The Grenfell Tower Inquiry currently has “no expertise or experience in areas of community relations and social housing” as it seeks to recruit a third panellist, according to an official recruitment document.
The document, seen by Inisde Housing, spells out that while it has legal and architectural expertise, it is missing knowledge of these areas – which will become increasingly relevant as the inquiry progresses.
For the inquiry’s second phase, its chair, retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, is supposed to consider the evidence and deliver the final report as part of a three-person panel.
But following the resignation of the intended third panel member ahead of the inquiry beginning in January, one chair remains vacant and efforts to find a candidate to fill it have so far proved unsuccessful.
The document detailing the role was sent out to potential candidates by recruitment firm Perrett Laver on behalf of the Cabinet Office, which is managing the recruitment.
It says: “The inquiry panel has both legal and architectural expertise, and the inquiry has a number of expert witnesses covering the technical issues under consideration in phase two.
“The inquiry currently has no expertise or experience in the areas of community relations and social housing, which will be relevant to module three of phase two. It is this knowledge gap that the new panel appointment will address.”
Module three will cover issues including the complaints made by residents and the way they were handled by Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, the ALMO that managed council homes in Kensington and Chelsea.
Under the pre-coronavirus timetable, this module was due to begin in June, but is now unlikely to begin until at least autumn.
The third panellist was originally intended to be Professor Nabeel Hamdi, a social housing academic from Oxford Brookes University, but he stepped down in December last year after “reflecting on the time commitments needed”.
His replacement, engineer Benita Mehra, stepped down in January after links emerged between a company she was associated with and Arconic, the company that supplied the cladding.
This means the first six weeks of evidence have been heard only by Sir Martin and architect Thouria Istephan.
Last week, an application was made by lawyers representing the survivors to speed this process up – noting the inquiry’s duty to take racial discrimination into account as a potential factor in the disaster.
The recruitment document outlined a person specification for the role and said it is seeking someone who possesses:
It said it was also seeking a candidate who “should have no connections to any party affected by the work of the inquiry and should not have publicly expressed opinions which could appear to show any bias”.
The time commitment was listed as “at least a further 18 months” from the start of module three and the pay was set at £565 per day – a figure which would total around £175,000 across the period.
The inquiry this week heard further evidence from witnesses at fire engineers Exova and architects Studio E.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "We recognise the importance of ensuring the panel has expertise in community relations and social housing. This is why we are ensuring that the Inquiry has the necessary breadth and diversity of skills required for its work."
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
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