Leaked Grenfell Towers papers: Tory politicians rejected fireproof cladding proposal for a 5.7% savings

The Grenfell Towers fire was one of the most deadly fires in modern British history, killing at least 72 people, with no way to know how many more may have died.

The fire was particularly vicious because the building had been sheathed in an extremly flammable cladding, in part because residents of nearby luxury flats felt the poorly maintained facade was an eyesore.

Now, leaked documents reveal that the original plan had been to clad the building in fireproof materials, but that the Conservative councillors from Kensington and Chelsea (whose financial footing was "robust") rejected that proposal in order to save £200,000 on a total bill of £3.5 million.

There was sustained pressure from the council to cut costs on the project despite the authority being in "robust" financial health, according to accounts for 2014. It had £235m in usable reserves and had underspent its budget for services by £23m.

The council had originally only wanted to spend £6m on Grenfell, but later set the budget at £9.7m when it realised it also needed to replace the heating system. In July 2013, however, the council's housing committee reported that Leadbitter, which was interested in the nonflammable cladding, was on course to spend £11.3m and so it put the contract out to tender and launched a cost-cutting programme which it called "value engineering".

The following summer, with Rydon on board, the council's tenants management organisation emailed the project team: "We need good costs for Cllr Feilding-Mellen [deputy leader in charge of housing]." At that point £300,000 was removed from the cladding budget and zinc panels were replaced with the aluminium composite material with the plastic core.

Grenfell Tower: fire-resistant cladding plan was dropped
[Robert Booth/The Guardian]

(via Naked Capitalism)