Rydon ‘informally advised’ it was in first place for Grenfell contract before procurement process ended

The lead contractor for the Grenfell Tower refurbishment project was tipped off that the job was “ours to lose” before the formal procurement process ended, following an “informal” chat at a conference, the inquiry heard today.

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Stephen Blake, refurbishment director at Rydon during the Grenfell project, gave evidence today (picture: Grenfell Tower Inquiry)
Stephen Blake, refurbishment director at Rydon during the Grenfell project, gave evidence today (picture: Grenfell Tower Inquiry)
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The refurbishment director at Rydon admits he may have spoken to KCTMO about the project one year before being awarded the tenure #ukhousing

Catch up on the latest evidence from main contractor Rydon at the Grenfell Inquiry #ukhousing

Stephen Blake, who was refurbishment director at Rydon for the duration of the project, was today grilled about his longstanding relationship with the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) and the procurement process which resulted in the firm winning the job.

Rydon was appointed in spring 2014, after bidding against rival contractors Durkan and Mulalley for the contract.

Today it emerged that Mr Blake had a “professional relationship” with Peter Maddison, director of assets and regeneration at KCTMO, that dated back to the early 2000s when Mr Maddison worked at housing association Hyde.

The inquiry heard that Mr Blake had forwarded an initial email from KCTMO’s consultancy Artelia about the project to Jeff Henton, managing director at Rydon, describing it as “the Peter Maddison scheme which is right up our street”.


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Mr Blake had earlier claimed to have had no contact with Mr Maddison before the formal tender process.

When asked to clarify his response, Mr Blake said: “We may have had an exchange about other bits of work but if it was specific about the tender, we didn’t have any dialogue about that... and I would see that as both people being totally appropriate.”

Today the inquiry was shown an email sent by Mr Blake to a legal representative at Rydon that read: “At the housing conference we had meetings with senior representatives from K+C [Kensington and Chelsea Council]... we have been informally advised that we are in pole position – ours to lose.”

He confirmed under cross examination that this was a reference to either Mr Maddison of KCTMO or Sacha Jevans, its executive director for repairs.

This referred to the Chartered Institute of Housing’s South East conference in Brighton held in March 2014. The conversation took place one day before Rydon’s tender interview with KCTMO.

Last week the inquiry saw an internal Rydon email sent by Mr Henton a week later on 11 March – before the result of the tender was announced – which read: “I have spoken with Peter Maddison at KCTMO who informs me that our price… is in first place.

“Therefore subject to a small amount of value engineering, Peter should be in a position to recommend our appointment on this scheme to his board early next week.”

Mr Blake was also questioned about Rydon’s decision to attempt to keep more than £100,000 of the savings made by switching to the aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding by hiding the true cost of savings from KCTMO.

When asked about this, Mr Blake said: “Changing in a contract environment is a way of creating margin for a contractor and that’s what we’ve done here.”

When asked who made the decision not to pass all the savings made from the switch onto KCTMO, Mr Blake said: “I don’t know, but I’m responsible for that, so it’s me.”

Phase one of the inquiry found that the ACM cladding was the “primary cause” of the spread of the fire.

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry continues.

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Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase two: weekly diaries

Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase two: weekly diaries

Module one

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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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

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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

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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

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Module two

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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