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Live Updates: Head Of Grenfell Inquiry Heckled By Local Residents

On Wednesday 14 June, a huge fire tore through Grenfell Tower in west London, killing at least 80 people. Since then, concerns have been raised over fire safety in tower blocks across the UK, and thousands of residents have been evacuated.

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What We Know So Far

  • On Wednesday 14 June a huge fire tore through Grenfell Tower in London, killing at least 80 people.
  • Police said that, as of 29 June, they had been unable to contact anyone alive in 23 entire households in the building, and that the final death toll may not be known until the end of the year.
  • Police said the fire originated in a faulty fridge-freezer, and added that tiles and insulation in the cladding on the 27-storey building failed safety tests.
  • Key services run by Kensington and Chelsea council are to be taken over by a recovery task force run by central government.
  • The blaze has raised concerns over the safety of cladding in tower blocks and other buildings across the UK. Around 600 towers in the UK have some sort of external cladding, and urgent tests are being carried out to determine whether they're a fire risk.
  • So far, 190 towers across 51 local authorities have undergone fire safety tests. All 190 have failed. This is how councils are responding to fears over cladding. Testing has now expanded to NHS buildings. Three have failed the cladding tests.
  • On Thursday, the DCLG ordered more tests on tower block materials.
  • Retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick has been appointed to lead the inquiry into the tragedy. Locals and Labour MPs have rejected his appointment as unsuitable, and called for him to step down.

Updates

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As investigators continue the dangerous and painstaking work of attempting to recover the remains of the 80 or more people who died in the Grenfell Tower tragedy three weeks ago, the ramifications of the tragedy are being felt across the UK and the world.

Grenfell has revealed a sprawling web of government and private sector bodies, with responsibility for different aspects of fire safety split between them, governed by regulations that can be loosely interpreted and that often rely on commercial companies and building owners to effectively mark their own homework.

The Metropolitan police have so far identified 60 companies that played some role in the building's refurbishment, some of which have provided detectives with data and documents, and are sure to review the role of the council and the tenant management organisation that looked after the building.

Read more about the complex web of companies and government agencies facing questions over the Grenfell tragedy here.

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The head of the Grenfell inquiry was heckled by residents

The head of the Grenfell inquiry was heckled by residents as he met them for the first time on Thursday night.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick has faced calls to resign and criticism that the remit of his inquiry might be too narrow.

The retired judge told locals: "I can't do more than assure you that I know what it is to be impartial.

"I've been a judge for 20 years, and I give you my word that I will look into this matter to the very best of my ability and find the facts as I see them from the evidence.

"That's my job, that's my training, and that's what I intend to do. Now if I can't satisfy you because you have some preconception about me as a person that's up to you."

But local resident Melvyn Atkins told the BBC: "It is going to be an uphill struggle. People feel abandoned. Now you have got somebody coming in and saying 'I am going to look into it all thoroughly' and it is not good enough.

"People firmly believe that arrests should be made as a result of the outcome of all of this. If arrests are not made, people are going to feel justice may not be being done."

– Alan White

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The government has ordered more urgent fire safety tests in the wake of the Grenfell disaster to better understand the risks posed to tower block residents.

So far 190 towers in 51 local authority areas have tested positive for combustible cladding in national tests ordered days after the Grenfell disaster on 14 June.

The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) asked every local authority with tall towers to send in a sample of the buildings' cladding – external tiles that protect buildings from rain and offer increased insulation.

But on Thursday, DCLG announced that, on the advice of an independent expert panel set up to advise on fire safety, that six different combinations of common external cladding and insulation would be tested in a realistic tower fire test environment. None of the samples that have been tested so far will be re-tested.

You can read more about these new tests here.

–Patrick Smith

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The government's housing minister broke down when talking about Grenfell survivors

Facebook: video.php

The housing minister, Alok Sharma, has broken down in parliament as he spoke about meeting survivors of the Grenfell Tower block tragedy.

Sharma, who as Minister of State for Housing and Planning has overseen much of the recovery work on the west London tower block, was giving a statement in the House of Commons about the situation of residents and locals following the fire.

"Hearing the experiences of the survivors has been one of the most humbling and moving experience of my life.

“The families that I met have been through unimaginable pain,” Sharma said, his voice catching as he finished his prepared statement.

"This is a tragedy that never should have happened and we are determined to make sure that something like this never happens again.”

Read more about Sharma's statement in the Commons here.

– Rose Troup Buchanan

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Grenfell Tower survivors offered temporary immigration amnesty

Survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire who may have been living in the UK illegally have been offered a 12 month temporary leave to remain.

In a statement to the Commons, Home Office minister Brandon Lewis said survivors would be offered an amnesty for a year in a bid to ensure all victims of the disaster come forward to seek help.

"This period of leave will provide survivors with the time to deal with the extremely difficult circumstances in which they find themselves and start to rebuild their lives whilst considering their future options, as well as to assist the police and other authorities with their enquiries about the fire," Lewis said in the statement.

"No fees will be charged by the Home Office in respect of cases granted leave under the policy."

The amnesty will include the right to claim benefits and access public services and has been granted under discretionary powers outside of normal immigration rules.

The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, told the Guardian she welcomed the announcement, but that it didn't go far enough in her view.

"I'm pleased to see the government has met the request I raised in the Commons on Monday for an immigration amnesty for Grenfell survivors. Without an immigration amnesty there may well be people we never know about, and too many people who need help who will not receive it," she said.

However, she added that it didn't: "Go far enough to ensure the confidence of those affected. Why would they volunteer their details knowing that in just 12 months they could face deportation? The amnesty must be indefinite to be truly effective."

—Alicia Melville-Smith

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The Metropolitan police have promised there will be "no hidden victims" of the Grenfell Tower tragedy – as residents continue asking for information.

Commander Stuart Cundy said 250 specialist investigators were sifting through the remains of the west London tower, where at least 80 people are believed to have died. He said the investigation would not be finished before the end of the year.

The specialists were being assisted by expert anthropologists who were going "hand by hand" through 15.5 tonnes of debris on each floor.

"I do not want there to be any hidden victims of this tragedy," Cundy said. While investigators had spoken to someone inside 106 of the 129 tower flats, he said that despite efforts officers had been "unable to trace or speak to anyone" in the remaining 23 flats.

"We assume that sadly no one from any of those flats survived," he continued. "Until our search operation is complete, I cannot say with any certainty how many people may have been in those flats, as occupiers or visitors, that night."

He urged people to come forward to assist investigators with information about the whereabouts of relatives on the night of the fire.

Cundy was unable to give a further death toll, citing the difficulty of conditions inside the building. "In total we have made 87 recoveries, but I must stress that the catastrophic damage inside Grenfell Tower means that is not 87 people."

Tower survivors have expressed growing anger and frustration with the operation, in particular the slow release of information from authorities. Addressing this, Cundy said the Met was "committed to providing as much information we can, as soon as we can".

–Rose Troup Buchanan

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Key services provided by Kensington and Chelsea council are to be taken over by a recovery task force from central government.

Housing, regeneration, community engagement, and governance departments will be taken over by a task force from the Department for Communities and Local Government, according to the Huffington Post.

In a short written statement, DCLG secretary of state Savid Jarvid confirmed the appointment of the independent recovery task force: "This intervention is putting in place the foundations that will support the longer term recovery."

Jarvid said the scale of the operation "cannot be underestimated", and that the "challenge of providing that support is and will continue to be significant".

The move follows weeks of criticism of the local authority over its response to the Grenfell Tower fire. In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, in which at least 80 people died, the council's relief effort was seriously criticised and quickly taken over by volunteers, international aid organistions, and neighbouring councils.

It is expected that the task force will take over the running of the services as the council's emergency team is phased out over the next few weeks.

The decision has been agreed in conjunction with the council's leaders. Elizabeth Campbell, who took over as leader this week after Nicholas Paget-Brown's resignation, welcomed the development and said asking the DCLG for help was her first action as leader.

