A senior councillor who sits on the housing scrutiny committee that presided over Grenfell Tower has said he was unaware of concerns raised by residents before the fire, despite a public campaign that repeatedly voiced fears over safety.
Kim Taylor-Smith, Deputy Leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, told the Today programme the refurbishment of the building, which is believed to have facilitated the devastating fire, was only examined when the works contract was submitted.
This is despite a long-running campaign by the Grenfell Action Group dating back to 2011 including a post from November 2016 that warned “only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord″.
Speaking to Radio 4′s Today programme, Taylor-Smith was asked by host Mishal Husain in what way he had scrutinised the building’s refurbishment.
He said: “Personally I didn’t get involved in the scrutiny, there’s obviously something that has to be looked at.”
Husain said: “You were on the housing scrutiny committee and you never heard any of the complaints in the blog posts that were in the public domain for everyone to see on the internet, warning of how angry people were and the specific things relating to this refurbishment.?”
Taylor-Smith replied: “No, but I repeat - this is a public inquiry and a criminal investigation.”
Pushed as to why he hadn’t been “looking out for that sort of thing”, he then tried to excuse the oversight by saying Grenfell Tower was just one of many to have undergone refurbishment.
He said: “We have have refurbishment projects going on all the time, I can’t comment on [how many] we had at that time but this was part of a refurbishment programme.”
Joe Delaney, from Grenfell Action Group, told HuffPost UK: “This is typical of the council’s blasé approach.
“It seems that the only time they take an interest in the concerns of residents is when their own interests are at stake.”
Cladding used in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower is thought to have played a large role in helping the fire spread so quickly, trapping many inside and leading to the deaths of around 80 people.
Last night saw the first Kensington and Chelsea council meeting since the disaster and was a night filled with drama as victim after victim of the horrific inferno took to the podium to direct fury and pain at the ruling Tory council.
Shouts of “murderer”, “stand down now, and “shame on you” filled the air when Councillor Elizabeth Campbell was officially appointed as the authority’s new leader.
Taylor-Smith has categorically ruled out stepping down.