14 June 2022

By Aniesha Obuobie, Grenfell Project Coordinator

Today, on the 5th anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, INQUEST honours the 72 men, women and children killed. We stand in solidarity with their loved ones and the Grenfell community, many of whom forewarned about the risks of a fire. We commend the determination of the bereaved and survivors to keep this disaster on the public and political agenda and to ensure those responsible are held to account.

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry began in May 2018. The inquiry was split into two phases. The first examined the events on the night of the fire and the second phase looked at the causes and aftermath of the fire. The second and final phase of the inquiry will come to an end this year and will be followed with a report, including recommendations, as was done in phase one.

The inquiry has heard shocking evidence about state and corporate greed, neglect and criminality that prioritised profit over safety. What is most disturbing is the contempt shown by the local authority to residents expressing their serious concerns about fire safety at Grenfell. The same approach was evident in the uncoordinated response to the fire, which failed to prioritise the community, who were in need of assistance. The wider impact of socio-economic inequality, gentrification, deregulation, institutional racism and discrimination left the community unsupported and unprotected in the wake of such a horrific disaster.

The recommendations arising from both phases of the inquiry have the potential to be transformative. These recommendations can ensure that cladding is adequately tested for fire resistance, that flammable cladding is not put on any residential buildings and that residents with disabilities have up to date Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs). Yet, as INQUEST have noted before, recommendations following public inquiries are not legally binding.

Disgracefully, following phase one of the Inquiry, we have already seen a U-turn on vital and potentially life-saving recommendations. In May 2022, the Government announced they would not be implementing the inquiry’s recommendation that every high-rise residential building be required to have prepared PEEPs for all residents whose ability to self-evacuate may be compromised and that up-to-date information should be kept regarding residents and PEEPs. Instead, it was announced that Emergency Evacuation Information Sharing (EEIS) would be used for buildings with ‘known’ serious fire safety issues.

This is a dangerous decision given the significant amount of evidence we have heard about fire safety issues at Grenfell which were continuously flagged by residents. It is a reckless decision following evidence that the failure to effectively identify residents with disabilities and the lack of PEEPs contributed to the loss of life in the fire.

In just the last year we have seen several more tower block fires in London alone, such as those in Deptford, Aldgate, and in Poplar where the residential block had the same type of ACM cladding as Grenfell Tower. It is more than likely there are several buildings with unknown serious fire safety risks, as well as buildings with risks that have gone unacknowledged, of which Grenfell Tower was one.

This is precisely why INQUEST continues to campaign for a National Oversight Mechanism to ensure that recommendations arising from inquiries, inquests, and investigations into avoidable deaths are implemented. This would mean that once recommendations are made, an independent body would monitor and hold state and public bodies accountable for their decisions in response to recommendations.

As end of the public inquiry nears, there must be accountability, justice, and long-lasting meaningful change, to honour the lives lost and to prevent future deaths.

Grenfell, forever in our hearts.

Learn more about INQUEST's work following the Grenfell Tower Fire here.