"The unprecedented scale of this incident makes it impossible for one organisation to cope on its own," Campbell said in a statement. "I look forward to working with their staff as we all concentrate our efforts on healing the wounds in the north of our borough and to regain the trust of a community traumatised by disaster."

However, the decision does not go far enough, according to London mayor Sadiq Khan, who told Huffington Post it was "the absolute minimum" needed.

He went on to say that without a complete overhaul of the council – which would mean sending in commissioners who have a statutory right to run the entire council – the effort could make things "worse rather than better" for local residents and Grenfell survivors.

"The fundamental problem in Kensington and Chelsea now is the total lack of trust from the local community in the council and elected councillors," he said. "As a result of this breakdown of authority, the council will find it almost impossible to begin giving the community the support and services it desperately needs."

In order for the council to regain "legitimacy" in eyes of residents, Khan said, a total overhaul is urgently required.

–Rose Troup Buchanan

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The families of Grenfell Tower met with the coroner and the Metropolitan police last night to demand answers and suitable homes after the tragedy that has claimed at least 80 lives.

Families, meeting in west Kensington, were "very upset and angry" after the meeting with coroner Fiona Wilcox and Met commander Stuart Cundy, and some were overwhelmed and had to leave, according to a charity worker present.

The meeting comes as the Grenfell Response Team said 139 formal housing offers had been made. Prime minister Theresa May had promised that by Wednesday, all those affected would be found suitable accommodation.

Although officials said that all those in need had been rehoused, only nine offers have been accepted. Many former Grenfell Tower residents are still in hotels.

North Kensington Law Centre, which is representing around 100 of the victims, said many of the offers were unsuitable.

"The feeling is that they are trying to put us into places just to say 'we have complied with what we said we were going to do'," Antonio, who lived on the 10th floor, and who has turned down two offers of accommodation, said.

Meanwhile, at the meeting last night, many of those affected expressed frustration with the slow process of the investigation, and asked why the police had made no arrests.

Wilcox reportedly told the meeting the "recovery phase" of the tower's investigation could last until the end of the year.

Nabil Choucair, who may have lost six relatives who lived in Grenfell Tower, was among those demanding answers from authorities: "We want to know are our family's bodies still there and is there anything from them?"

"Whatever it is we want to know exactly what it is, do not hide anything. But the answers that were coming back were 'we don't know, we don't know, we don't know'," he told the BBC.

Although Cundy and Wilcox were present at the meeting, families were told they were not allowed to ask them questions. Instead they had been asked to email in queries ahead of 11am Monday. Many were unhappy with the arrangement.

–Rose Troup Buchanan

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Lord chancellor defends the appointment of Sir Martin Moore-Bick

The lord chancellor has defended the independence of the judge appointed to head the Grenfell public inquiry, after Labour MPs and survivors of the fatal fire called for him to be replaced.

David Lidington said he understood why people have strong feelings about how the inquiry should be conducted — and who should lead it. "The community, and the whole country, want answers following such a horrific tragedy," the lord chancellor said.

But he defended the appointment of Sir Martin Moore-Bick, a former commercial court judge.

"I have complete confidence that Sir Martin Moore-Bick will lead the inquiry into this tragedy with impartiality and with a determination to get to the truth and see justice done," Lidington said.

Moore-Bick was appointed last week to lead the public investigation into the blaze that killed at least 80 people but quickly faced a backlash after suggesting that the inquiry's terms may be narrower than many people would like.

Speaking to the Today programme on Radio 4, Emma Dent Coad, the Labour MP for Kensington, said the judge would not be able to "understand" the victims and "what they've been through".

–Alex Spence

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Three NHS Trust buildings fail fire safety cladding tests

Buildings at three NHS Trusts have failed the fire safety cladding checks being urgently carried out across the country in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Kings College, Sheffield Children's, and North Middlesex all failed the cladding tests, according to a statement given to BuzzFeed News by NHS Improvement. They also confirmed that five further NHS Trust buildings were awaiting results.

NHS Improvements said that cladding on the Kings College and Sheffield Children's hospitals was not on buildings housing patients. They also confirmed that the "cladded areas do not house any inpatients" in the Middlesex hospital.

"Patient safety is paramount. There will be no disruptions to patient services or continuity of care," an NHS Improvements spokesperson said.

The tests on hospital buildings come as at least 181 buildings across England have been found to have unsafe cladding. The tests are being urgently sent off by local authorities in the wake of the Grenfell disaster, in which at least 80 died.

–Rose Troup Buchanan

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New leader of Chelsea council apologises: "No buts, no ifs, no excuses – I am truly sorry”

The new leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) council has apologised for the way in which the local authority handled the response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

"The first thing I want to do is I want to apologise. This is our community and we have failed it when people needed us the most," new leader Elizabeth Campbell told reporters last night.

"So, no buts, no ifs, no excuses – I am truly sorry."

RBKC has been seriously criticised for its response to the tragedy at Grenfell Tower. In the immediate aftermath, volunteers, international relief organisations, and neighbouring councils stepped in to manage the relief effort after locals claimed their local authority was not helping. Subsequently, controversy erupted when RBCK council attempted to ban journalists from a public meeting, only to cancel the meeting when a judge ruled they were legally permitted to attend.

Campbell, who became leader after Nicholas Paget-Brown resigned following the widespread criticism, said she intended to appoint a new cabinet and that "things are going to change".

She would "reach out to our community so we can begin to heal the wounds", as well as stating she would ask the secretary of state for communities and local government, Sajid Javid, for more help, the Press Association reported.

Campbell has been a member of the council since 2001. She was previously the cabinet member for family and children's services for four years between 2013 and 2017.

–Rose Troup Buchanan

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Kensington Labour MP Emma Dent Coad has said that the judge appointed by the government to head the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower should stand down.

Dent Coad, who won a historic victory when she took the Kensington borough for Labour in the recent general election, told the BBC's Today programme on Tuesday morning that Martin Moore-Bick was not the right man for the job.

In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, in which at least 80 people died in a huge fire, prime minister Theresa May appointed retired judge Moore-Bick to head up a public inquiry into the cause and consequences of the blaze. His appointment caused near-immediate push-back from residents and local campaigners concerned about his previous rulings as a Court of Appeal judge.

"How anybody like that could have any empathy for what these people have been through," she said. "We need some one we can trust there doing this."

"I don't think he should do it, I don't think there will be any credibility, and some people are saying they won't cooperate with it so it won't work," she said.

The Labour MP also seriously criticised the local council, and said it needed to take responsibility for what has happened. "People have lost everything down to absolutely no fault of their own."

She said the housing situation was still not being addressed in the borough. She said she had heard from residents had been offered "totally unsuitable" housing – in some instances, she claimed, in estates that were about to be torn down.

She also called on the council to purchase properties for those who had lost their homes in the fires, instead of housing them temporarily in estates. "They have a hell of a lot of money stashed away," she said.

–Rose Troup Buchanan

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Number of buildings that have failed fire safety tests rises again

The number of buildings found to have unsafe cladding has risen again, to 181, across 51 local authorities, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has confirmed.

The DCLG said in a statement that 20 buildings in Manchester and 29 in Salford have failed safety tests. The affected buildings are all in England, with no buildings in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland yet failing the tests.

The department was in touch with all 51 local authorities with unsafe cladding, and said that landlords would be carrying out the interim safety measures needed.

–Rose Troup Buchanan

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Grenfell tenants subletting unlawfully will not face prosecution, government says

Tenants in the Grenfell Tower block who were subletting their flats unlawfully will not face prosecution, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) confirmed.

The department said that anecdotal evidence suggests a number of tenants in the west London residential tower block may have been renting their homes unlawfully at the time of the fire, last month.

In an effort to gather information about the victims of the fire, the DCLG has confirmed that the director of public prosecutions will not proceed with any charges related to illegal subletting.

