Former Grenfell boss rejects claim he never got to grips with fire risk backlog

A former manager for Grenfell Tower’s landlords has rejected a suggestion that his department “never fully got to grips” with addressing outstanding actions identified by fire risk assessments.

The inquiry heard that a “significant number” of actions were still required in the period just before the fire on June 14 2017 in which 72 people died.

The Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) was the body appointed by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to run its entire council housing stock – almost 10,000 properties.

A document dated June 7, a week before the fire, showed a total of 142 outstanding actions.

Of those, 73 were under the remit of the assets and regeneration contract management team, up from a figure of 65 a few months earlier, in March.

Peter Maddison, former director of assets and regeneration at the TMO, said the area of fire risk assessment (FRA) actions was “always an area that we wanted to improve and thought we could improve”.

Giving evidence to the inquiry on Thursday, Mr Maddison accepted that he had been “repeatedly” asked for “some time” that the backlog of FRA actions be addressed and completed “as a priority”.

Lead counsel to the inquiry Richard Millett QC said: “And yet, at mid-June 2017, your department still had a significant number of outstanding FRA actions.”

Mr Maddison said he felt those figures were not accurate at the time due to a “lag” which saw actions that had been completed not recorded as such in a period during which there was a “crossover” between two contractors.

He accepted there was “continual and frequent discussion about the importance of clearing FRA actions” expressed at TMO health and safety meetings, and that such discussions had taken place before he took up his role in 2013 and “were still taking place in the days before the fire”.

Mr Millett asked: “Do you agree that the reality was that the assets and regeneration department never fully got to grips with completing FRA actions?”

Mr Maddison replied: “I don’t agree with that. I think there’d been a significant journey here, progress from where we were at the outset.”

Earlier this week, the inquiry heard that, as of March 2014, there were some 1,400 outstanding fire risk assessment (FRA) actions in the backlog.

Mr Millett suggested to Mr Maddison that, while “you might have been getting better … you never actually got ahead – but were always playing catch-up”.

Mr Maddison said he had been “determined to improve things” and that the process of fire risk assessments, actions and inspections was “an endless process – by it’s very nature it has to be”.

Mr Millett put it to him: “The backlog of outstanding FRA actions was never actually cleared before the date of the fire, was it?”

Mr Maddison said he did not think the number of actions outstanding “will ever go down to zero” because “there will always be something to be actioned”.

When Mr Millett suggested the backlog “was never actually defeated”, Mr Maddison replied: “I think it was in control at this time.”