A key expert witness who will analyse the actions of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry is the father of the council’s head of fire safety.
Colin Todd’s son Keith Todd was appointed to the role at RBKC in September 2019, after the Grenfell Tower fire and his father’s appointment as an expert witness to the inquiry.
A spokesperson for the inquiry said that measures have been put in place to address any potential conflict of interest and that it was “satisfied” these would be sufficient.
They said that Mr Todd had disclosed his son’s intention to take the role “at an early stage” and that core participants had been made aware.
Mr Todd is set to give crucial evidence to the current phase of the inquiry – which will focus on the actions of RBKC and its managing agent Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO).
He is set to disagree on several key issues with Dr Barbara Lane, the inquiry’s other key witness for this part.
In opening statements delivered this week, lawyers for the families urged the inquiry to prefer Dr Lane’s evidence while Mr Todd was cited with approval by RBKC and KCTMO’s lawyers.
Stephanie Barwise QC, speaking for one group of bereaved and survivors, said that Mr Todd’s “vindication” of Carl Stokes, the fire risk assessor appointed by KCTMO, is “unlikely to withstand scrutiny”.
She said his evidence gave the impression that he was “at pains to exonerate Stokes”.
Adrian Williamson QC, appearing for another group of survivors, added: “We do not agree with Mr Todd’s general approach and do not accept that he is an appropriate expert to guide the inquiry.”
However, James Maxwell-Scott QC, appearing for RBKC, called him “probably the country’s most well-known expert on fire risk assessment” and quoted his views on Mr Stokes’ work with approval.
A lawyer speaking on behalf of KCTMO also cited Mr Todd approvingly and noted that “he is an expert in fire risk assessment, which Dr Lane, although eminent, is not”.
None of the barristers mentioned his son’s position at RBKC in their opening statements.
Keith Todd was appointed head of fire safety at RBKC in September 2019, having previously worked as a sole trader, a fire safety officer at University College London and for his father’s consultancy. It is understood that he was appointed when RBKC took back control of its housing stock from KCTMO after the fire.
Before being appointed an expert witness, Colin Todd was the primary author of fire safety guidance to councils that own tall blocks, published in 2011 and endorsed by government.
This guidance, since withdrawn, encouraged reliance on the ‘stay put’ principle and advised against the necessity of identifying and planning for the escape of residents with disabilities.
Ms Barwise criticised this guidance in her opening statement and said that Mr Todd’s “role in formulating and perpetrating the offending advice in the guide must itself be the subject of a scrutiny”.
Following the first phase of its work, which examined the events of the night of the fire, the inquiry recommended the development of personal emergency evacuation plans for residents with disabilities in October 2019.
But a document Mr Todd wrote for the British Standards Institution after this report continued to suggest that such measures were unnecessary, and was recently withdrawn following legal action from a bereaved Grenfell Tower family.
A spokesperson for the inquiry said: “Colin Todd informed the inquiry of his son Keith Todd’s intention to take up employment with RBKC at an early stage. In order to avoid any potential conflict of interest, the inquiry agreed a form of undertaking with RBKC, which both Colin and Keith Todd signed.
“The measures agreed, which were disclosed to core participants, include that Keith Todd will not be involved in any way in advising RBKC regarding evidence it gives to the inquiry about the Grenfell Tower fire and that Colin and Keith Todd will not discuss in any way fire safety matters relating to RBKC.
“The inquiry is satisfied that these measures mitigate any risk to the independence of the opinions Mr Todd may express in his report for the inquiry.”
A spokesperson for RBKC said: "The fire safety team introduced after taking back control of our housing stock is crucial to the safety of our residents’ homes and we carried out a thorough search for a competent and qualified professional to lead it.
"Keith Todd, appointed in September 2019 following an open recruitment process, fits that bill and he has demonstrated his commitment to achieving the very highest levels of fire safety ever since.
"The Inquiry is aware of Keith’s appointment and both Keith and Colin have entered into legal undertakings not to discuss matters relating to the Inquiry with each other.
"Grenfell is a tragedy that should not have happened and can never happen again. Our duty is to the truth and we will continue to cooperate fully with the Grenfell Tower Inquiry – whatever it takes and whatever the consequences for the Council."
Colin Todd did not respond to a request for comment.