"Supporting those affected by the tragic events at Grenfell Tower has been the absolute priority of the government," communities secretary Savid Javid said in a statement. "That includes making sure that loved ones still missing are identified. Therefore I would urge those with information to come forward without fear of prosecution."

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) has confirmed it will respect this guidance.

Attorney general Jeremy Wright also said it a statement that "every piece of information will help the authorities accurately identify who was in the flats at the time of the fire", and that he hoped the immunity will encourage those with information to speak to authorities.

–Rose Troup Buchanan

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Embattled Kensington and Chelsea Council has been criticised for waiting until now to suspend rent for tenants in neighbouring blocks around Grenfell Tower.

Residents in Barandon Walk, Testerton Walk and Hurstway have been without hot water since the fire, while many are still in temporary accommodation. The council has now announced rent payments will not be sought for these buildings until January 2018.

"This group of residents have suffered a huge disruption to their lives as they were evacuated from their homes," a spokesperson said.

"They will not have to pay rent from the date of the fire until the end of January 2018 when we will review the situation. If any resident has had a direct debit or standing order payment for their rent taken this will be refunded. We will be writing to everyone shortly to inform them of this.

"Some residents have already returned to their homes. We expect to have the hot water supply restored during the next week so anybody else who wants to go back home can do so. We will continue to provide temporary accommodation for those that don't want to return."

The development comes after a campaigner claimed that some Grenfell Tower survivors were still being charged rent by the council.

Labour MP Andrew Gwynne MP, shadow communities secretary, said it was "unacceptable" the council had taken this long to act on rent payments.

"People have been made homeless in this tragedy, lost family, friends and everything they own – Sajid Javid needs to finally show some leadership and send in commissioners to take control of this council."

Javid, the communities secretary, yesterday said that "nothing is off the table" in terms of the government intervening if the council, which has been severely criticised for its response to the fire, failed to ensure affected residents got the support they needed.

–Matthew Champion

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Councillor blames media for turning cancelled meeting into a "stunt"

A Tory councillor from Kensington and Chelsea has lashed out at the media for their reporting of a cancelled cabinet meeting.

Appearing on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Catherine Faulks said it had been a "clever stunt" by journalists to portray the cancelled meeting as chaotic.

Extraordinary, tone deaf, defiant @BBCr4today interview by Tory cllr Catherine Faulks. Says press presence on Thurs was a "stunt".

RBKC Tory Cllr Catherine Faulks on Radio 4 calling press presence at meeting on Thursday "a stunt". No, the stunt was you locking us out.

Journalists obtained a high court order to gain access to a public meeting on the Grenfell Tower fire that the council had tried to hold in private on safety grounds. However once the public was admitted the meeting was cancelled.

In today's interview, Faulks accepted the council was not "immediately quick off the ground" in the aftermath of the fire. "I don't think everyone realised how complex or vast the fire was," she said.

She also quickly backtracked after initially describing an activist's claim that a Grenfell Tower resident was still having rent taken from their back account by the council as a "tiny" incident.

"Oh come on, I'm not saying that's a tiny thing for them, it's a huge thing and that's very upsetting," Faulks said after being challenged over her remark.

–Ikran Dahir

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Council under pressure to publish legal advice that led to meeting being called off

Legal experts have questioned the basis on which a Kensington and Chelsea council cabinet meeting was cancelled on Thursday night.

The council said it would hold the meeting, about the Grenfell Tower fire, in private due to safety concerns. But after media organisations obtained a court order to be admitted, council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown – who has since announced he is resigning – said he was cancelling the meeting after receiving legal advice it could "prejudice" the public inquiry into the fire.

But lawyers told BuzzFeed News it was impossible to prejudice a judge-led public inquiry, which does not have a jury. The council is still under pressure to publish the advice that led to the decision to cancel the meeting.

Andrew Lomas, a barrister and a Liberal Democrat member of Kensington and Chelsea council, who was at last night's meeting, said he would be "very surprised" if there was any written advice available to publish, as he had seen in-house lawyers giving verbal advice to cabinet members ahead of the meeting.

Read more here.

–Hannah Al-Othman

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London mayor Sadiq Khan has written to the prime minister to ask for "untainted" commissioners to be appointed to take over the running of Kensington and Chelsea council.

He said he welcomed council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown's announcement on Friday night that he intended to step down, but said it was "clear" the local community had lost faith in the council, which was "not fit for purpose".

"The council now needs to find a way to move forward and find a way to restore the confidence in that community," Khan said.

"That can only be done with new leadership and a new approach that reaches out to residents who quite rightly feel desperately neglected.

"The government needs to get a grip and immediately act to appoint commissioners to take over the running of Kensington and Chelsea council.

"Commissioners who are untainted should take over the running of the council to act in the best interests of residents until the voters of the borough can choose, at next May's council elections, who they wish to represent and serve them."

I've written to the Prime Minister asking her to appoint commissioners to take over the running of Kensington and C… https://t.co/NQNghAYD5h

–Matthew Champion

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The embattled leader of Kensington and Chelsea council says he is stepping down.

Nicholas Paget-Brown said he would resign as leader once a replacement had been appointed.

He had faced calls to quit after the council was severely criticised for its response to the Grenfell Tower fire.

On Thursday he cancelled a council cabinet meeting after attempts to hold it in private were scuppered by journalists obtaining a court order.

Read more here.

– Hannah Al-Othman

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At least 80 people are thought to have lost their lives after an "unprecedented" fire ripped through Grenfell Tower in west London, with many people missing and presumed dead.

Officials have warned it will take at least until the end of the year for a final figure to emerge – and even longer for all those who died to be formally identified, as authorities begin the painstaking task of formal identification.

So far only 18 bodies have been identified, but not all names have been released.

Investigators fear that no one living in 23 out of the 106 flats in the block survived, raising the possibility that entire families perished together.

These are the people who have so far been confirmed by officials to have died.

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The chief executive of the organisation that manages Grenfell Tower has stepped down

Robert Black, chief executive of the Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), which manages Grenfell Tower, has stepped down.

The company's board also said they welcomed the appointment of Martin Moore-Bick to head the public inquiry into the fire in the west London residential block. At least 80 people have been confirmed dead in the blaze.

"The board wishes to ensure that KCTMO remains best positioned to fully co-operate and assist with the inquiry and so it has agreed with its chief executive, Robert Black, that Mr Black should step aside from his role as chief executive of KCTMO in order that he can concentrate on assisting with the investigation and inquiry," a statement posted online said.

It went on to state that an interim chief executive would be appointed in Black's place, in order to focus on continuing to care for other residents. In particular, the statement said, KCTMO will focus on the needs of residents in Testerton Walk, Hurstway Walk, and Barandon Walk. KCTMO will consult with them to "ensure that their wishes are respected regarding the future management of their homes".

When is RBKC Council Leader Nick Paget-Brown resigning? Call me Nick, I will bring cardboard boxes and help you cle… https://t.co/Xdw291gGmW

In the aftermath of Black's resignation, there have been calls for the leader of the Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington (RBCK), Nicholas Paget-Brown, to also step down.

RBCK council said it was aware of Black's resignation, and that an interim CEO was being sought as a "matter of urgency", in order that other residents' services were not affected.

The statement continued: "Kensington and Chelsea residents remain the Council's priority during this unprecedented time." The council, alongside KCTMO, will "consult with them to ensure that their wishes are respected regarding the future management of their homes".

–Rose Troup Buchanan

It's clear K&C council not fit for purpose. Govt must step in now & ensure leadership that all residents can trust. https://t.co/92zXN73LAt

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The last time the regulations surrounding fire safety in blocks was changed was in 1991, following the Knowsley Heights fire in Manchester. In Aryshire in 1999 a tower block with similar cladding to Grenfell caught fire, one man died and five others were injured. The incident prompted the Scottish government to alter regulations – and none of the unsafe cladding has been found in Scotland.

The Lakanal House fire in London in 2009 was the last major incident before Grenfell. Although simplifications and clarification on fire safety regulations were called for, central government appears to have pushed responsibility on to building professionals.

