursday 6 July 2017 and 4am the next day. But once the website was live again, a post on Louise Hopkin’s Facebook page detailed observers’ claims that documents pertaining to the Grenfell Tower refurbishment in the RBKC planning section were no longer there:

RBKC webpage

(Note: The above image was time-stamped by Hopkin.)

Another contributor to the Facebook thread then allegedly approached the council around noon on Friday 7 July. The files were visible again by 5.30pm, which was more than 12 hours after these citizens say they disappeared.

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Hopkin subsequently commented:

Lo and behold, having been sussed, the links to the documents then magically re-appeared at about 17:30. The lesson from this, given that the removal of those very specific links to the Grenfell data could hardly have been an accident? They are going to get away with whatever they are allowed to get away with. They are going to have to be watched 24×7. Indeed, I worry about whatever they may have already deleted or erased that hasn’t been spotted. We now have another set of questions though…

Who took the decision to delete these links to the core data? Who was aware of it? Who authorised it? Who took the decision to replace them? How can we have any confidence that as soon as we turn our backs more directly relevant information won’t disappear?

These are the RBKC document sets that relate to the external cladding arrangements for Grenfell Tower:

The Canary asked RBKC for a response, but received none.

Other developments

Carl Stokes, the fire risk consultant who inspected Grenfell Tower, reportedly told the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organization (KCTMO) to “bury” its fire safety assessment. Stokes allegedly advised KCTMO of its right to withhold a November 2012 report, which detailed the building’s safety hazards, from London Fire Brigade. Stokes has reportedly earned £244,318 in consultancy fees since he was appointed by KCTMO in 2010.

KCTMO responded:

CS Stokes and Associates Ltd is confident that its fire risk assessment work was carried out to the highest professional standards. Director Carl Stokes has 19 years’ fire safety experience with local Fire Authorities, in enforcement and auditing roles and eight years as an independent fire risk assessor and fully stands by the recommendations made in his risk assessments.

Meanwhile, the Fraud Squad is reportedly investigating Lakehouse, the contractor responsible for testing and maintaining the fire alarms in Grenfell Tower. Lakehouse uses a sub-contractor called Polyteck Building Services. This inquiry, however, is the result of a three-year investigation. The investigation relates to a £184m government grant to renovate council properties and install fire and smoke alarms and emergency lighting.

In a letter, marked ‘In Confidence’, to 166 town hall chief executives, Mayor of Hackney Peter Glanville advises caution:

Hackney mayor letter

Lakehouse said it:

completely refute[s] the allegations of fraud and the other matters relating to Lakehouse.

Polyteck also denied any wrong doing, and added:

Polyteck Building Services Ltd has never done any work in Grenfell Tower and was not responsible for installing fire alarms in the tower block.

Transparency

The Grenfell Tower tragedy has cast a spotlight not only on the adequacy of building regulations, but the entire construction industry and the politics of social housing.

Indeed, in the aftermath of the tragedy, two leading figures in Shelter resigned. Sir Derek Myers was the chairman of Shelter and the former chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea Council. Tony Rice was a board member of Shelter and also the chairman of Xerxes Equity, a construction industry investment group that is linked with Omnis Exteriors. Omnis is the parent of CEP Architectural Facades, which sold the cladding to contractors for the “refurbishment” of Grenfell. It is understood that Shelter received more than £15,000 in donations from Omnis over a two-year period.

Transparency from all parties – council, the KCTMO, main contractors and sub-contractors – is now essential, if the full truth of what happened at Grenfell is to be known.

Further detailed investigations by The Canary into the causes of the fire can be found here, here, here and here.

Get Involved!

Donate to the Grenfell Tower Appeal.

– You can also read more from The Canary on the Grenfell Tower fire.

Featured image via Flickr

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