The Guardian view on the Grenfell Inquiry: justice delayed | Editorial

Confidence in the process was shaken before Covid-19 interrupted. But three years on from the fire, the campaign continues

It is three more weeks before the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire emerges from lockdown. On Sunday, the bereaved and survivors will mark the three-year anniversary since the disaster tore their lives apart with a programme of remote commemoration. It is a mark of the wider importance of their campaign for justice that, two weeks ago, Black Lives Matter protesters ended their march at the foot of the North Kensington ruin.

Events preceding the inquiry’s closure in mid-March left victims justifiably angry. In January, one of two panellists appointed by the government to advise the inquiry was forced to step down. Benita Mehra was revealed by the Guardian to have run an organisation that received a grant linked to one of the contractors on the refurbishment. Then the hearings were paused for most of February while witnesses sought assurances from the attorney general, Suella Braverman, that their oral evidence would not be used against them in any future prosecutions.

This immunity does not apply to other evidence, including police statements. But the double disruption undermined confidence in the government, since Ms Mehra was appointed without the conflict of interest being discovered and initially resisted calls to step down. It also fuelled suspicions that delay will be a tactic of the companies involved in the refurbishment. For the families hungry for justice, the longer they have to wait, the greater the loss.

Already, evidence has revealed that the fire engineers on the refurbishment, Exova, knew that the cladding would fail in the event of a fire, while the architects, Studio E, lacked relevant experience and believed they would not have won the contract had it been put out to tender. In an email, Jane Trethewey, the housing strategy and regeneration manager at Kensington and Chelsea council, said that Grenfell was “one of its worst property assets” and recladding would “prevent it looking like a poor cousin”.

While the disaster’s survivors have passed lockdown in an awkward limbo, thousands of other people have spent it in blocks covered in unsafe cladding. Ensuring that another fire like Grenfell never happens again has been among the Grenfell campaign’s aims from the start. Now, frustration at the stalled inquiry is mirrored in concerns about inaction over safety and housing more widely. While £1bn was allocated in March’s budget to strip off cladding, the government has yet to publish a promised white paper strengthening tenants’ rights.

Already there are resemblances between the picture of costcutting and outsourcing emerging from the Grenfell inquiry, and aspects of the UK’s Covid-19 response. In both building regulation and pandemic planning, health and safety appear to have been overridden by other concerns. Grenfell’s survivors fought hard for their inquiry, and again for hearings to resume in person rather than online. The support for their cause shown by anti-racist activists in recent weeks is a reminder of just how much it matters.

Contributor

Editorial

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The Guardian view on Grenfell secrets: regeneration shame | Editorial
Editorial: Evidence of ‘offline’ negotiations and altered priorities is exposing the attitude of the authorities to the tower and its residents

Editorial

18, Oct, 2020 @5:30 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on housing policy: Grenfell survivors deserve better | Editorial
Editorial: It makes no sense to delay reforms for renters and ignore the cladding crisis while embarking on a planning overhaul

Editorial

13, Sep, 2020 @5:25 PM

Article image
The Grenfell families have made us safer. The inquiry must listen to them | Seraphima Kennedy
Survivors’ campaigning has been effective, says Seraphima Kennedy, a writer and academic researcher

Seraphima Kennedy

03, Oct, 2018 @7:00 AM

Article image
A year into the Grenfell inquiry, the families have been failed again | Seraphima Kennedy
The inquiry urgently needs to build trust. Instead it is ignoring basic requests, says former KCTMO neighbourhood officer Seraphima Kennedy

Seraphima Kennedy

14, Sep, 2018 @1:48 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on the Grenfell Tower inquiry: necessary but not sufficient | Editorial
Editorial: An obsession with deregulation of building fire regulations meant warning signs of looming disaster seem to have been missed on the watch of Conservative ministers

Editorial

20, May, 2018 @5:05 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on the Grenfell anniversary: sorry is not enough | Editorial
Editorial: Radical changes to housing, including improved safety, would be a fitting legacy

Editorial

13, Jun, 2018 @5:32 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on the cladding scandal: don’t punish the innocent | Editorial
Editorial: Leaseholders didn’t build these high-rises and they didn’t certify them as safe. So why are they being landed with the giant bills to fix them?

Editorial

28, Apr, 2021 @5:50 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on the Grenfell inquiry: not enough trust | Editorial
Editorial: Sir Martin Moore-Bick wants to keep his investigation mainly technical. But he wants another one to look at social housing, and he’s right

Editorial

15, Aug, 2017 @5:32 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on social housing: we need a cultural shift | Editorial
Editorial: The failure to provide adequate public sector rented housing in England is acknowledged across party lines as a catastrophe. A commission has put forward practical proposals

Editorial

13, Jan, 2019 @6:54 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on the cladding scandal: rip off panels, not people | Editorial
Editorial: Ordinary leaseholders must not be expected to pay the price for decades of failed housing regulation

Editorial

02, Feb, 2021 @6:50 PM