Then, also in 2009, the London Fire Authority warned that some buildings were not being built to the proper standards to ensure fire safety. Most pertinently, between 2013 and 2016 a Grenfell residents' group made repeated warnings about fire safety in the tower.

Finally, as recently as May of this year, experts warned that delays on updating building regulations (as detailed above) were endangering high-rise tower residents.

You can read more about these developments here.

–Tom Phillips and Patrick Smith

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Downing Street rebukes Chelsea and Kensington over cancelled council meeting

Number 10 has criticised the Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington council after its first meeting since the Grenfell Tower tragedy was canceled after a court overruled an attempt to ban journalists and the public from attending.

"Our view is that access to democracy should always be easy," the prime minister's spokesperson said. "It's vital if people want to retain confidence in our democratic system."

The first meeting of the RBKC council since the fire was cancelled at the last minute yesterday after the local authority lost a legal bid to exclude the public and reporters from attending the private meeting. The council's decision was strongly criticised by locals and those affected by the disaster earlier this month.

"I can't obviously speak for the council but, you know, there are rules that state that all meetings must be open to the public expect in certain circumstances," the spokesperson said. "And as we saw in his specific case the High Court ruled that the meeting should be open, and we would've expected the council to respect that."

The spokesperson went on to say that the government intended to continue working "very closely" with the RBCK council, and although the PM had made clear that their initial response was lacking, "we do feel that a lot of positive progress has been made in helping the victims, survivors and residents on a whole manner of issues".

–Alex Spence and Rose Troup Buchanan

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Number of towers with combustible cladding rises again

The number of towers with cladding that fails the fire safety test conducted in the wake of the Grenfell fire has risen to 149 in 45 local authorities, the government has confirmed. Every single building tested so far has failed.

Around 600 towers in the UK are believed to have some sort of external cladding, and tests are urgently being carried out across the country.

–Rose Troup Buchanan

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Opposition MPs have urged the government to urgently reveal how many tower blocks have been inspected by the fire department and declared safe, amid confusion about the extent of the fire risk in high-rises across the country.

The Liberal Democrats have tabled a written question in parliament asking the communities secretary Sajid Javid to reveal how many towers have been fully inspected - and not just failed cladding tests which do not on their own mean that a building is necessarily a fire danger - after officials repeatedly failed to respond to requests by BuzzFeed News for the information.

"The government must urgently tell us whether buildings found to have flammable cladding have been checked and cleared as safe to live in by the fire service," Tom Brake, a Lib Dem MP, told BuzzFeed News.

Two weeks after the blaze at the Grenfell Tower in London killed at least 80 people, the true scale of the fire danger in other buildings across the UK is still not known — and information about the response by landlords and government agencies to warnings about fire safety has been hard to piece together.

Government officials have been regularly giving updates on the number of cladding samples from high-rises that have been found to be combustible. That figure stood at 137 after the latest update on Thursday morning, according to Downing Street.

Read more here.

—Alex Spence

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Man charged for allegedly falsely claiming his wife and son died in the Grenfell Tower fire

A man who allegedly falsely claimed his wife and son died in the Grenfell Tower fire has been charged with fraud.

Anh Nhu Nguyen, 52, has been charged with five counts of fraud over allegations he tried to gain money after the fire, which has claimed at least 80 lives.

Nguyen, of no fixed address, has been remanded in custody and will appear before magistrates in Westminster on Friday morning.

"The distress and suffering caused to so many families and loved ones that night is harrowing," Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack said in a statement.

"That night people lost their homes, all their possessions and tragically their families and loved ones. The focus of all of us should be on supporting victims and families, recovering loved ones from Grenfell Tower and investigating the fire."

She added: "I have made it clear that we are not interested in investigating things such as sub-letting or immigration matters as I want their help – and do not want there to be any hidden victims of this tragedy.

"However, we will robustly investigate any information about anyone who seeks to capitalise on the suffering of so many."

–Matthew Champion

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The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has cancelled its first cabinet meeting since the Grenfell Tower fire after having failed in an attempt to ban journalists from attending.

Ahead of the Thursday night meeting, the council said it would be private due to "security and public safety concerns".

However, a court order obtained by five media organisations just half an hour before the meeting was due to begin at 6.30pm said the council had to allow media to attend. In an extraordinary twist, the council then cancelled the meeting.

Nicholas Paget-Brown cancelled the council meeting because a court ruled that journalists should be present, and it… https://t.co/C5Kw9qw2NU

A BuzzFeed News reporter trying to attend the meeting was initially told they were not allowed to enter. "You're more than welcome to appeal or complain," a man who may have been a security guard said, before locking the main front entrance to the town hall with a key.

Yvette Williams, from the Justice4Grenfell campaign, told BuzzFeed News: "Nothing that Kensington and Chelsea does is of any surprise to us. They've always treated us with contempt and they're just carrying on as normal.

"If they were decent human beings they would [meet the public], but obviously their fear is more important than listening to the community."

You can read the full story here.

–Fiona Rutherford

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The recently retired judge appointed this morning to chair the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster has said the investigation will be "limited to the problems surrounding the start of the fire and its rapid development".

Martin Moore-Bicke said the interim inquiry would be limited to examining how the fire started, how it spread, and how it was able to engulf the whole building at such speed. He said the investigation would also look at what internal precautions were in place, as well as steps for alerting residents to allow them to escape.

"I am well aware that residents and the local people want a much broader investigation and I can duly understand why they would want that," he said, but added that he was "doubtful" that his inquiry was the way to achieve that. "I will give that some thought and in due course make a recommendation but there may be other ways in which that desire for an investigation may be recognised through the work that I am going to do."

The former judge met with Grenfell Tower residents and locals today. "It is quite clear that many of them will have evidence to give that will be of great value to the inquiry," he said. "We will take account of their views and what they have to say."

Moore-Bick was cautious about how long a full inquiry would take, stating that he hopes a preliminary report could be produced in "under a year". However, pulling together the interim inquiry would be "very challenging", he said, as there was no information yet about how much material would need to be collected.

"I think it is impossible at the moment to say how long that's going to take," he said, quashing suggestions of two to three months as unrealistic. "On the other hand, I don't see why we couldn't get a preliminary report out in under a year."

Moore-Bicke also said he was "rather surprised" to be called controversial in relation to his ruling allowing Westminster council to rehome a single mother outside her London home. The ruling was overturned in 2015 by the Supreme Court.

–Rose Troup Buchanan

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The first local council meeting since the Grenfell Tower disaster will be held in private

Here's the notice which confirms tonight's RBKC cabinet meeting, first since #Grenfell, will be held in private

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has angered residents by excluding press and the public from its first cabinet meeting since the Grenfell Tower fire.

The council said tonight's cabinet meeting, due to start at 6.30pm, would be private due to "security and public safety concerns".

In a note explaining the decision, the council pointed to protests that took place on Friday 16 June, two days after the fire, outside Kensington Town Hall.

"As such it will be open only to council members, support officers and invited guests (if any). The public minutes of this meeting will be published, in due course, on the council website," the statement said.

Yvette Williams from the Justice4Grenfell campaign told BuzzFeed News: "Nothing that Kensington and Chelsea does is of any surprise to us. They've always treated us with contempt and they're just carrying on as normal."

The council had been seriously criticised for its response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, in which at least 80 people died. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, neighbouring London councils were forced to step in, after aid workers – such as the Red Cross – criticised the lack of organisation.

RBCK council referred BuzzFeed News to a statement on its website, and said a further statement would be forthcoming this evening.

You can read more about the council's decision here.

–Hannah Al-Othman and Rose Troup Buchanan

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Number of buildings with unsafe cladding rises to 137 in 41 local authorities

The number of towers that have failed fire safety tests on their cladding has risen to 137 buildings in 41 local areas, Downing Street has confirmed.

Previously, 120 towers in 37 local authorities had been tested. The ACM cladding – the same used to cover Grenfell Tower in west London – on all 120 failed. At least 80 people died after a fire destroyed the residential block two weeks ago.

