IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

‘Whittington Hospital link to Grenfell tower firm is disgusting’

Campaigners join forces over Whittington Hospital choice of Rydon for development

24 November, 2017 — By Tom Foot

The Whittington Hospital in Archway 

 

JUSTICE for Grenfell supporters have swung behind Whittington Hospital campaigners fighting to block a 10-year contract with a firm which worked on the tragedy-hit tower block.

The hospital in Archway has said that Ryhurst, part of the Rydon Group, is its first- choice partner to take forward a massive NHS land development project.

The Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition protested at the last board meeting. A public meeting is being held in January amid warnings that the decision is “crass” and disrespectful so soon after the fire.

Moyra Samuels, from Justice 4 Grenfell, told the Tribune: “It’s really disgusting that a company that is responsible for providing the cladding is being considered at the Whittington.”

She added: “In some ways it doesn’t surprise me that this is going ahead. I am quite cynical about it.”

Ms Samuels, a teacher in a Kensington college who lives by the tower, is a key campaigner for the Stand Up to Racism group.

Whittington chairman Steve Hitchins has said backing out of a deal with Ryhurst could “close down the hospital” because of delays to crucial building projects and a potential legal challenge from the Rydon Group.

The hospital board revealed earlier this month that it “paused” its process following the fire at Grenfell Tower to seek legal advice from a QC about whether it could back out of the deal.

The contract has not yet been formally approved by the NHS Improvement body–an arm of the health service that rubber- stamps hospital contractual decisions.

Shirley Franklin, chair-woman of the Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition, has asked the board “what alternatives have been considered” by the board

and what would be done if Rydon was found at fault for the fire at Grenfell in the current public inquiry.

Rydon strongly denies any wrongdoing, saying that it met all relevant building regulations in its refurbishment of the tower for Kensington Council.

The company was lead contractor of a refurbish- ment programme at the tower which included flammable cladding being attached to the building.

Whittington’s “estate strategy” includes setting up a “healthcare village” on the main hospital site with “private patient facilities”, a privately-run care home and a modern housing development. It says it needs Rydon to mastermind the project and to find capital for major building work.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has warned that the trust was being forced to sell its assets because of chronic underfunding.

On the Whittington website the hospital board has this week answered questions asked at a recent lobby protest.

Responding to a question about whether the deal with Ryhurst could be scrapped, it said: “The board made the decision to award preferred bidder to Ryhurst before the tragic Grenfell Tower fire.

“If the procurement did not go ahead, there may have been a risk that the trust could face financial penalties under procure- ment law. The trust board carefully considered all the options available, against the risks with not proceeding.

“During the pause further due diligence tests were undertaken, and the board made significant deliberations on these and the legal advice obtained from a QC. With all the information and evidence in front of them, the trust board made the decision that it should proceed with the procurement and Ryhurst as preferred provider.”

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