Shocking that Grenfell Tower firm still has Islington repairs contract
08 June, 2018
• WITH the inquiry into the fire under way, we hear every day about the tragedy of Grenfell Tower and the anniversary on June 14 looms.
It is shocking to realise that contractor Rydon, which won the £10m refurbishment contract by undercutting a rival, is still active in Islington.
The 210-page report on the Grenfell Tower fire, published in April by the Building Research Establishment, details how, besides the cladding, the design and installation of windows and cavity barriers were also flawed and failed to meet building regulations.
Many flats had no closers on front doors so, as residents fled, doors remained opened, further encouraging fire to spread. Some cavity barriers were even installed upside down or back to front.
The report identifies five main contraventions of the building regulations and concludes that, had the building not been re-clad and refurbished in 2016, the fire would not have spread.
Rydon, founded in 1978 in the quiet village of Forest Row, in East Sussex, now employs more than 750 people. Its work on Grenfell rapidly became controversial, with residents expressing multiple concerns, for instance over potential health and safety issues with exposed hot pipes.
North Kensington is, however, not the only part of London where Rydon’s work has been heavily criticised. It has been embroiled in a legal dispute with Sutton Housing Partnership, owned by Sutton Council, over repairs to council housing, accused of failing to meet minimum performance targets on the quality and timeliness of repairs and resident satisfaction.
Rydon also led refurbishment work on towers owned by Camden Council on the Chalcots estate about a decade ago, where the local authority claimed that cladding did not meet its specifications. Rydon denied this claim.
In Islington, Rydon works in a partnership set-up to operate PFI (private finance initiative) projects with Rydon Property Maintenance responsible for day-to-day repairs on Islington’s street properties.
A surveyor’s report, commissioned in 2015 by the council in response to complaints by residents, found “very poor” work on roofs and brick.
Complaints persist, for instance in Chadwell Street, where scaffolding was set up months ago with no work yet carried out.
Why on earth, with this history, has Whittington Health Trust agreed to set up a strategic estates partnership with a subsidiary of Rydon, Ryhurst, despite continued strong criticism from Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition?
This damning indictment of Rydon needs to be seen in the context of much of the construction industry in London.
The new Labour Market Enforcement authority is recommending bigger financial penalties for employers who break the law and tougher enforcement of rights for agency workers.
Surely, Rydon is typical of much of the construction sector? Isn’t it time that Islington Council – and Whittington Health Trust – followed Glasgow City Council’s example and undertook all repair and maintenance of its property by its own direct labour organisation?