Late last night the National Housing Federation (NHF) urged local authorities to stop testing the ACM cladding, which had been demonstrated unsafe, and instead put resources towards removing it. Responding to these comments, a government spokesperson today said they had made it clear to councils that they do not have to wait. Asked why the ACM cladding had not been banned outright, the spokesperson said there was a process to be followed regarding this.

They went on to say they were working closely with residents to explain the complicated public inquiry process. They declined to give a costed figure for the inquiry, only repeating it would be fully funded, and that a full budget would be announced in due course.

The spokesperson also confirmed the public inquiry would not wait for the police investigation to conclude before starting.

–Rose Troup Buchanan

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Sadiq Khan announced a £300,000 fund to help business affected by the recent terror attacks and the Grenfell Tower fire get back on their feet.

The London Mayor also called on central government to match the fund "pound for pound".

City Hall would establish the fund immediately, he said, so that companies – particularly small businesses – could access support following a "very difficult few months".

London Bridge was attacked by terrorists on the night of 3 June. Eight people died. On 14 June, a fire broke out in the west London residential block of Grenfell. At least 80 people died. In the early hours of 23 June, a man mowed down worshippers near a north London mosque. One man died at the scene.

"While the human cost of these events has been unimaginable, there has also been a financial cost to many businesses which have found themselves unable to trade," Khan said in a statement.

"I want this fund up and running as a matter of urgency so that it can help those businesses, particularly family owned or small ones which may be struggling due to these appalling events. I will also be asking the Government to match this funding pound for pound."

–Rose Troup Buchanan

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Islington council joins call for government to provide local authorities with cash to address safety issues in high-rises

Islington council has called on Theresa May's government to put aside funds for local authorities so they can quickly fix fire safety problems discovered in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

In a statement, Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Islington council's executive member for housing and development, said: "We believe the Government should pledge funding to pay for fire safety work, to make sure the price of fire safety isn't cuts to other vital local services and projects."

Islington's call for government funding follows on from similar demands made by Birmingham council last week.

Council leader John Clancy said the local authority would be forced to sell assets if the government did not provide financial help to pay for safety adaptions.

Islington council said it had begun investigating whether to install sprinkler systems in its tower blocks in the wake of Grenfell. Most council blocks in Islington do not have sprinkler systems fitted, though sprinkler systems have been installed in some properties of particularly vulnerable residents," the council said in a statement.

It added that any decision to install sprinklers would be "guided by regulations and advice from government." Current building regulations do not require the retrofitting of sprinklers during refurbishment or other building works.

—Alicia Melville-Smith

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Sir Martin Moore-Bick, a retired Court of Appeal judge, has been appointed to lead the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower tragedy in which at least 80 people lost their lives, prime minister Theresa May has confirmed.

"We must get to the truth about what happened. No stone will be left unturned by this inquiry," the PM said in a statement, confirming the appointment.

"I am determined that there will be justice for all the victims of this terrible tragedy and for their families who have suffered so terribly," May said in a full statement. "The immediate priority is to establish the facts of what happened at Grenfell Tower in order to take the necessary action to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again. But beyond that immediate focus it is also important that all the wider lessons from both this catastrophe, and the inspections of other buildings around the country that followed it, are identified and learnt."

The PM said before the inquiry started, Moore-Bick would consult "those with an interest, including survivors and victims' families", about the terms of reference of the investigation. Neighbours of the Tower Block had also called for a voice in the inquiry.

May added that "we cannot wait for ages to learn the immediate lessons" and said an interim report would be produced "as early as possible.

She said Moore-Bick was "a highly respected and hugely experienced" within his profession, and had been highly recommended.

Recently retired 70-year-old Moore-Bick left the bench last December. During his career, one of his more controversial cases saw him approve Westminster Council's decision to rehome London tenant Titina Nzolameso, a single mother of five, 50 miles away in Milton Keynes. His decision was later over-turned by the Supreme Court in 2015.

Educated at a grammar school in Tunbridge Wells, Moore-Bick later studied at Christ's College, Cambridge. He joined the Bar in 1969, became a QC in 1986, and was appointed to the High Court in 1995. He spent more than 20 years on the commercial court and the court of appeal.

"It is vitally important that the Inquiry be open, transparent and fair to all those whose involvement with Grenfell Tower comes under scrutiny," Moore-Bick said in a statement after his appointment was announced. "I understand the desire of local people for justice; justice for them, and for all those involved in whatever way, will best be served by a vigorous inquiry that gets to the truth as quickly as possible."

Abbas Nawrozzadeh, a solicitor who cofounded Grenfell Legal Support, said: "our concern is that there was no proper consultation in relation to his appointment. The people have lost so much confidence in the government that it beggars belief that they weren't even consulted on something so basic as this.

"The issue of mistrust is just compounded. The anger that's brewing is just going to turn into something else because the government is going off on something of its own.

"In order to keep people empowered you need to give them a seat at the table. If you don't give that people are going to turn to protests which may turn ugly. There's a risk that the anger which foments could exhibit itself in other ways if it keeps brewing."

–Emily Dugan & Rose Troup Buchanan

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Stop testing and remove all ACM cladding immediately, National Housing Federation warns

The National Housing Federation (NHF) has called for testing on ACM cladding – the type installed in Grenfell Tower – to be stopped immediately, and the resources diverted into removing the dangerous materials instead.

David Orr, chief executive at the NHF, said in a statement that while the tests were the right thing to do initially, "the results are now conclusive: ACM cladding simply does not pass these tests and is deemed unsafe".

"Across the country, valuable resources – from specialist equipment to expert time – are being poured into a testing process of which the results are already known."

He said: "We are calling on Government to halt the testing on ACM cladding and shift its focus to making people safe."

Orr went on to say that this may mean removing cladding from buildings that were deemed safe, such as hotels, private sector blocks, hospitals and student accommodation.

He said the Grenfell Tower tragedy, in which at least 80 people died, demonstrated "a systemic failure in construction, manufacturing and the way that regulation has been applied".

"Putting this right will require a strategic look at the issue of fire safety in buildings as a whole, as well as clear prioritisation and funding from government – the costs should not fall on the residents of these properties."

The warning comes as the post-Grenfell debate turned to what fire safety measures are in place in a range of public buildings, including schools and hospitals.

Yesterday, BuzzFeed News learnt that a number of university halls across the country had already discovered ACM cladding on the structures. And earlier in the week, BuzzFeed News found that at least two privately-owned tower blocks had ACM cladding.

–Rose Troup Buchanan

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Police have been unable to account for anyone from 23 flats in Grenfell Tower

At a briefing for journalists at Scotland Yard on Wednesday, police said they had managed to speak to at least one person from 106 flats in the tower at the time of the fire, establishing that these flats account for 18 people who are missing, presumed dead.

But they have yet to account for anyone from the remaining 23 flats, which are all between the 11th and 23rd floors, which could mean that entire families or households may have perished together.

"That means, and it's a terrible reality, that there are 23 flats where despite huge investigative efforts we have been unable to trace anyone alive who lived there. So at this stage we must assume that no one in those 23 flats survived," Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack said.

Read more here.

–Patrick Smith

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A 6-month-old girl was found dead between the 19th and 20th floors of Grenfell Tower in her mother's arms, an inquest has heard, ITV News reports.

Leena Belkadi died from inhaling fumes. Her 8-year-old sister, Malek Belkadi, was found on the 20th floor and was taken to St Mary's Hospital but later later died from smoke inhalation.

Their mother, Farah Hamdan, and their father, Omar Belkadi, both died in the fire and have had separate inquests, which were adjourned. The family lived on the 20th floor.

The inquest on Wednesday identified a number of other victims and gave their cause of death.

The body of Mohammed Al Haji Ali, 23, was found outside the building on Testaments Walk. He died from multiple injuries consistent with falling from height and was identified from his fingerprints.

