Letter from the Leader of the Council outlining the Chalcots independent review

Dear Resident,

Following the evacuation of the Chalcots Estate in June 2017, I committed to undertaking an independent review into how and why the evacuation happened, in an effort to ensure that something like this never happens again.

I know that the evacuation led to significant disruption, inconvenience and distress for residents in the blocks. Through the independent review, I want to make sure that the Council understands and learns lessons about how it responded to the evacuation and how it supported residents during this emergency.

We have been learning lessons as we go along and our new Director of Resident Safety starts next week. We have completed and published the fire checks for all our high-rise blocks, and we will be publishing all fire risk assessments in the future for all of our Council housing. We need to make sure that we review the evacuation comprehensively so nothing is missed out.

I have asked the Council to begin this review as quickly as possible. It is important to say that the Chalcots Estate response is not finished yet - the cladding is being removed, new doors are being installed and we will be asking residents for their thoughts on the ultimate replacement cladding system for the blocks.

My objective is to get to the bottom of what went wrong and put it right.

In addition to this, Camden Council is reviewing these same matters with its lawyers. It is important to let our legal team do their job, and allow them time to do this. As a result, the Council is splitting the review into two phases. The first phase will look at the evacuation and the emergency management, and the second phase will look more widely at the refurbishment of the buildings and their management.

I need to be upfront with residents that there is a possibility that it may take us some time to get to the second part of the review for legal reasons and I will push for as much information to be shared at every stage. Where we cannot share information with residents, I will make sure that you understand why.

The independent review will be chaired by someone separate to the Council to ensure that the review of evidence is impartial and fair. It will be up to the independent Chair to set out the timetable for the independent review, however I will be asking them to publish interim findings from the first phase as soon as possible in the New Year.

I know residents want answers, and I do too. I have spoken to a number of you already at TRA meetings, at my drop-ins and by email about the questions you have about the evacuation.

From my conversations with residents, I understand the following to be the key concerns that I would expect to be addressed in the first phase of the independent review. We will come back to residents about the historic issues when our legal term have completed their work so these questions focus on the evacuation.

  • How and why was the decision taken to evacuate?
    • What were the circumstances in which the advice to evacuate was given and how was the decision made?
    • How did Camden Council respond to the advice to evacuate by the LFB?
  • How did the Council and partners deal with the evacuation, and the process of ensuring residents were able to safely return to their homes?
    • Did residents receive the accommodation, financial and pastoral support they needed during the evacuation itself?
    • How were residents communicated with during the evacuation? How did the Council respond to requests for information from residents? How effective was our communications approach in ensuring residents had the information they needed?
    • What was achieved during the remedial works before and after residents were invited to return, and what was the sign off process for these works?
  • What recommendations can be made for how the Council operates in the future?
    • How do we want to contribute our learning to a national debate about fire safety and building regulation?

These are broad questions and themselves contain many potential lines of enquiry. Clearly it is up to the independent Chair to consider these and take the review forward, however I want you to tell me if you feel these questions do not address something that you want to understand more about.

I am seeking to confirm the questions for the Chair to consider for the first phase of the review by the end of October, therefore would be grateful for your suggestions in advance of 17th November 2017. Details of the ways in which you can give feedback are included at the end of this letter.

A number of the key questions I want answered will require us to speak to you about your experience and what you know about the blocks you live in. The independent Chair will outline the areas in which they would particularly welcome resident engagement as it progresses. The review will take a flexible approach to gathering evidence and I want to make sure everyone feels they have had an opportunity to tell us how the evacuation impacted them.

We will discuss with residents again before the second phase of the review.

Email – [email protected]

Postal Address – Independent Review, Camden Council, 5 Pancras Square, London N1C 4AG

Residents will also be able to discuss the proposed lines of enquiry at the all-day drop-in event for Chalcots Residents at Swiss Cottage Library from 10am to 8pm on 31st October 2017.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Georgia Gould

Leader of Camden Council