Friday, 23 June 2017

Contractors' conflict of interest scandal shadow looms over Hinkley C

Letter sent to the Times:
Your environment editor mentions in passing (“Hinkley nuclear deal ‘cost public £15  billion more than it should have, “ The Times, 23 June; https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/hinkley-nuclear-deal-cost-public-15bn-more-than-it-should-have-clnptpz6c ) LeighFisher, a technical consultancy  had a potential conflict of interest in its role advising ministers  on the Hinkley Point  C (HPC)  nuclear power plant  deal.
But the reason the National Audit Office report concluded “The arrangements the {Business} Department put in place to manage the potential conflict of interest were insufficient” are quite extraordinary, and underpin why such a bad financial  decision to go ahead with plant  could have happened, and could now cost taxpayers up to an extra £30 billion ( https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Hinkley-Point-C.pdf)
Inexplicably the Government appointed LeighFisher to advise independently on the prospective costs of HPC, for a taxpayer–funded fee of  £1.2 million. NAO states that this “largely involved providing technical services to verify whether EDF’s construction cost estimates [for HPC] were reasonable.” It renewed the original 2012 contract in 2015.

Ministers knew all along that LeighFisher was a subsidiary of the Jacobs Engineering  Group, that the NAO  explains “had provided engineering and project management services, including seconded staff, to EDF in relation to the HPC deal.”
This poacher and gamekeeper role should have been obvious to anyone, and, as such huge sums of public (ie taxpayers’) money were involved, should have set alarm bells ringing in ministerial ears.

Instead, a series of ineffectual measures to obviate the conflict of interest were set up, but, NAO records, “LeighFisher only signed the agreement for ‘ethical wall arrangements’ in October 2015”

NAO rightly excoriates ministers concluding the responsible Department “did not stipulate to LeighFisher the arrangements required to manage the potential conflict from the outset of the engagement in 2012. This means there was no active consideration or assurance that the conflict of interest did not have an impact on LeighFisher’s work.

NAO adds that “even when the responsible Department did stipulate ethical wall arrangements, they were below the standard we would expect in this sort of engagement.”

Worse still, NAO reports that the Government admitted LeighFisher indeed had “input from Jacobs’ employees during its cost verification exercise.”

This devastating report surely should be the very first  put under examination when the Public Accounts Committee is imminently reformed in Parliament.

NAO has unveiled very expensive scandal, for which taxpayers will pay very heavily.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

UK needs to avoid becoming a nuclear rogue state post Brexit


Letter sent to The Guardian:
 
One of the more obscure new bills unveiled in the Queen’s speech is one covering “nuclear safeguards” as part of repatriation of  legislation post Brexit.

When your energy correspondent  reported earlier  on the implications of  the UK leaving Euratom, (“UK exit from EU atomic treaty under Brexit 'will delay power stations,' Guardian, 27 January; https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jan/27/uk-exit-eu-atomic-treaty-brexit-euratom-hinkley-point-c)   an anonymous government spokeswoman was quoted as asserting that the UK wanted to see a continuity of cooperation and standards. “We remain absolutely committed to the highest standards of nuclear safety, safeguards and support for the industry. Our aim is clear – we want to maintain our mutually successful civil nuclear cooperation with the EU.”


The government misleadingly describes the main benefits of the Bill as being to ensure that the UK continues to meet our international obligations for nuclear safeguards, as applies to civil nuclear material through the International Atomic Energy Agency. (www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/620838/Queens_speech_2017_background_notes.pdf)

 Currently international inspection of UK nuclear plants and nuclear explosive materials to ensure the UK pledge not to divert these plants or materials to military misuse is verified, by the EU’s Euratom agency on behalf of the UN’s International Atomic Energy  Agency (IAEA) in Vienna,  under a treaty signed in September 1978 between the UK, Euratom and the IAEA. 

