Grenfell contractors banned from council tenders

19 May 2021

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea will no longer offer contracts to some of the companies appearing at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry following “significant concerns”.

The local authority said concerns had been raised by the borough’s communities and it had to balance complex procurement law with the impact of the 2017 tragedy.

The council said it would no longer contract with Kingspan, Rydon, Celotex, and Arconic, or allow its other contractors to subcontract with them or use their products. The position would be reviewed following the outcome of the inquiry, the local authority said.

The commercial manager at prime contractor Rydon told the inquiry he was joking when he told his bosses the company would be “quids in” if it used aluminium composite material, highly flammable and a key factor in the disaster, in the 2014 refurbishment of the tower.

A secret cost-cutting meeting also took place between Rydon and the management organisation of the tower prior to Rydon being awarded a contract.

It emerged during the inquiry that Celotex, a manufacturer of foam insulation panels, considered the refurbishment a “case study” and sold its panels, also highly flammable, at a 47.5% discount.

Last month residents staged a protest outside a school in the borough where construction is taking place after Kingspan product packaging was spotted.

Council deputy leader and lead member for housing cllr Kim Taylor-Smith said: “This decision is based on doubts about the integrity of those companies, expressed by our communities and shared by the council, and following evidence given at the inquiry in respect of them.”

Taylor-Smith added the council was undertaking an ongoing audit to ensure that all current projects or those nearing completion were safe.

“It is important to remember that in many cases, the safety of the products may not be in dispute according to regulations and current national testing regimes.

“However, some of the evidence submitted to the inquiry has brought in to question the reliability of the safety certificates and the evidence on which they were based. In addition, the trust of the people who live in our borough in these companies and their products has been significantly damaged.”

The council said it could alter the list of banned contractors, including adding to it, in the event of further evidence.

Kingspan wrote to the council last month to reassure it about the safety of its products used at the new Barlby and Kensington Queensmill schools. 

In the letter Kingspan Insulation UK & Ireland managing director Ralph Mannion said the company was committed to operating at the highest standards, and that it was “disappointed” if the council felt it should not use Kingspan products in its projects.

An Arconic spokesperson said: “We continue to offer our full support to the authorities as the inquiry works through the complex questions presented. It is not appropriate for us to comment further while the inquiry is ongoing.”

Rydon and Celotex have been contacted for comment.

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