Grenfell bosses acted like ‘mini-mafia’ towards tenants, inquiry hears

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A blogger who predicted a “catastrophic event” at the Grenfell Tower seven months before the fire that killed 72 people says the building’s landlords acted like “a mini-mafia”.

Edward Daffarn, 57, who lived on the 16th floor of the tower block, described the tenant management body as a “non-functioning organisation” driven by “pure self-interest”.

Mr Daffarn, who lived in the west London tower block from 2001, said the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) had a monopoly on social housing in the borough.

The KCTMO was appointed by the borough to run its entire council housing stock – almost 10,000 properties – that was supposed to be scrutinised by the council.

Paid staff were overseen by a board made up of eight residents, four council-appointed members and three independent members.

In a statement to the inquiry into the disaster, Mr Daffarn said: “In my view the KCTMO was a non-functioning organisation which was not motivated by the wellbeing of tenants but was driven by pure self-interest.

“It had a monopoly to provide social housing for the entirety of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) and so it was able to act like a mini-mafia.

“I do not use the word mini-mafia glibly or unthinkingly. I cannot find a better way to describe the culture of the organisation.”

Mr Daffarn said he had never believed the KCTMO was capable of keeping tenants safe, claiming staff at the organisation believed residents should be grateful to them and had labelled him a “troublemaker”.

He added: “Their dealings with me were institutionally biased, and in many instances, animated by individual prejudice.

“In their eyes I was stigmatised as a ‘troublemaker’. They went out of their way to discredit me, my views were there to be managed, or discounted, or both.

“Residents were treated as an afterthought throughout by the council, KCTMO and their contractors, if we were thought about at all.”

Edward Daffarn speaking to the Grenfell Inquiry

In November 2016, Mr Daffarn and fellow blogger Francis O’Connor warned that “only a catastrophic event” resulting in serious loss of life would bring an end to the “dangerous living conditions” in the block.

He said the attitude of the KCTMO and construction firm Rydon was typified in an exchange he had with Rydon site manager Jason North.

Mr Daffarn said: “Jason North was asked by a resident about the unsightly work they planned in our flats, and whether he would like it in his own home.

“Jason replied saying something like, ‘I wouldn’t mind if I were getting it for free’.

“This attitude, that we were getting the refurbishment ‘for nothing’ so shouldn’t complain, permeated the whole refurbishment process.”

In his evidence to the inquiry, Mr Daffarn said he knew he could become a member of the KCTMO but had decided against it.

“The truth is that it just made me feel physically ill to think that I would have to get that close to the centre of what was going on,” he said.

“(Staff) would do as little as they possibly could for residents, and many, many residents would complain once, not get their complaints addressed and would simply think ‘complaining to the KCTMO doesn’t make any difference,’ I’ll fix the repair myself.

“(The KCTMO) didn’t want us to have a voice, they wanted to be able to do as little as they possibly could to keep us living how they wanted us.”

On Tuesday, the inquiry heard that when residents became increasingly frustrated at the quality of the refurbishment works, the KCTMO decided to scrap regular meetings with them.

In a witness statement, KCTMO project manager Claire Williams said “meetings could become difficult with disruptive conduct from a small number of residents”.

She said these people “took over and dominated the meetings with their comments to the exclusion of other residents”.

Nurse Betty Kasote, who had lived in the tower since 1996, said she did not remember anyone being difficult or disruptive.

“There were a few residents that wanted to give their opinion and what they thought about the refurbishment,” she told the inquiry on Tuesday.