 As our nuclear regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR)  puts it “The UK voluntary offer safeguards agreement with the IAEA and Euratom came into force in 1978 and specifies the UKs acceptance of the application of IAEA safeguards on all source or special fissionable material in facilities or parts thereof within the United Kingdom, subject to exclusions for national security reasons only.” .(http://www.onr.org.uk/safeguards/iaeauk.htm

The agreement is voluntary in the sense it is entered into by the UK to demonstrate to non-nuclear weapons states that the UK , as a nuclear WMD state, is prepared to suffer an equivalent disruption – dubbed “equlity of misery” - of its commercial nuclear plants by safeguards applications

But to demonstrate clearly the UK safeguards agreement is not prohibitive of internal proliferation, under article 14 of the 1978 agreement, the UK has withdrawn nuclear materials from peaceful use commitments “for national security reasons” at least 650 times since 1978, according to figures released by the Office for Nuclear Regulation

In renegotiating the new treaty, the UK should exclude this permissive withdrawal article, that allows the UK to militiarise its civil nuclear operations with impunity, while excoriating  other states to  be bound by their own non  diversion international treaty   commitments.

It is now time energy and foreign ministers and their advisors turn their attention to what they are going to do to ensure nuclear safeguards continuity in the UK post Brexit. But to give the new oversight role to our national nuclear regulator (ONR), as the bill proposes, will surely be unacceptable to other nations, as it would de facto be self-regulation.

The UK must surely avoid becoming a nuclear rogue state by default.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Wrong priorities and poor judgment revealed in K&C Borough council internal reports on Grenfell tower refurbishment

Below are two internal Kensington & Chelsea Borough Council  reports on the planning of the Grenfell Tower refurbishment. I have highlighted some salient statements.

 THE ROYAL BOROUGH OF KENSINGTON AND CHELSEA
https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/committees/Document.ashx?czJKcaeAi5tUFL1DTL2UE4zNRBcoShgo=h7YDTlzNpGmdV2bZnqZAnU0mOgWux367Ie7fj5LBoJS9pZcpFBOfug%3d%3d&rUzwRPf%2bZ3zd4E7Ikn8Lyw%3d%3d=pwRE6AGJFLDNlh225F5QMaQWCtPHwdhUfCZ%2fLUQzgA2uL5jNRG4jdQ%3d%3d&mCTIbCubSFfXsDGW9IXnlg%3d%3d=hFflUdN3100%3d&kCx1AnS9%2fpWZQ40DXFvdEw%3d%3d=hFflUdN3100%3d&uJovDxwdjMPoYv%2bAJvYtyA%3d%3d=ctNJFf55vVA%3d&FgPlIEJYlotS%2bYGoBi5olA%3d%3d=NHdURQburHA%3d&d9Qjj0ag1Pd993jsyOJqFvmyB7X0CSQK=ctNJFf55vVA%3d&WGewmoAfeNR9xqBux0r1Q8Za60lavYmz=ctNJFf55vVA%3d&WGewmoAfeNQ16B2MHuCpMRKZMwaG1PaO=ctNJFf55vVA%3d
A4

HOUSING AND PROPERTY SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

11 MAY 2016

GRENFELL TOWER REPORT BY THE DIRECTOR OF HOUSING

The purpose of this report is to provide the Housing Property and Scrutiny Committee with information and recommendations from the Board Member review of the Grenfell Tower regeneration project.

FOR INFORMATION

1. BACKGROUND

 

1.1 In association with the development of the Kensington Academy and Leisure Centre projects, which completed in summer 2015, it was decided that money should be invested into Grenfell Tower. Stock condition information highlighted that Grenfell Tower was in poor condition and therefore it was agreed to invest £10.3m on improvements. The money invested came from the sale of basements at Elm Park Gardens and was not part of the HRA capital programme. The works commenced on site in June 2014 and are due to be completed at the end of March 2016. Final landscaping works will then be undertaken during April and May typically the planting season.

 

1.2 The scope of works included the following:

 

 New heating and hot water

 New double glazed windows

 Thermal cladding of the building

 Smoke/safety and ventilation works

 Improved foyer and door entry

 Associated environmental works

 9x new hidden homes

 New nursery

 New boxing club

 Landscaping improvements

 

1.3 The contractor Rydon was selected to undertake the work supported by consultants Artelia for contract administration and Max Fordham as specialist mechanical and electrical consultants. Rydon were responsible for design, construction and resident liaison work. The

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TMO worked with all partners and were responsible for the overall project management.

