Council leader pledges that products used by firms connected to Grenfell Tower will not be used on council-owned buildings

By Julia Gregory, local democracy reporter

Products from firms connected to the Grenfell Tower refurbishment will not be used on buildings owned by Kensington and Chelsea council.

Deputy leader Kim Taylor-Smith made the pledge at the housing and scrutiny committee following revelations that contractors had used Kingspan insulation on the multi-million pound Barlby School and adjacent Queensmill special school which is due to open this autumn.

A different Kingspan insulation product, Kingspan K15, was used behind some of the Arconic cladding on Grenfell.

Councillor Taylor-Smith  said: “We do now insist as far as any contractors are concerned that there are suppliers that won’t be used. Just to be clear on that they are Kingspan, Celotex and Arconic.”

The council has a range of  projects in the pipeline including building 600 new homes as well as a new Grenfell nursery to replace one destroyed in the fire.

Residents and people who lost relatives in the Grenfell fire staged a demonstration outside the school after they spotted bags of Kingspan GreenGuard outside.

Earlier this spring investors sold hundreds of millions of shares in Kingspan after survivors and bereaved group Grenfell United urged them to divest holdings in the company.

Grenfell United chair, Natasha Ellcock, wrote to the council, telling it survivors and the bereaved felt  “incredulity, shock and disgust at seeing our local authority procuring these materials for a school.”

Grenfell United urged the council to do an audit into council projects after the fire in 2017 to see if any Kingspan products have been used and check if they have been used safely.

It called for a ban on using companies involved at Grenfell on council buildings and in procurement projects.

The material used at the school is floor insulation which has been buried 1m underneath concrete.

It is not the same product used on Grenfell Tower.

Opposition  leader Pat Mason who was at the protest, said: “It’s the fact that the Grenfell community, bereaved and survivors were of the opinion that the council were not going to use any of the companies or any of the suppliers or material that were used at Grenfell or mentioned at the public inquiry.”

“It is an issue of trust. You can’t imagine how horrifying it is for those affected by Grenfell.

“It’s emotional and it’s a trust issue. They all hoped that the council had proscribed these companies at least until the end of the Inquiry.”

He added: “I didn’t want to be standing in another demonstration where the council was in the firing line, proving once again that the council can’t be trusted to protect our residents or make changes and learn the lessons.”

Councillor Mason said: “It’s amazing that after four years the council didn’t know what products were in there.”

Linda Wade, Liberal Democrat councillor for Earl’s Court said the council had a procurement document which said councillors had to be mindful.

She wanted to know what controls the council has over the products contractors use.

Kim Taylor-Smith, who has responsibility for housing and Grenfell said the council was doing an audit after the revelations.

“This is about safety and about the safety of the school and ensuring that the school is as safe as it can be,” he said.

“It is absolutely important that we make sure it is as safe as safe can be.”

The council’s specifications for the new school were to make it as safe as possible and include a sprinkler system, he said.

He added that an informal audit is already underway and said the council is also looking at its policy on contractors and suppliers “to see how far we can go”.

“With any new projects we ensure that we are not contracting with people that have been contractors that have been involved in the Inquiry, nor from suppliers,” he said.

 


 

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