Questions to the Mayor about the Grenfell Tower Fire

Londoners have sent the Mayor of London, hundreds of queries on this tragic incident. The Mayor is fighting for and alongside the community of Grenfell. Its members, and all Londoners, deserve answers as soon as possible.

Building safety

The responsibility for checking blocks of flats lies with the local authority, borough and private management companies. The Mayor’s immediate focus is on making sure we respond to this incident as effectively as possible, and help the Londoners affected in every possible way.

Sprinklers in tower blocks

The Mayor understands that there are tower blocks without sprinkler systems across London and in other cities across the country, and it is important that people are reassured that these tower blocks are safe. National building regulations set minimum standards for the design, construction and alterations to all buildings, whether they are new-build or existing buildings.

In England, building regulations are the responsibility of central Government. The Mayor and Greater London Authority, have no legal remit over building regulations in London, however the Mayor will continue working closely with all London boroughs, the London Fire Brigade and the Government and we will do everything possible to keep all Londoners safe.

Causes of the fire

The Metropolitan Police Service is leading the investigation into the fire at Grenfell Tower. At this stage the Met can confirm that, following initial reports from specialist investigators and experts who have examined the flat where the fire started, there is nothing to suggest the fire was started deliberately.

Fire risk assessments are a legal requirement for blocks of flats and there are strict standards in place to ensure fire safety in new and existing buildings.

Cladding

During the Mayor’s visit to Grenfell he spoke to many residents who were worried about the risk of this tragic incident happening elsewhere – particularly in tower blocks that have had similar cladding installed as part of renovations.

At the Mayor’s insistence, ministers have agreed to safety check tower blocks across the country. Where London premises have been identified as failing cladding tests, fire safety inspecting officers from the London Fire Brigade are carrying out in-depth inspections. These are being done jointly with representatives of the housing provider, with recommended actions to improve fire safety.

The Mayor has stated that this issue is not limited to the type of cladding fitted; the material it is attached to and how this has been achieved are also critical factors. It is crucial that other risks from renovation works are urgently and properly investigated, for example protection between floors. The Mayor believes that we need to strengthen standards and recall processes around white goods, given the fire risk they can present.

Fire Stay Put Policy

A thorough investigation into the cause of the fire is being conducted and that will include understanding exactly why it spread in the way that it did.

The Mayor has stated that he will demand that any lessons are learnt and acted upon.

Guidance remains that if you live in a high rise property you are not at more risk of a fire starting, living in a flat is not more dangerous than living in a house.

This is the advice:

  • If there is a fire in your building and you are inside your purpose-built flat or maisonette, and you're not affected by the fire, stay put and call 999.
  • You are usually safer staying put in your own flat or maisonette unless heat or smoke is affecting you.
  • A self-contained, purpose-built flat or maisonette will typically give you between 30 and 60 minutes protection from fire.
  • If the fire is actually inside your flat or maisonette, or you are in the communal areas of the building, leave immediately and call 999.

Good advice for every home in London is:

  • Smoke alarms provide a vital early warning and can allow extra time to escape if there is a fire in your home. You should fit smoke alarms in every room.
  • Always make sure you have an escape plan in place and that everyone in your home knows what to do in an emergency. Practice it regularly and have a secondary escape plan just in case your original plan is blocked.

There is more advice on the London Fire Brigade website.

Public Inquiry

We need to get to the truth of what went wrong at Grenfell Tower if we are to have the justice we desperately need and to prevent a repeat.

The terms of reference for the Public Inquiry was announced by the Prime Minister on 15 August which will look at the following:

(a) the immediate cause or causes of the fire and how it spread to the whole building;

(b) the building's design and construction, and "decisions relating to its modification, refurbishment and management";

(c) "the scope and adequacy of building regulations, fire regulations and other legislation, guidance and industry practice" relevant to the "design, construction, equipping and management" of high-rise blocks of flats;

(d) whether such regulations and so on were complied with, and related fire safety measures adopted;

(e) the arrangements made by the local council and other organisations with responsibility for Grenfell Tower for receiving and using (or otherwise) information obtained both from local residents and which was available elsewhere (including anything derived from fires in other buildings) relating to the risk of fire risks at the tower, and action taken in response;

(f) the fire prevention and safety measures in place at the Tower on 14 June 2017

(g) the response of the Fire Brigade; 

(h) the response of both the Government and the local council in the days immediately following the fire

The full terms of reference can be found on Grenfell Tower Inquiry website.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has expressed his disappointment that the Public Inquiry will not cover wider policy around social housing, which he sees as vital if the community’s confidence is to be restored. He has called on the Prime Minister to ensure residents’ voices are at the heart of future decision-making about social housing in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire.

To ensure the voices of social housing residents are heard at national level when policy is being developed, Sadiq has proposed that the Prime Minister appoint a Commissioner for Social Housing Residents, which he believes should be independent of Government with a remit to act as a watchdog.

The proposal for a new Commissioner is one of a package of measures for social housing residents – alongside opening up access for residents to the housing ombudsman and social housing regulator – that Sadiq is consulting on as part of his draft London Housing Strategy. As a minimum, Sadiq believes the system for regulating social housing must be genuinely responsive to the concerns of tenants and leaseholders on social housing estates.

Sadiq is also concerned the regulator – a statutory body with oversight of standards in social housing – fails to give sufficient attention to issues such as tenant involvement. Of more than a thousand complaints from residents to the regulator in the last two years, just 10 triggered regulatory action. He is keen that City Hall and Government consult residents and work together to develop key reforms to ensure the voices of social housing residents are heard.

Sadiq understands why the community are suspicious and it’s imperative the terms of reference for any Public Inquiry aren’t just imposed on the community but involve them and others in drawing this up.

Read the full press release regarding the Mayor’s concerns about the Public Inquiry.

The Public Inquiry formally opened on 14 September, more information about the inquiry can be found on the Grenfell Tower Inquiry website.

People can also contact the Inquiry team to submit evidence and find out more information by emailing [email protected] or call 020 7947 7837. The line is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5.30pm.

Websites with the most up to date information

Grenfell Tower Inquiry:

This is the official website of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.You can get the latest information on the Inquiry, including details of hearings, evidence and how to contact the Inquiry Team.

Grenfell Fire Response Team:

Set up by the Grenfell Fire Response Team to support people affected by the fire. This team includes London councils, the Mayor of London’s Office, central government, the British Red Cross, the Met Police, the London Fire Brigade and voluntary groups.

Department for Communities and Local Government and Home Office:

Receive advice on where to seek urgent assistance and information, including the official helplines for this incident. You can also receive guidance on support services available for victims and all those affected by Grenfell Tower fire.

Kensington and Chelsea Council:

Access updated information directly from Kensington and Chelsea Council on Grenfell Tower.

London Fire Brigade:

Get a range of fire safety advice with smoke alarms and home fire safety visits.