 

1.4 Resident consultation indicated their preferred approaches to resident engagement were: letters & newsletters, informal “drop-in” sessions and one to one consultation. These approaches were adopted throughout the project.

 

1.5 A group of residents living in Grenfell Tower formed a resident compact halfway through the project in June 2015. The TMO worked with the compact to address issues that were raised relating to the regeneration project. At full council on 2nd December 2015 a petition signed by 51 residents was tabled at the meeting. The matter was referred to the Housing and Property Scrutiny committee and a speech from one of the compact members was presented to the meeting of the 6th January 2016. At the Board meeting of the 5th January the KCTMO Board members were made aware of the petition and agreed that a delegated group of board members would review the issues raised. The Scrutiny committee was then informed that the Board would review the project and respond to the matters raised in the speech by the compact. The Board has previously been emailed a full copy of this speech.

 

1.6 All members of the Board were invited on the 19th January to express an interest in joining the review group. The following members put themselves forward:

 

Paula Fance – Chair

Kush Kanodia

Mary Benjamin

Councillor Condon-Simmonds

Deborah Price

Anne Duru

1.7 An initial scoping meeting was held on 24th February for the Group to define the scope of the review. It was agreed that the review would be undertaken over one full day and would cover the following areas:

 Resident consultation and engagement

 The position of the HIU in the hallways

 Allegations of threats, lies and intimidation

 Response to complaints

 Quality of work and site management

 Compensation

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1.8 The review day held on Saturday 12th March commenced with a presentation covering background information to the project and detailed information on each area of the review as set out in 2.7 above. The Group was then taken on a tour of Grenfell Tower to view; the construction works, the show flat, the boxing club and the hidden homes. Each member was provided with a full pack for the day which included the detailed information covering each area of the scope. The group discussed each point mentioned above in detail and the recommendations were noted for future projects of this nature.

 

2. RECOMMENDATIONS

 

2.1 The following recommendations were the outcome of the discussion held by the Group:

 The names and addresses of all those attending public meetings should be recorded and minutes taken of each meeting for future reference should this be required.

 Where projects span over 12 months in duration the initial resident profile survey information is repeated on a six monthly basis. This would help to ensure that any additional needs that have not been identified at the beginning of the project are identified.

 Where residents have language requirements and have chosen to use family members to help translate then this information should be recorded and signed off in order to help ensure that if the family member is not available then translation services can be provided.

 

 A procedure is drafted to outline the different stages involved in gaining access on future projects this procedure could then be sent to only those residents that were not cooperating to avoid any misunderstanding and to ensure that due processes are always followed.

 The Group agreed that this report be shared with RBKC (attached as Part B Report B2)

3. CONCLUSIONS

 

3.1 The Group recognised that there were significant challenges with the project and acknowledged that residents would have experienced inconvenience due to the nature of this type of construction work and the constraints of the particular design of Grenfell Tower. This disruption included:

 

 Noisy work: Demolition and drilling

 Access: Use of lifts by contractors to transport materials

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Pipework: Retrofit of pipes

 Additional floors for lifts

 Wet Trades (e.g. plastering)

 Sub-contractors that went into administration during the project

 Maintaining services (heating and hot water) whilst residents are in situ

 

3.2 The Group were satisfied with the following mitigating actions that were undertaken to limit the disruption caused by the above:

 Limiting noisy work hours: 9am to 3pm

 Lifts: one for passengers and only one used for materials.

 Two flats were made available for respite facilities for residents to use

 Rydons RLO was based on site to deal with all specific issues on a day to day basis

 

3.3 It was further acknowledged that residents had experienced disruption from both the KALC project and the Grenfell Tower works over an extended period of time since December 2012.

 

3.4 The Group commended the contractor Rydon on their performance and ability to deliver a complex construction project. They considered that a number of high quality hidden homes had been delivered together with excellent new facilities for the boxing club and community room. A door knocking exercise was undertaken in December 2015 to ask residents if they were satisfied with the works. 77 of the 120 households responded and of these 90% of residents confirmed that the improvements to heating and hot water were working effectively. 83% of residents were happy with their new windows.

