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GRENFELL TOWER FIRE by Grenfell Action Group

Posted in Anti-Austerity, campaigns, Censorship, Collusion, Criminal, Grenfell Tower, Human Rights, LSL Property services, Polarisation of the classes, Proletariat, Solidarity with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2017 by The Plough & The Stars

Source: Re-blog from Grenfell Action Group

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  Source: Grenfell action Group

 GRENFELL TOWER FIRE 

Watching breaking news about the Grenfell Tower fire catastrophe. Too soon (5am) to even guess at numbers of casualties and fatalities. Our heartfelt and sincere condolences to all who have perished, to the injured, to those who are bereaved or are still searching for missing loved ones.

Regular readers of this blog will know that we have posted numerous warnings in recent years about the very poor fire safety standards at Grenfell Tower and elsewhere in RBKC.

ALL OUR WARNINGS FELL ON DEAF EARS and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time. Below is a list of links to previous blogs we posted on this site trying to warn the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, who own this property, and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation who supposedly manage all social housing in RBKC on the Council’s behalf:

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/fire-safety-scandal-at-lancaster-west/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/kctmo-playing-with-fire/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/more-on-fire-safety/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/another-fire-safety-scandal/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/03/14/kctmo-feeling-the-heat/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/why-are-we-waiting/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/grenfell-tower-from-bad-to-worse/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/more-trouble-at-grenfell-tower/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/the-disempowered-of-grenfell-tower/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/tmo-still-asleep-at-the-wheel

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KCC – Clear And Present Danger

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Back in April 2016 the Grenfell Action Group published a blog highlighting our concerns regarding the long term future of Wornington College. We provided a link to a RBKC Cabinet Key Decision report (KD04801R) that revealed that the Wornington College building had been secretly sold to the Council for demolition, after which the site would be privately redeveloped as housing.

The report was markedly vague on specifics, presenting instead a mish mash of options that ranged from selling the entire site (planning permission included) to a private developer or alternatively entering into a partnership with a Private Rented Sector (PRS) developer. The plans appear to have been conditional on retention of some unquantified educational component, provision of some ‘affordable housing’ by the developer, and possibly an option for the Council to to repossess  part of the finished development for use as decant housing for council tenants displaced from redevelopment elsewhere. Under this mish mash of half baked ‘planning’ many, perhaps most, Wornington students would presumably have to travel to Hortensia Road in Chelsea if they wished to access education.

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2016/06/12/wornington-college-threat-confirmed/

Rather than deal with the concerns raised by our blog, and by supporters of the Save Wornington College Campaign, the management at Kensington and Chelsea College attempted to demonise those trying to protect this much loved educational institute. Members of the KCC management team abused their power by attempting to intimidate our supporters, and shamelessly spread rumours that the Save Wornington College campaign was responsible for declining student enrolment numbers at Wornington and for endangering the future of adult education in North Kensington. When Interim Principal Michelle Sutton was invited to provide credible evidence that the Save Wornington Campaign was responsible for these negative effects she failed to do so.

Instead of working in partnership with the North Kensington community, acknowledging the management and financial problems at KCC, and the threat to the long term future of Wornington College following the departure of Principal Mark Brickley, the College opted instead for a disingenuous propoganda campaign. Using similar tactics to those employed by the neo-Cons at RBKC, when they sold off the North Kensington Library to their friends at Notting Hill Prep School, the KCC management claimed, in a Press Release in April 2017, that the Wornington building was no longer fit for purpose, was too large and could not meet the needs of those students and staff with disabilities. The KCC Press Release also sought to negate and dismiss the fears and concerns of the existing College’s supporters by stating that KCC remained committed to expanding its presence in North Kensington, claiming that it planned to replace the Wornington facilities on-site or nearby with modern state-of-the-art facilities for both school-leavers and adults, creating space for increased student numbers and potentially more courses.

http://www.kcc.ac.uk/news/big-plans-north-kensington/

We now understand that despite these promises the future of Wornington College and the provision of adult education in North Kensington is still very much under threat. Instead of securing the long term future of Wornington the KCC Board appears to have begun making existing staff redundant, pending a merger deal in which they will become the subserviant partner to a rival adult education college and in which they are unlikely to have any say in whether adult education will survive in any form in North Kensington.