Husna Begum, 22, died from the effects of the fire and was found near the lift on the 17th floor. She was identified by dental records.

Rabeya Begum, 64, died in flat 2 on the 17th floor from the effects of the fire. She was identified by dental records.

Mohammed Amied Neda, 57, died from multiple injuries consistent with falling from a great height. He was identified using dental records.

Abdeslam Sebbar, 77, was found in flat 1 on the 11th floor and died from smoke inhalation. He was identified by DNA.

The coroner, Dr Fiona Wilcox, opened and adjourned all seven inquests.

–Patrick Smith

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36 NHS buildings require safety checks because they might have similar cladding to Grenfell

NHS Improvement has identified 36 organisations over concerns they have similar cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower.

In a statement, NHS Improvement said the buildings would have fire safety tests carried out on materials. They are expected to be completed by early next week.

Once those test results are known there will be a further update from NHS Improvement.
—Alicia Melville-Smith

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Full death toll from Grenfell Tower might not be known until end of year

During a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, the Metropolitan police said they were concentrating future searches of Grenfell Tower on 23 flats in the building.

Police said the number of confirmed missing presumed dead remained at 80. They added that a full death toll could take months to confirm.

Police said they had made contact with at least one resident from each of 106 of the 129 flats in the building.

Future investigations will now focus on 23 flats where police have yet to make contact with any residents.

A total of 60 companies are being investigated as part of the investigation, and police have appealed to the community to continue to share missing persons lists.

—Alicia Melville-Smith and Patrick Smith

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Every single high-rise building tested since the Grenfell Tower disaster has failed a fire safety check on its cladding, Theresa May has confirmed.

The prime minister told the House of Commons that 120 buildings in 37 different local authorities across the UK have now been tested, with a 100% failure rate, as the government struggles to deal with the aftermath of this month's devastating fire at the building in west London.

May confirmed she understood the material that was failing the tests was not compliant with building regulations. As a result of the 100% failure rate she said local authorities "should not wait for test results" and should instead "get on with the job of fire safety tests" on all at-risk buildings.

However, she warned against blaming anyone in particular while a criminal investigation was ongoing.

May told MPs that 65 offers of accommodation have now been made to families displaced by the fire, with £1.25 million paid to families and a further £1 million made available to charities who are able to assist. She also said she hoped to shortly announce a judge to lead an inquiry into the disaster.

According to the BBC, while there is a government document spelling out a standard for cladding in high rises, there is no single regulator overseeing that these standards are met, and the sector bodies responsible for maintaining standards have advised contractors not to take the regulations literally.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said 40% cuts to local authority budgets and "disastrous" austerity measures had reduced the ability of councils to enforce building regulations.

"Fewer inspectors, fewer building control inspectors, fewer planning inspectors. We all pay a price," he said, attacking the government's "disregard for working-class communities" and warning of the "terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners".

"This disaster must be a wake-up call," he warned.

Read more here.

–Jim Waterson

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Student halls of residence across the country are reviewing fire safety because they are clad in the same or similar materials to those used on Grenfell Tower, BuzzFeed News has learnt.

Accommodation blocks at Nottingham Trent, Bournemouth, Newcastle and Edinburgh Napier universities all have similar cladding to that used on Grenfell Tower, where at last 79 people are believed to have died in a fire two weeks ago. Essex University is also testing cladding on one of its halls but says the material is different to Grenfell's.

Some have begun removing cladding already while others are still conducting tests and checking other fire safety measures. In Nottingham, some students have already been evacuated as a precautionary measure.

Grenfell Tower had aluminium cladding with insulation that was combustible. Many student halls are also clad with aluminium, and tests are under way to discover which include flammable insulation.

Frightened students worried about the risks involved in staying in their halls have contacted the National Union of Students in the wake of the disaster. The NUS is now calling on the government to check all halls of residents.

Read more about the fears about student halls here.

–Emily Dugan

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A total of 120 buildings have now failed cladding safety tests

During PMQs on Wednesday, Theresa May updated parliament on the number of buildings which had failed cladding safety tests in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

A total of 120 high-rises in 37 local authority areas have now failed the tests and have been found to have combustible cladding.

"Given the 100% failure rate we are very clear with local authorities and housing associations they should not wait for tests results, they should get on with the job of the fire safety checks," the prime minister said.

"This particular cladding was not compliant with building regulations and this raises wider issues ... as we have seen from the number of buildings where the cladding has failed the combustibility tests ... it's a much wider issue, an issue that has been continuing for years, there are real questions about why this has happened and how we can stop it happening in the future."

–Alicia Melville-Smith

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The government is carrying out reviews of all Ministry of Justice buildings, including courts and prisons, in the wake of the Grenfell fire

The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that in the wake of the Grenfell fire it is carrying out fire safety checks on its buildings.

At least 79 people died after a blaze engulfed the west London residential block. In the wake of the tragedy, prime minister Theresa May called for a "national investigation" into the use of the similar, flammable cladding that was attached to the outside of the tower.

None of the UK's prisons are clad in the same material as that of Grenfell tower, according to an MoJ spokesperson. They said the prisons all had sufficient fire safety measures in place.

The news came as the post-Grenfell debate turned to what fire safety measures are in place in a range of public buildings, including schools and hospitals. A Department for Education spokesperson told BuzzFeed there would be "no change" to fire safety laws for schools.

"It has always been the case, and remains the case, that where the risk assessment required for any new building recommends sprinklers are installed to keep children safe, they must be fitted," they said. "Alongside the rest of Government, we will take forward any findings from the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire."

–Patrick Smith and Rose Troup Buchanan

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Campaigners for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire have begun work on their own investigation of those presumed dead as frustration at the lack of official figures turns to anger.

Almost two weeks on from the west London disaster, many in the community are furious that the Metropolitan police has refused to give even a ballpark estimate for the number still unaccounted for.

The Met says previously said at least 79 people are dead or missing but Grenfell campaigners believe the number is much higher. The Met themselves also acknowledge this figure is likely to grow.

The Justice 4 Grenfell group, set up in the wake of the disaster, has set up its own database to confirm the numbers likely to have died that night.

Ishmahil Blagrove, one of the group's coordinators, told BuzzFeed News: "We're trying to mobilise the members of the families with people missing. We can't expect the authorities to do it for us."

"Just so we can get a more accurate figure we are collecting our own information, which might give us a more accurate figure," he added. "We're building a database."

You can read more about campaigners' efforts here.

–Emily Dugan

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Two privately owned buildings are among the 95 that have been found to have combustible cladding material similar to that used on Grenfell Tower, the government has confirmed.

The Department for Communities and Local Government, which is overseeing urgent testing of the material on social housing tower blocks and other high-rise buildings across the country, classifies a private building as one that does not include social housing owned by a local authority or housing association.

The overwhelming majority of the buildings that have failed tests so far have been council-owned or social housing tower blocks.

You can read more about this development here.

–Sara Spary

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A tower block has been evacuated in Germany amid concerns over fire safety

A residential tower block in Wuppertal in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany has been evacuated amid concerns over materials used on the building.

The move comes after residents of high-rise buildings in Camden, north London, were evacuated over safety fears in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Martina Eckermann, a spokesperson for the city of Wuppertal, told Der Westen: "Because of the fire disaster, we had to reassess the safety."

"There is imminent danger. That's why we have to act immediately," she said.

The 11-storey tower was built in the 1960s. Der Westen reported that residents would be temporarily rehoused, and would be able to return once the cladding on the building had been removed.

–Francis Whittaker and Dani Beck

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Number 10 announces it will set up "expert panel" on fire safety

A new "expert panel on fire safety" will be set up to advise the government on how to address the problem of combustible cladding on high-rise buildings, Number 10 has said.

Ex-London Fire Service commissioner Sir Ken Knight will chair the panel which is expected to help the government deal with "immediate" action required on fire safety.

Dr Peter Bonfield, of the Building Research Establishment, Roy Wilsher, chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, and Amanda Clack, president of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, will also sit on the panel.