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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
Week 15: ‘Have you ever informed the police that you destroyed documents relevant to their investigation?’
Witnesses from the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) gave evidence for a second week, which began with a shocking revelation about withheld and destroyed evidence. Peter Apps recaps
Week 16: ‘I conclude this was very serious evidence of professional negligence’
This week saw members of Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation finish giving evidence, before the inquiry’s expert witnesses took the stand to make some highly critical assessments of the work they had seen before and during the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower. Jack Simpson recaps
Grenfell Tower: a timeline of the refurbishment
Following the conclusion of module one of the Grenfell Inquiry’s second phase, Peter Apps presents a timeline of the key moments during the fatal refurbishment of the west London tower block
Week 17: ‘It’s hard to make a note about this because we are not clean’
The start of the second module of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase two came with some huge revelations about the companies that sold the products used in the cladding system. Peter Apps reports
Week 18: ‘It was just reckless optimism wasn't it?’
As the inquiry began cross-examining witnesses for the second module of its phase two work, the picture surrounding just how Grenfell Tower ended up wrapped in such dangerous materials became a little clearer. Nathaniel Barker was keeping an eye on proceedings
Week 19: ‘And that was intentional, deliberate, dishonest?’
The Grenfell Tower Inquiry this week heard the shocking story of how the insulation manufacturer “manipulated” official testing and marketed its product “dishonestly”. Peter Apps tells the story
Week 20: ‘We were outed by a consultant who we then had to fabricate a story to’
This week the inquiry investigated the actions of Kingspan – the manufacturer of one of the insulation products used in the tower’s cladding system. Dominic Brady reports
Week 21: ‘It’s there in black and white isn't it? We see a complete absence of any consideration of life safety’
The story of insulation giant Kingspan’s testing and marketing of its combustible insulation for high rises was unpacked in minute detail this week. Peter Apps reports
Week 22: ‘All we do is lie in here’
In the third week of evidence from insulation giant Kingspan, the inquiry continued to uncover shocking details about the firm’s behaviour both before and after the Grenfell Tower fire. Lucie Heath reports
Week 23: ‘That would have come as an earthquake to you at the time, would it not?’
This week the inquiry took its deepest dive yet into the inner workings of the cladding manufacturer whose product has been blamed for the terrible spread of fire up Grenfell Tower. Nathaniel Barker reports
Week 24: ‘Do you accept that Test 5B was Arconic's deadly secret’
The president of the firm that made and sold the cladding panels installed on Grenfell Tower was asked to account for the apparent concealment of “disastrous” fire tests on the product this week. Peter Apps reports
Week 25: ‘This is quite an incredible list of omissions and missed instances, isn’t it?’
This week the Grenfell Tower Inquiry heard its first witnesses from the Building Research Establishment (BRE) - the testing house which carried out key fire tests on the Kingspan and Celotex insulation products which were later used on Grenfell Tower. Peter Apps reports.
Week 26: 'You were taking an enormous risk, weren't you?'
Week 26 at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry was a key moment in understanding how dangerous products used on the tower came to be accepted by industry professionals. Dominic Brady reports
Week 27: ‘What will happen if one building made out [of] PE core is in fire and will kill 60 to 70 persons?’
The most explosive week at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry came not from those who did not attend, as the evidence which would have been presented to Arconic witnesses was displayed in their absence. Peter Apps reports
Week 28: ‘This is a serious safety matter’
This week the Grenfell Tower Inquiry zeroed in on the British Board of Agrément, the body that produced “misleading” certificates which inspired trust in both the cladding and insulation used on the tower. Lucie Heath reports
Week 29: ‘Is it true that Kingspan’s position… was to do its best to ensure that science was secretly perverted for financial gain?’
The final week in this section of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry primarily examined the attempts by insulation manufacturer Kingspan to lobby government after the fire. Peter Apps reports
How the products used in Grenfell Tower's cladding system were tested and sold
As the section of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry examining how the products used in the cladding system were tested, marketed and sold comes to a close, Peter Apps summarises what we have learned about each of the products included in the system.
Week 30: ‘There is certainly a high probability that in the event of a fire the whole building can become an inferno’
The focus of the inquiry shifted this week to the actions of the social housing providers responsible for maintaining Grenfell Tower. Pete Apps recaps what we learned.