by Nadeem Badshah
THE inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire will be a “whitewash” due to “stalling” and delays in the investigation, a mother who fled her home on the night of the blaze has claimed.
Beinazir Lasharie left her property near the tower with her husband and two children following the inferno in June 2017 in west London which killed 72 people.
The second phase of the public inquiry could be delayed until 2020 and it could be three more years (2021) before it is finished.
The investigation into what led to the fire in the 24-storey tower which had combustible cladding was expected to resume in 2019. However, Rajiv Menon QC, acting for the resident of flat 16, where the fire started in a fridge, said it would not begin until next autumn at the earliest or 2020.
The first part of the inquiry angered survivors and bereaved families with main contractor Rydon and insulation manufacturer Celotex withdrawing from making closing submissions. Architect Studio E and Harley Facades, which erected the cladding, also did not file written closing submissions, while Arconic, which made the cladding, said other materials were responsible for spreading the blaze.
In an interview with Eastern Eye, Lasharie said she fears the repeated delays will hamper the chances of a fair investigation.
The former Labour councillor said: “The fact they are delaying it, and there’s going to be key people speaking, when they remember that night, they will be questioned on how good
their memory is.
“It is more excuses to prevent it being a full and fair inquiry.
“They are just wasting time by waiting. I don’t understand why they cannot do it sooner. They are stalling for no good reason. They will question people’s evidence as they can’t remember that far back. It is not fair.”
It is understood that about 200,000 documents have been submitted in the second phase of the inquiry, which are likely to take months to process before hearings can begin.
Survivors’ group Grenfell United released a video in response to the delays featuring bereaved families alongside celebrities such as singer Adele and rapper Stormzy.
Lasharie said she was also unhappy with the blame in the inquiry being directed at firefighters for advising people to remain in their flats on the night of the tragedy instead of the firms responsible for the cladding.
She said: “It’s been done in such a way to blame the fire brigade. They have had more stick than anyone else.
“People should be questioned who put certain materials in the tower which caused it to be (lit).
“Decisions made before the fire should be questioned. The fire brigade did everything in their power.
“I saw them go into the building. It was an unprecedented event. That shouldn’t be the emphasis.
“It will be a whitewash in the end.”
Since the fire, the government banned combustible cladding for all new schools, hospitals and residential buildings in England above 18 metres. However, it will not be applied to
those buildings where the materials have already been fitted. Official figures show there are more than 400 buildings that still have “Grenfell-style cladding” on them.
Lasharie, who had treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression
along with her children since the fire, has called for councils and the government to pay for the cladding to be removed.
“That is terrible. It is another Grenfell waiting to happen if they have got material on the building where they are living. It was only because of the cladding that it [tower] went up so quickly like petrol. It is not giving people assurances. They don’t have the
money to protect their own people? It beggars belief.
“It should be the people who made the decisions to put the cladding and the government should help with that.
“Why can’t they force councils to remove the cladding when people’s lives are at stake? It is scary.”
She added: “My son has got a lot of anger. He is suffering nightmares and is not able to sleep in his own bed.
“I have a three-year-old daughter who has a lot of social issues.
“Hundreds of children are in this situation. The impact is rippling through different aspects of our lives.”
Meanwhile, Lasharie and her husband Damon had some welcome good news when she gave birth to Aisha earlier this year.
Lasharie said: “She is a little angel in my life and came at the right time. My son adores her. It is something fresh and not attached to that night.”
Last month, the government said it would set up a “more effective” regulatory framework to improve building safety. Proposed measures include tougher sanctions for those who disregard residents’ safety, more rigorous standards and guidance for those undertaking
building work, and a stronger voice for residents.