News of the formation of the panel was made during a briefing to reporters by Number 10. It was also revealed that some of the 95 buildings which have so far failed safety tests were from the private sector.

—Alicia Melville-Smith

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Campaigners for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire have begun work on their own investigation of those presumed dead as frustration at the lack of official figures turns to anger.

Almost two weeks on from the west London disaster, many in the community are furious that the Metropolitan police has refused to give even a ballpark estimate for the number still unaccounted for.

The Met says that around 80 people are dead or missing but Grenfell campaigners believe the number is much higher. Met police themselves also acknowledge this figure is likely to grow.

The Justice 4 Grenfell group, set up in the wake of the disaster, has set up its own database to confirm the numbers likely to have died that night.

Ishmahil Blagrove, one of the group's coordinators, told BuzzFeed News: "We're trying to mobilise the members of the families with people missing. We can't expect the authorities to do it for us."

"Just so we can get a more accurate figure we are collecting our own information, which might give us a more accurate figure," he added. "We're building a database."

Speaking about the likelihood that the number killed in the disaster is higher than the police figures, Blagrove said: "It was Ramadan, there were people together. That figure of 79 [now 80] we're not content with."

The Met has said all along that it fears the figure will be higher but will not make an estimate until it has gathered enough evidence to confirm more individuals are dead or missing.

Read more about the database here.

–Emily Dugan

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There have been fewer fire health and safety audits overall in England, although the number of inspections carried out on buildings over four-storeys high has actually increased, Home Office figures show.

The one-off figures, published by the Telegraph, demonstrate a complex national picture. Fire safety audits are planned inspections of buildings by fire safety officers, who assess whether the building meets national fire regulations.

All fire safety audits across England, 2009/10 to 2015/16

The overall number of fire safety audits in England has decreased overall from 77,532 in 2009/10 to 63,201 in 2015/16. There was a brief spike in 2010/11 when the number of inspections rose to 84,575.

Fire safety audits of buildings of four storeys or more across England, 2009/10 to 2015/16

However, in England the number of audits on buildings of four stores or higher presents a more complex picture. While the number of audits fell from 4,023 in 2010/11 to 2,872 in 2014/15, the following year (2015/16) the number rose to 3,534 – just under 500 short of the all-time recorded high.

Furthermore, the number of audits the London Fire Brigade (LFB) conducted of high rise buildings in the city over the same period shows there were more inspections carried out last year than any other year in the data release. In 2015/16 the LFB audited 2,507. In 2009/10 the service inspected 1,919 flats.

–Rose Troup Buchanan

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Number of tower blocks that have failed fire safety test rises again

BREAKING: Theresa May calls for "national investigation" as number of tower blocks with combustible cladding rises to 95 (all tested so far)

The number of tower blocks with similar cladding to Grenfall that have failed fire safety tests has risen to 95, across 32 local authorities.

Previously, 75 out of 75 blocks across 25 local authorities tested failed the fire safety checks.

Prime minister Theresa May has called for a "major national investigation" in the wake of the rapidly expanding scale of the situation.

Checks on blocks across the country were prompted by the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower earlier this month. So far, 79 people are believed to have died or are recorded missing after a huge blaze engulfed the residential block in west London.

–Rose Troup Buchanan

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Author Philip Pullman has offered to name a character in his next book, the second part of The Book of Dust, after a teenager who died in the Grenfell Tower blaze.

The author – most famous for his epic trilogy of fantasy novels His Dark Materials – auctioned off the "right to name" to raise funds for those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire, thought to have killed at least 79 people.

Pullman made the offer as part of Authors for Grenfell Tower, an online auction raising money for the British Red Cross London Fire Relief Fund.

Teacher James Clements bid £1,500 for the opportunity to name the character in tribute to Nur Huda el-Wahabi, a 15-year-old former pupil of his who died in the blaze.

The author later tweeted:

Thanks to all those who are adding to James Clements' bid to name a character after Nur Huda el-Wahabi #authorsforgrenfell

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Locals living near Grenfell Tower ask for say in public inquiry

Residents of Hurstway, Testerton, Barandon, and Grenfell Walks – areas surrounding the Grenfell Tower block – have written to the prime minister and the home secretary demanding a say in the public inquiry launched after the devastating fire.

"We support the survivors and mourn the dead – they are our families, friends and neighbours, many of whom are still missing," the open letter states. But living "in the shadow" of the block, they write, means they need to have a say to "ensure that justice us served for everyone on the estate. We therefore demand that our voices are heard."

In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster, in which 79 people are thought to have died, PM Theresa May said the public inquiry would examine how the fire unfolded.

The residents' letter says the inquiry needed to "leave no stone unturned". "It must identify each and every individual and organisation who must bear responsibility and accountability for this tragedy and the mishandling of the aftermath," it says.

In a small list of requests, it asks that the list of "core participants" consulted during the inquiry be expanded. It asks that the inquiry include not only the bereaved families and survivors, but "also civil society representatives and organisations who have a track record of working with the residents".

It calls for the consultation to take place as soon as possible, and says legal aid funding should be made available immediately. It also says legal aid should be distributed on a non-means-tested basis – pointing out that doing otherwise could seriously distress those who have lost their homes and possessions in the fire.

Residents say the consultation to establish the inquiry needs to cover the chair and counsel, as well as the panel of advisers.

–Rose Troup Buchanan

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One of the youngest victims of the Grenfell Tower fire has been named as five-year-old Isaac Paulous.

The Metropolitan police confirmed on Tuesday that Isaac's body was among those recovered.

In a statement, his family paid tribute to their "beloved son". "We will all miss our kind, energetic, generous little boy. He was such a good boy who was loved by his friends and family. We will miss him forever, but we know God is looking after him now and that he is safe in heaven."

You can read more about Isaac here.

–Rose Troup Buchanan

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The mother of an emerging artist who perished in the Grenfell Tower has also been confirmed as among the victims, the Metropolitan police confirmed today.

Mary Mendy, 52, the mother of artist Khadija Saye, has been formally identified. In a statement to the Met, her sister Betty Jackson said words could "never describe the pain of losing you".

As many as 79 people are confirmed dead or missing; however, many have yet to be formally identified as the recovery operation continues into the devastated west London residential block.

The statement continues: "I can't believe you are gone. You were a wonderful sister, an incredible aunt, the best mother any child could have wished for. You were an amazing friend to all those who knew you.

"Your heart was pure, your soul was one of a kind. You will be missed for a life time. You will remain forever in our hearts. you and your beautiful daughter Khadija Saye.

"From your sister, brothers, nieces and nephews."

–Rose Troup Buchanan

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Councils across Britain have started removing cladding from tower blocks that have failed fire safety tests in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

After the latest official figures put the number of high-rises in England that have failed flammability checks at 60 across 25 local authority areas, the government said it was "clearly concerned" about the scale of the threat.

A public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire, in which at least 79 people died, will look at why combustible cladding was put on so many tower blocks across the country.

So far, all of the cladding samples tested have been found to pose a fire risk, but there are hundreds more residential high-rises that still need to be tested.

Downing Street said the government's technical experts were testing the samples as quickly as they came in – and urged local authorities to send them cladding from the buildings in their areas as a matter of the utmost urgency.

Some councils blamed delays in getting test results as the reason for a lack of action on cladding, but a spokesperson for the Building Research Establishment, the company completing the safety tests, told BuzzFeed News there had been no delays on their end. "Every sample that has been sent to us has been tested. The process is very swift and the results are made available to the DCLG and the local authority as soon as we have them."

You can read about what each council is doing here.

–Emily Dugan and Alicia Melville-Smith

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Local Government Association says delay in testing tower block cladding is due to social and other landlords

Earlier today, housing minister Alok Sharma appeared to point the blame at local councils for the low number of completed tests (60 at the time he was speaking), telling Radio 4 Today: "Certainly some councils are acting very quickly and we want all of them to be acting urgently on this but we have a process where we are making sure this happens."