In a serious and troubling development, it has come to our attention that members of the Wornington College teaching and auxillary staff have been issued with voluntary redundancy notices. These have been distributed to staff recently and cast doubt on KCC’s previous claim that staff numbers will be protected by virtue of an increase in student numbers and an expansion in the number of courses that the College will be offering.

It is our understanding that members of staff who might be tempted to accept offers of voluntary redundancy will not have their length of service or seniority taken into consideration as part of any financial settlement and will simply receive a statutory redundancy pay out. Any member of staff who accepts voluntary redudancy and is below retirement age will not be able to apply for social security payments such as unemployment benefit, housing benefit, etc if they fail to find replacement jobs, as they will be deemed to have made themselves intentionally unemployed.

It is also our understanding that the KCC Board were preparing to make a vitally important decision concerning the future of the College at a Corporaton meeting last Tuesday 6th June. We applied for permission to attend this meeting but were refused, ostensibly due to the sensitivity of the issues scheduled for discussion. It is a matter of record that major changes in adult education have been encouraged at a national and regional level following major cuts to government funding and a recent government review of further education which recommended that local colleges (such as Wornington) should merge with neighbouring colleges in order to protect their longer term prospects.

In line with this recommendation KCC and City Lit have conducted merger negotiations on two occasions since 2012. Both of these attempts failed, the most recent, earlier this year, because KCC failed a due diligence test performed by City Lit, apparently because of poor financial viability and poor Osted inspection results over the past three years. We have made a Freedom of Information request to City lit seeking access to the due dilignce report. We will publish this when and if we acquire it as it may shine some light on the management failings at KCC under former Principal Mark Brickley. The failure of KCC to satisfy this due diligence test has left KCC in an invidious position and vulnerable to a hostile take-over from either Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College or the recently merged North West London/City of Westminster College.

Ideally we would all prefer that KCC remain a fully independent college serving the specific needs of the local RBKC communities but we acknowledge that, in the present austere financial climate, a merger appears to be a necessary evil. With this in mind, we feel that it is a great shame that the proposed merger between KCC and City Lit failed. The benefits of a merger with City Lit have been explained in the minutes of previous confidential discussions by the Governors of KCC who stated that:

KCC students have good reason to fear the consequences of the failure of the City Lit merger. It has left KCC extremely vulnerable to a hostile take-over by either Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College or the North West London/City of Westminster College and we believe that such an outcome will greatly disempower and reduce the quality of our local education provision. There are concerns also that if either of the two aforementioned colleges are successful in a take-over of KCC the provision of adult education at the Wornington Centre, and in North Kensington generally, may cease altogether and adult educational courses may be halved at the Hortensia Centre.

These concerns are based on hard evidence obtained through Freedom of Information requests and access to supposedly confidential minutes of the KCC Corporation. We also have a copy of an email sent to RBKC councillors by Tony Redpath, a member of the KCC Board of Governors and a senior Officer at KCC in January 2017, that refers to Kensington and Chelsea College as some kind of tempting carcass that other ‘suitors‘, including Ealing Hammersmith and West London College and North West London/City of Westminster College ‘are already circling’ and waiting to devour. Redpath goes on to identify the predatory nature of such a take-over in that ‘KCC’s problem, put baldly, is that it’s attraction to other College’s is based on it’s assets rather than it’s activities’ and that following any take-over ‘a longer than anticipated period of change and uncertainty for the College beckons’. We believe that this statement from Tony Redpath unequivocably highlights the clear and present danger that faces the future of adult education in RBKC.

https://grenfellactiongroup.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/redpath-confidential-email-kcc-ofsted-result-etc.pdf

Redpath’s analysis is entirely consistent with minutes already quoted of a KCC Board meeting in 2012 when a hostile take-over by Ealing, Hammermith and West London College was characterised as an unwelcome but distinctly possible outcome. Confidential minutes from that Board of Governors meeting state the following:

www.kcc.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/KCC-BOC-minutes-111212.pdf

We have little doubt, based on the evidence above, that the kind of take-over that now seems inevitable will be extremely detrimental to the future of adult educational provision in RBKC generally, and North Kensington in particular. We believe that the failure of the proposed merger with City Lit has left KCC at the mercy of more powerful and predatory organisations that are primarily concerned with KCC’s financial assests and property portfolio rather than with providing the adult educational services our communities need.

