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Sir Martin Moore-Bick
Chair, Grenfell Tower Inquiry
14 July 2017
Dear Sir Martin
Grenfell Tower Inquiry Scope
You have invited suggestions for the scope of this inquiry. I would suggest that it is extended to cover the role of regulation of housing for the following reasons:
- The current system run by the Homes and Communities Agency is nigh on impossible for tenants to navigate – by law its primary focus is to protect the interests of lenders – it is time to strike a better balance
- The HCA can only intervene on behalf of social housing tenants when they face “serious detriment” – this is a vague legal term and it is not at all clear if it could have been applied to the issues raised by the Grenfell Action Group – it goes a long way to explaining why there has been so little activity by the HCA on safety
- The HCA can only act in relation to social housing tenants – this ignores the fact that in the modern world you have leaseholders, private tenants and temporary residents in blocks – the LB Southwark response to the Coroner at Lakanal cited the difficulty of persuading leaseholders to accept and pay for safety work.
I think there are four key questions that your inquiry might do well to consider:
- Could the HCA use its existing powers in a better way to ensure safety?
- Do we need to regulate housing in a different way to ensure safety?
- Could we open up communication channels so that tenants get listened to when they have concerns? And linked to that – How do we make sure the right follow up action takes place?
- Should we extend regulation to cover all of the residents that live in blocks not just social tenants?
The interests of social housing tenants are but a side-line for the HCA. They get very little by way of protection when things go wrong. I do not blame the HCA as it is a consequence of how they were established. But this is shameful because tenants have almost no choice over where they live. It is miles away from any sort of modern day consumer relationship that the rest of us enjoy. It is more akin to war time rationing for too many people. I hope you will take the chance to right this wrong. It’s time for the authorities to listen to the voice of tenants. They are the best early warning system to spot problems on the horizon.
I wish you Godspeed in the difficult and heart wrenching task ahead.
Chief Executive, HQN
Please find enclosed a paper setting out our views in more detail on how regulation needs to change after Grenfell.