The number of failed high-rises has now reached 75. Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, told the House of Commons that government experts could test at a rate of 100 samples a day, if they received them quickly enough.

However, a spokesperson for the Local Government Association (LGA) has said the blame doesn't lie with the councils: "It seems that samples expected by government officials from councils are, in many cases, due to actually arrive from other housing providers. As community leaders, councils are working with social and other landlords in their area to make sure all cladding samples are sent for testing as quickly as possible."

Read more about the failed tower block tests and delay in the number of samples being sent here.

–Alex Spence

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The communities secretary, Sajid Javid, has said that the cladding from "75 high-rise buildings in 26 local authority areas" has now failed combustibility test.

Javid went on: "The fact that all samples have failed underlines the importance of submitting samples urgently."

Stating that the safety of residents was "our paramount concern", Javid added: "We expert alternative accommodation to be provided while the remedial work is being carried out – that is exactly what happened in Camden."

He said it was obvious the problem of unsafe cladding was not necessarily "unique to social housing", and that the government was working with private landlords, schools, and hospitals to conduct further investigation.

He described the failure of initial support on the ground as "inexcusable". Javid said that 111 households affected by the fire had received £5,500 for immediate assistance, and announced that the government would provide an extra £1 million for a local consortium of charities, trusts, and foundations working on the ground.

–Alan White

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The company who supplied cladding for Grenfell Tower has ended global sales for tower blocks

The firm which supplied the cladding on Grenfell Tower has ceased global sales of the product after all 60 UK tower blocks tested so far failed their safety tests.

In a statement provided to CBS News, Arconic confirmed it was "discontinuing" international sales of the panels.

"We believe this is the right decision because of the inconsistency of building codes across the world and issues that have arisen in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy regarding code compliance of cladding systems in the context of buildings' overall designs," the statement read.

Shares in the company dropped 6% on Monday after emails by and to an Arconic sales manager in 2014 were revealed by the Reuters news agency. The emails raised questions about why the firm supplied the combustible panels even though it had publicly warned they posed a fire risk.

Arconic responded to Reuters that it was not up to the company to decide whether or not the panels were compliant with local building regulations.

On Friday, Celotex – the firm which supplied the insulation to Grenfall Tower – said it was withdrawing RS5000 insulation material from the market after police deemed it to be unsafe

–Francis Whittaker

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Hospitals and schools have been urged by the government to send in samples of cladding in the wake of the horrific Grenfell Tower fire.

So far, 79 people are confirmed to have died after a huge fire engulfed the west London tower block two weeks ago.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has been overseeing assessments across the country on buildings that may have similar cladding to that of the Grenfell Tower block.

Following a meeting of the Grenfell Recovery Taskforce, chaired by prime minister Theresa May, Number 10 said the Department of Health and Department for Education were now urging schools and hospitals to send in samples of cladding for testing.

The PM urged local authorities to speed up the process of sending samples to be tested, repeating calls made by housing minister Alok Sharma this morning.

–Rose Troup Buchanan

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Public inquiry into Grenfell Tower will examine widespread use of flammable cladding on blocks

The public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire, in which at least 79 people died, will also look at why combustible cladding was put on tower blocks across the country, a spokesperson for Downing Street said.

After the latest government figures put the number of high-rises in England that have failed fire safety checks at 60, in 25 areas, the government said it was "clearly concerned" at the scale of the threat.

"It's clearly of huge concern," the spokesman said. "What's apparent is that this is on buildings across the country."

Asked why potentially dangerous cladding had been put on so many buildings in the first place, the prime minister's official spokesman said that question would be looked at by the public inquiry into the Grenfell disaster.

"You would expect that to be part of the terms of reference, yes," the Downing Street official said.

The government is close to appointing a judge to head the inquiry, the spokesman said.

So far, 60 out of 60 cladding samples tested have been found to pose a fire risk, but there are hundreds more residential high-rises that need to be tested.

Downing Street said the government's technical experts were testing the samples as quickly as they came in — and urged local authorities to send them cladding from the buildings in their areas as a matter of the utmost urgency.

"As soon as we get the samples, we can test them pretty quickly," the spokesperson said. "We can turn them around normally in a few hours. Our appeal to landlords who haven't sent the material yet is to send it urgently, so we can get the tests done."

–Alex Spence

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Housing minister suggests councils acting too slowly to submit panels for testing

Housing Minister @AlokSharma_RDG says he wants answers over the safety of tower blocks, adding "we have to be led b… https://t.co/X1s2AQm8VW

Alok Sharma, the government’s housing and planning minister, has implied that local authorities are being too slow submitting cladding panels to be tested in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

“Certainly some councils are acting very quickly, and we want all of them to be acting urgently on this,” Sharma told BBC Radio 4 in response to questions on whether local authorities were acting quickly enough. “But we have a process whereby we are making sure that this happens.

“The advice we have given to local authorities and housing associations and that has also been conveyed by the local government association, is that people shouldn’t wait for the checks to come back from these cladding results, they should get the fire service in, check the buildings they think may be affected and put in place mitigation measures if required, or as in the case of Camden, evacuation if that needs to happen.”

A spokesperson for BRE, the company completing the safety tests, told BuzzFeed News there had been no delays on their end. "Every sample that has been sent to us has been tested. The process is very swift and the results are made available to the CLG and the local authority as soon as we have them."

The number of dead and missing from the fire stands, so far, at 79.

Sharma, MP for Reading West, appearing on the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme and Sky News, also appeared unable to answer how many people remained unaccounted and missing. “The number that I have so far is 79,” he told Sarah Montague on Radio 4, “I completely understand how traumatised people are by this.”

“This is not about a cover-up, it is about making sure,” he said. Sharma, who was unable to give an exact figure, said there were a “couple of hundred households” who were waiting for housing and talking to the local authority.

Later that morning he told Sky News that the government had been “very clear” that “within three weeks we will make sure that everyone who has been affected by this in Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk who has lost their homes will be offered housing.”

“We are making sure that as quickly as possible housing assessments are done. We will make sure that we match people with the temporary home that matches their needs. There will be people who want to make sure they can get their children to school quickly, and we need to make sure they are housed in the right place for that to happen.”

Meanwhile, Sharma also confirmed the government had put in place a “regime” to ensure that cladding was being tested. “We are making sure that as soon as we identify a piece of cladding on a building that is non-compliant the local authority is informed immediately, fire service is informed and goes in and sees if there are mitigation measures that can be put in place. So people do not have to leave the building.”

Under the current plan, local authorities send samples to be tested, are informed of the results by central government, then inform the fire service to enable them to carry out proper tests to establish whether the block is safe, or put in place mitigation measures.

Sharma was unable to answer Radio 4 on the number of panels that are being tested, repeatedly stating they were being tested 24-hours a day.

–Rose Troup Buchanan

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Sixty high-rise buildings across England are covered in combustible cladding that failed urgent safety tests carried out after the Grenfell Tower disaster, in which at least 79 people died – raising the prospect of thousands of people being relocated from their homes.

According to the latest government figures, released on Sunday evening, all of the cladding samples that have been sent in by councils so far have failed the tests.

The number of failed tests, in buildings located in 25 local authorities across the country – and the 100% failure rate – suggests that the scale of the fire danger is far higher than previously thought.

Hundreds of towers with cladding on their exterior have yet to be tested.

About 600 towers in England are estimated to have some kind of cladding on the exterior, and tests are urgently being done to determine how many are at risk of going up in flames.

"It is therefore very important for local authorities and housing associations to continue to submit such samples as a matter of urgency," Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, said in an update on Saturday.

Areas affected include the city of Manchester, Camden, Plymouth, Hounslow, Portsmouth, Barnet, and Brent.

Separately, Portsmouth city council said on Friday it would remove the cladding from two towers, Horatia House and Leamington House in Somerstown, as a precautionary measure.

Read more here.
–Alex Spence and Patrick Smith