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Renovators at UK blaze tower were asked to cut costs

By AFP   |   30 June 2017   |   3:28 pm  

The remains of Grenfell Tower, a residential tower block in west London which was gutted by fire on June 14, 2017. Firefighters searched for bodies today in a London tower block gutted by a blaze that has already left 12 dead, as questions grew over whether a recent refurbishment contributed to the fire. / AFP PHOTO / Tolga AKMEN

Contractors working on the renovation of London’s Grenfell Tower were asked by the building’s managers to reduce costs, with cheaper exterior cladding suggested as one alternative, The Times reported Friday.

At least 80 people were killed in the blaze that consumed the tower this month, with the cladding blamed for spreading the fire throughout the 24-floor block.

An “urgent nudge email” sent to contractor Artelia UK from the Kensington and Chelsea tenant management organisation (KCTMO), which runs the tower block on behalf of the local council, said that “we need good costs” for council deputy leader Rock Feilding-Mellen.

One suggestion was the use of aluminium panels instead of zinc, which is more fire-resistant, leading to a “saving of £293,368”.

Retired judge Martin Moore-Bick was on Thursday appointed to lead a public inquiry into the fire, which engulfed Grenfell Tower on June 14.

Residents have expressed anger at the authorities’ handling of the fire, leading protesters on June 16 to storm the town hall which manages the social housing block, though there is no suggestion that fire safety concerns were ignored.

On Friday, Robert Black, chief executive of KCTMO, said he would resign in order to “concentrate on assisting with the investigation and inquiry.”

Victims identified so far include a six-month-old baby, her eight-year-old sister and their parents, who lived on the 20th floor.

The baby was found in her dead mother’s arms.

The government revealed Friday that cladding samples taken from 149 high-rise buildings in 45 local authority areas had all failed fire safety tests.

As part of an emergency fund, the government announced this month that each household whose home was destroyed would receive at least £5,500 (6,250 euros, $7,130).

Checks are under way at hundreds of high-rises in Britain fitted with the same cladding which encased Grenfell Tower.

The Kensington and Chelsea Council on Thursday failed in a bid to bar journalists from the first meeting of councillors since the disaster, and instead adjourned the meeting early.

Theresa May’s office criticised the aborted meeting, saying: “The High Court ruled that the meeting should be open and we would have expected the council to respect that.”



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