The KCC Board of Governors and senior management team need to be held fully and properly accountable for their failure to secure a more propitious merger with City Lit. This failure has left KCC open to a hostile take-over by either Ealing, Hammersmith and West london College or City of Westminster/College of North West London. Both of these outcomes could best be described as worst case scenarios but have somehow become the most likely outcome we can expect. The KCC Board should be held accountable for this!

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KCC resignations – was there a cover-up?

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The Grenfell action Group have recently been contacted by the Information Commissioners Office regarding our appeal against the refusal of Kensington and Chelsea College to provide us with information we requested explaining the departure of former Principal, Mark Brickley, and his former sidekick Deputy Principal Fiona Ross. The correspondence between the Information Commissioners Office and the Grenfell Action Group must remain confidential for now as we do not want to preempt the appeals process which we hope will lead to disclosure of the information we are seeking. However, we can confirm that we have lodged a formal complaint with the Information Commissioner in an attempt to obtain a full explanation from KCC of the departures of Mark Brickley and Fiona Ross from the College in such haste and in such opaque circumstances.

Following the sudden departure of Mr Brickley, at the end of October 2017, the College claimed that he had resigned for ‘personal reasons’, although the circumstances of his departure  have never been fully explained and were not recorded in the minutes of the relevant Board of Governors meeting. Following Brickley’s departure there have been persistent rumours, in College circles and in the local community, that the departure of the former Principal had less to do with ‘personal reasons’ and may have had much more to do with some form of serious misconduct in office.

It has become evident to the Grenfell Action Group that the interim Principal, Michelle Sutton is well aware of some of the allegations made against the former Principal and other  members of the College’s senior management team that surfaced through responses to a recent staff survey at the College. These concerns were recorded in the mintues from the KCC Governors Meeting held on 5th December 2016 and paint an alarming picture of low staff morale and poor leadership at this much loved educational establishment.Members of the Grenfell Action Group can only guess at the contents of the alleged ‘unprofessional responses’ made by staff members against various members of the senior management team but it hasn’t escaped our notice that the Interim Principal, Michelle Sutton, seems to have done her best to intimidate complainants into silence by strongly implying that their most serious allegations were ‘defamatory or libellous comments’.

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis will know that the Grenfell Action Group do not normally publish content based only on rumour or hearsay and that all of our postings are backed up with authoritative corroborating evidence. For this reason we have not yet detailed the nature of the rumours that accompanied the sudden departure of Principal Mark Brickley and Deputy Principal Fiona Ross from KCC.  However, we have not shyed away from our efforts to reveal the truth behind the circumstances surrounding Mark Brickley’s departure from the College and we are now in a position to publish, with some confidence, further information that we have received in relation to this matter.

At a recent “Let’s Clear Some Air” community event organised by Rap23 at the Acklam Village a member of the Grenfell Action Group spoke with our local MP, Victoria Borwick, and a local Tory Councillor, Robert Freeman, who were both attending the event. We took this opportunity to speak to our elected representatives about the situation at KCC and asked Cllr Freeman to explain why the freehold for the College building had been purchased by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council and why the College appeared to be in crisis and facing such an uncertain future.

Cllr Freeman chose to answer these questions by stating that the College building was too large for it’s current student intake and that most of the students that now attend the College come from other London Boroughs and are no longer local. This response was then challenged by our representative who pointed out that the College is still vital to the educational well being of the North Kensington community and that the dire situation that the College finds itself in might be partly attributed to the behaviour of the ex Principal Mark Brickley. It was at this point that our MP, Victoria Borwick turned to Cllr Freeman and asked what was meant by this latter statement. Cllr Freeman responded thus; “Mark Brickley was the unfortunate man who put up those compromising photos”.

The Grenfell Action Group would not wish to overinterpret the statement above made by Cllr Freeman to our local Member of Parliament, and witnessed by others present at the event, but we would suggest that these words certainly hint that there might be more to the departure of Mark Brickley than has so far been revealed by the College.

We have been informed by KCC that Brickley resigned his position for ‘personal reasons’ but we strongly suspect that these ‘personal reasons’ may be related to the actions so tantalisingly referred to by Cllr Freeman at the Rap23 event. If we are correct, and KCC are attempting to cover-up serious professional misconduct by either Brickley or Ross, or even both, then we can be confident that the Information Commissioner will order KCC to release the documents that we have requested, and which they have so far witheld.

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