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Grenfell Tower inquiry: Blogger who predicted disaster says housing officials acted like ‘mini-mafia’

Tristan Kirk
·3-min read
Grenfell Tower mosaic (PA Wire)
Grenfell Tower mosaic (PA Wire)

A resident who predicted the Grenfell Tower disaster said housing officials behaved like a “mini-mafia” as they ignored the safety fears and complaints of tenants.

Edward Daffarn, 57, was part of the Grenfell Action Group (GAG), set up in 2010 to draw attention to the plight of residents and the “managed decline” of their community.

Seven months before the fire that claimed the lives of 72 people, a GAG blog said they believed only “serious loss of life” would “shine a light” on Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), which managed Grenfell.

"It is our conviction that a serious fire in a tower block or similar high density residential property is the most likely reason that those who wield power at the KCTMO will be found out and brought to justice”, it said.

The blog went on to predict “it won’t be long before the words of this blog come back to haunt the KCTMO management”.

This morning, in evidence to the Grenfell Inquiry, Mr Daffarn said: “The fact these words turned into reality stands as a social indictment against those who were placed to prevent it.

“I was an activist trying to prevent these people from harming us and I have to live with the consequences that I failed to do so.”

Mr Daffarn, who moved into Grenfell Tower in 2001, said the TMO “was a non-functioning organisation which was not motivated by the wellbeing of tenants but was driven by pure self-interest.

“It had a monopoly to provide social housing for the entirety of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and so it was able to act like a mini-mafia.

“I do not use the word mini-mafia glibly or unthinkingly. I cannot find a better way to describe the culture of the organisation.”

He described himself as an “activist” who dedicated time to highlighting the problems residents faced through blogs and protests, but said he was treated as a “troublemaker” by housing officials.

Mr Daffarn said he knew it was possible for him, or other residents, to join the TMO board, but he told the inquiry: “It made me physically ill to think I would have to get that close to the centre of what was going on.”

GAG complained that the refurbishment of Grenfell between 2012 and 2016 was an “after-thought” to the creation of a nearby school in North Kensington, fire safety issues were not addressed, and their concerns about the quality of the tower block revamp went unanswered.

He said councillors were “ineffective” in addressing the problems, and said the GAG blog was a way of recording their complaints.

“No one was actually listening to us”, he said.

In his written evidence, Mr Daffarn added: “I hope that at the end of this legal process those responsible for the fire and failings in the aftermath will be brought to justice.

“I also hope the Inquiry will not only ascertain ‘what’ happened but also the broader question of ‘why’, exploring the culture within the building industry, the TMO, RBKC and central government.

“I would like the Inquiry to answer the question of what kind of a culture existed within RBKC and the TMO. This local authority had a third of a billion pounds in reserves, yet its senior officers appeared to prioritise value for money over respect for the wellbeing of residents’ and their safety.”

The inquiry continues.

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