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25th May 2018 - Blog by Helen McGrath, Policy & Communications Manager

Publish date: 25/05/2018

Monday saw the opening of the long awaited Inquiry into the Grenfell Tower Fire under the chairmanship of Sir Martin Moore-Bick who pledged that survivors' testimony would be treated as "integral evidence" in proceedings which could run into 2020.

It was an exceptionally moving and emotive first day with the family of the 72 victims expressing their horror and sadness at the events of the 14th June 2017 and paying moving tributes to honour the people they loved and lost.

This first phase of the inquiry will run until the end of October and will also hear testimony from the fire fighters and emergency response teams which attended the Tower. The second phase planned for November will examine the refurbishment and decision making leading up to the fire.

Just before the inquiry opened, the Hackitt Review published its recommendations on 17th May (led by Dame Judith Hackitt) and proposed the creation of a Joint Competent Authority to 'maximise the focus on building safety within High Risk Residential Buildings'. This will require local authorities to take extra responsibility by combining Local Authority Building Standards work alongside fire and rescue authorities and the Health and Safety Executive. The authority will also lead during the design, construction or refurbishment of buildings. How the additional responsibility will be resourced and financed is yet to be developed. Although clearly the proposals aim for authorities to recoup all additional expenditure, whether this manifests itself in practice remains to be seen. Perhaps the most surprising and contentious outcome from the report is the fact there hasn't been a total ban of combustible cladding. This has been received with harsh criticism from both the LGA Chairman, Lord Porter and the HCLG committee Chair, Clive Betts.

Throughout this process it will be incumbent on local authorities to display resilience and good governance to strategically lead and enhance our communities, their well being and safety. Our role as lawyers will underpin this process greatly, providing regulatory support and guidance but also leadership throughout these important changes.

Helen McGrath

LLG Policy & Communications Manager