Grenfell landlord called safety campaigner an antagonist, inquiry told

Grenfell landlord called safety campaigner an antagonist, inquiry told thumbnail

Tenant organisation singled out Ed Daffarn, who later escaped the burning tower

Ed Daffarn, survivor of the Grenfell Tower fire.
Photograph: Karen Robinson/The Observer

A Grenfell Tower resident who campaigned for safety was described as an “antagonist” by the council landlord, the inquiry into the 2017 disaster has heard.

Paul Dunkerton, a project manager for the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, told colleagues in a March 2013 email that Ed Daffarn, who later escaped from the burning tower, was one of two “main antagonists on the Lancaster West Estate regarding Grenfell Tower”.

Daffarn, who later predicted that “a serious fire in a tower block … is the most likely reason that those who wield power at the KCTMO will be found out and brought to justice”, had asked the TMO to update residents about the progress of planning applications for the refurbishment.

“Perhaps my choice of words wasn’t great,” Dunkerton told the inquiry. “But they were more vocal than other residents and leaseholders in the tower.”

The inquiry previously heard that an executive at Rydon, the main contractor, described Daffarn and other residents as “rebels” when they questioned the quality of works, and complained that they were “persistent and aggressive”.

The evidence of tension and distrust between the residents and landlord comes amid a continuing vacancy on the inquiry panel for an individual with expertise in community relations and housing. The position has been empty since January, to the anger of survivors and the bereaved.

Last week the Cabinet Office said the selection process was at a very advanced stage and the new panel member would be announced “very soon”. But they are missing evidence this week from the landlord, which on Monday highlighted concerns about the truthfulness of its consultation process.

The inquiry saw a draft of a newsletter to be sent to residents about the refurbishment which included figures about how many people said they wanted new windows that they could clean themselves. The majority said they did, but the final leaflet sent out said: “You do not have a clear preference about whether residents should clean the windows or the TMO.”

A newsletter item summarising responses from a residents’ questionnaire about the cladding reported: “There is no clear opinion on the colour or type of cladding.”

But the inquiry heard that no one had been asked about the type of cladding, only its colour. The combustible plastic-filled panels that were eventually used were the main cause of the spread of fire, the inquiry has already concluded.

Asked to explain the discrepancy, Dunkerton said the draft newsletter was sent to his manager, Mark Anderson, and the TMO’s communication team, and that might explain it.

The inquiry continues.