Is there the courage for a public inquiry into Chalcots?
07 June, 2018
A PUBLIC inquiry somewhere along the lines of the current Grenfell inquiry should take place into the Chalcots estate.
Is this absolutely outlandish? Not, we would argue, once you consider the facts.
This month, the first anniversary will take place of the dramatic overnight evacuation of more than 3,000 people from the estate’s tower blocks, condemned as unsafe by the Fire Brigade. Apart from faulty doors and gas pipes, the block’s cladding was similar to that which helped to turn Grenfell into an inferno.
Last year we called for a public-style inquiry. The council countered with an inquiry into the handling of the evacuation which will report back next month.
But the elephant in the room is the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme whose works began in 2006. The gross costs of refurbishing and maintaining the estate, which includes projects outside those of the PFI scheme, total more than £150million.
The PFI scheme was a debacle. It resulted in botched work, some of which were obvious to our reporters.
The question – and we asked it repeatedly over the months – is how did such defective work go unnoticed?
Before the deregulation nationally of the building trade from the 1990s onwards, local authorities were better staffed and included clerks of works, building specialists who helped to draw up specifications and carefully monitored the work as it progressed.
We maintain that if this had happened at the estate much less would have gone wrong.
An inquiry, led by a recognised expert, which will look at who ordered what and who checked it, will not only unearth the truth behind the failed PFI scheme but will also help to raise the tempo of the tenants’ movement. Individual tenants could give evidence; and officials would be expected to make statements in public. Not for any form of scapegoating. Nor for any jacking-up of a blame game.
Moreover, not only the ward councillors but other members too would be expected to take part. This is more than necessary for all the signs are that far too many councillors leave too many matters to officials and experts without personal involvement.
It would also stir the public locally just as the testimony before the Grenfell inquiry has begun to change the political climate. It will bring about the necessary shake-up in local affairs so badly needed.
Has Camden Council got the courage to take a step along these lines