The independent London newspaper

Whittington set to axe deal with Grenfell firm

‘We stopped them at last,’ say hospital campaigners backed by Labour leader Corbyn

22 June, 2018 — By Tom Foot

The Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition has campaigned to stop a regeneration deal with Ryhurst being rubber-stamped

WHITTINGTON bosses are believed to be on the verge of scrapping plans to hire a subsidiary of the lead Grenfell contractor as a long-term business partner.

Sources say that senior board members at the NHS trust have made a decision not to sign a contract with Ryhurst – part of the Rydon Group.

Last October, the hospital board unveiled the firm as its partner in a major 10-year regeneration project at its sprawling estate.

The Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition has campaigned to stop the deal being rubber-stamped with a series of protests and board occupations backed by the Justice4Grenfell group

Chairwoman Shirley Franklin said her group “would go to the streets” if the company tried to hit back by suing the NHS trust, adding: “We stopped them at last!”

Last night (Thursday), in an unusual move for a public authority, the Whittington said it could not comment on the future of the partnership. In recent months, the trust has robustly supported its Ryhurst deal.

The Rydon Group has repeatedly stated it was not responsible for the­ Grenfell disaster and that it followed government building regulations during its refurbishment of the tower block in north Kensington.

This week, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, in a joint letter with MPs Emily Thornberry and Catherine West, called on the Whittington “to cancel its master planning contract with Ryhurst in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster”.

The letter, sent to Islington Council’s health scrutiny committee chairman Martin Klute, said: “The majority of our residents would agree that this is not an appropriate time to move forward into new work with Rydon.”

The letter added that the MPs were “very concerned that the health service is being privatised without our approval” and that “public outrage at the proposed partnership between Whittington and Rydon should not be ignored”.

The letter also warned that MPs were concerned about a potential “close relationship” between the company and the Whittington board.

The Whittington has repeatedly said it would stand by its choice of Ryhurst as “strategic estates partner” because of a potentially costly legal challenge from the company.

Ryhurst has recently begun legal proceedings against two NHS trusts in the north of England which abandoned strategic estates partnership projects in the wake of the Grenfell fire.

The Whittington trust has said that Ryhurst would not be offered construction contracts as part of any partnership.

Mr Corbyn’s letter said that, as a result of no construction contracts being on the table, the cost of any legal challenge from Ryhurst would be “comparatively small”.

The Ryhurst row has been raging at the Whittington since last October when the hospital unveiled the firm as a business partner that would help it take forward a huge regeneration of its sprawling estate.

The procurement announcement caused uproar coming so soon after the Grenfell fire in June 2017.

The hospital board then revealed it had informed Ryhurst it had been chosen for the project three days before the fire.

After the blaze, the board took legal advice about potentially reversing its decision. Despite no contract being signed, the advice was that pulling out of the deal would trigger a legal challenge from the company.

Earlier this year Ryhurst said it was looking forward to working with the Whittington on “exciting proposals to transform its estate”.

The hospital’s NHS trust declined to comment this week.


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