The tenant management organisation (TMO) responsible for overseeing the refurbishment of the Grenfell Tower was accused of “promising things” it was not “structured to deliver” following complaints about its handling of communication with residents, the inquiry heard today.
In an internal email between members of the housing department at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC), RBKC officer Jane Trethewey criticised the TMO’s director of assets and regeneration, Mark Anderson, for his response to a request for information regarding the TMO’s communication strategy with Grenfell residents.
Ms Tretheway described Mr Anderson’s response as “somewhat defensive” and questioned why he was left to carry out communications work, as opposed to members of the TMO’s housing management, leasehold management and resident engagement teams.
She said: “All of this rather adds to the impression of Mark being overloaded, and perhaps promising things that the TMO are not currently structured to deliver.”
Mr Anderson told the inquiry today that when he joined Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) in 2011, just before preliminary work on the Grenfell refurbishment started, the property services part of the organisation “hadn’t been performing to the standards that either KCTMO or RBKC wanted”.
He said that for “a number of years” prior to him joining the organisation, KCTMO’s capital investment programme “had not been delivered in its entirety”, and that there were issues around “skills, experience and competencies”.
KCTMO was set up in 1996 and was responsible for managing nearly 10,000 properties on behalf of RBKC. Following the Grenfell Tower fire, the council terminated its contract with KCTMO and brought the management of its housing stock back in house.
Mr Anderson, who left KCTMO in 2013 while design work on the Grenfell refurbishment was still under way, was grilled today by Andrew Kinnier QC on the TMO’s decision not to undertake a competitive tender process to select an architect for the project.
The inquiry previously heard that KCTMO instead decided to use the same architects employed by RBKC as part of the neighbouring Kensington Academy and Leisure Centre (KALC) project.
Mr Anderson said this was partly because of a need to “progress the design” of the Grenfell refurbishment “as quickly as possible” so that KCTMO could use the same contractor RBKC was planning to use for the KALC project.
The inquiry was shown minutes from a meeting of RBKC’s cabinet in May 2012, during which the council’s head of housing, Laura Johnson, said employing the same contractor for both projects would “ensure that the two projects are able to deliver cost savings where possible”.
When asked whether it was his view that using the design team from KALC on Grenfell would deliver cost savings, Mr Anderson said: “That wasn’t one of my drivers. That said, if you have a pre-construction professional team working on one project, and then add to that… you would expect to realise some efficiency through that.”
Earlier in phase two of the inquiry, the director of architecture firm Studio E admitted that it would not have been appointed to the Grenfell project if it had gone out to open tender as it had no experience of refurbishing high rises or overcladding residential buildings.
The inquiry continues.
Week one: A vivid picture of a broken industry
After a week of damning revelations at the opening of phase two of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, Peter Apps recaps the key points
Week two: What is the significance of the immunity application?
Sir Martin Moore-Bick has written to the attorney general requesting protection for those set to give evidence at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. Peter Apps explains what the move means
Week three: Architects of misfortune
This week saw the lead architects for the Grenfell Tower refurbishment give evidence to the inquiry. Peter Apps runs through the key points
Week four: ‘I didn’t have any perception that it was the monster it’s become’
The architects continued to give evidence this week, outlining a lack of understanding of the fire risk posed by the cladding materials and its design. Nathaniel Barker reports
Week five: ‘No adverse effect in relation to external fire spread’
As the Grenfell Tower Inquiry returns from its long absence, Peter Apps recaps the key points from a week of important evidence from the fire consultants to the refurbishment
Week six: ‘I can’t recall any instance where I discussed the materials with building control’
Nathaniel Barker summarises what we learned from fire engineers Exova, architects Studio E and the early evidence from contractor Rydon
Week seven: ‘I do not think I have ever worked with a contractor operating with this level of nonchalance’
Two key witnesses from contractor Rydon gave evidence this week. Peter Apps recaps some of the key points from a revealing week of evidence
Week eight: ‘It haunts me that it wasn't challenged’
Four witnesses from contractor Rydon gave evidence this week. Lucie Heath recaps what we learned on the last week of evidence before the inquiry breaks for five weeks
Week nine: ‘All I can say is you will be taken out for a very nice meal very soon’
This week the inquiry heard evidence from witnesses at Harley Facades, the sub-contractor responsible for Grenfell Tower’s cladding. Peter Apps recaps the key points
Week 10: ‘As we all know, ACM will be gone rather quickly in a fire!’
As the Grenfell Tower Inquiry entered its 10th week, Jack Simpson recaps the key points from a week of important evidence from the refurbishment’s cladding contractor
Week 11: ‘Did you get the impression Grenfell Tower was a guinea pig for this insulation?’
With witnesses from the cladding subcontractor, the firm which cut the deadly panels to shape and the clerk of works which inspected the job giving evidence this was week full of revelations. Peter Apps recaps the key points
Week 12: ‘Would you accept that was a serious failing on your part?’
With the surveyor who inspected Grenfell Tower for compliance giving evidence, this was a crucial week from the inquiry. Dominic Brady and Peter Apps report
Week 13: ‘Value for money is to be regarded as the key driver for this project’
With consultants to Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) giving evidence, attention at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry turned for this first time to the actions of the TMO and the council. Peter Apps reports
Week 14: ‘Did it not occur to you at this point that your budget was simply too low?’
This week, for the first time in phase two, the inquiry heard from Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, the landlord that oversaw the fatal refurbishment of Grenfell Tower. Lucie Heath reports
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