 

3.5 Rydons are an experienced contractor that has a good reputation for delivering this type of construction work where residents are in occupation. The combination of all partners involved in this project has contributed to very successful improvements to the building and residents homes. The regeneration works have provided individual control over their own utility usage and residents will benefit from increased thermal insulation.

 

3.6 The Group commended the excellent work of the Director of Assets and Regeneration and the KCTMO team involved in high quality management of the project over 22 months.

 

3.7 The Group noted that a full project review and resident satisfaction survey would be undertaken six months after the project is

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completed. The results of this review will be presented to a future Board meeting.

 

Laura Johnson

Director of Housing

Background Papers used in the Preparation of this Report:

None

Contact Officer: Ms Celia Caliskan, General Needs Housing Commissioning Manager.

Tel: 020 7361 2238 and E-mail: celia.caliskan@rbkc.gov.uk

 

1

 A5

THE ROYAL BOROUGH OF KENSINGTON AND CHELSEA

HOUSING AND PROPERTY SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

16 JULY 2013

AN UPDATE ON GRENFELL TOWER IMPROVEMENT WORKS AND THE RECENT POWER SURGES The purpose of this report is to inform members of the Grenfell Tower improvement works and the recent power surges.
FOR INFORMATION


 

 

1. Introduction

 

1.1 This report provides Members of the Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee with an update on the Grenfell Tower improvement works and the recent power surges.

1.2 There have been a number of communications from a small number of residents in the form of blogs and open “round robin” e-mails on these two separate topics. This report sets out to clarify the current situation in regard to both the planned improvement works to Grenfell Tower and the recent power surges.

Grenfell Tower Improvement Works

2. Background

 

2.1 Grenfell Tower is located on Lancaster West Estate, adjacent to the site of the KALC project which is currently on site. On 2nd May 2012, RBKC Cabinet approved a budget of £6m to deliver major improvements to the fabric of Grenfell Tower, including new homes and improved accessible office space. These improvements were to be funded from income generated from the sale of basement spaces in Elm Park Gardens.

2.2 Subsequently, the TMO Board proposed that the budget for the scheme be increased to enable additional investment. This additional investment will deliver the renewal of key mechanical and electrical elements such as the communal heating system, which will complement the proposed investment in the building fabric. As part of the quarterly monitoring process, Cabinet will be asked at its meeting in July to increase the budget for the scheme to 9.7m. This can be met from the HRA working balance

3. Scope of the Improvement Works

3.1 A summary of the current, proposed scope of works includes:

 Window renewal

 Roof renewal

 Thermal external cladding of the building

 New entrance lobby

 Communal redecoration

 New communal heating system (with individual control)

 Hidden Homes – seven new flats

 Relocate the boxing club

 Relocate the nursery to the ground floor

 Relocate and improve office space within the block

 Improvements to the public realm.

 

3.2 These works will significantly improve the physical appearance of the building as well as renewing key building elements that are now at the end of their useful life. Residents will have improved control of the heating and hot water supply to their homes and will benefit from significant improvements in the thermal performance of the building. Additional housing will be located in the underused lower levels of the building and improved office accommodation provided.

4. Planning Issues

4.1 In August 2012, a planning application was submitted for the refurbishment proposals to Grenfell Tower. Planners considered this application in November 2012 and have asked for a resubmission including the following amendments:

 Removal of the canopy at 1st floor level

 Give further definition to the roof detailing

Consider alternative colour schemes.

 

4.2 The Grenfell Design Team has been developing a revised and updated design ahead of a revised planning submission.

5. Procurement

To date, KCTMO have progressed the procurement of the proposed works through the IESI1 Framework. This is the procurement route used for KALC.

1 “Improvement and Efficiency South East”

5.2 Since January, the design team has been working with Leadbitter (the proposed contractor) to bring the scheme within budget and to ensure that the project will deliver value for money. Progress has been slow and Leadbitter currently estimate the cost of works to be £11.278m (inclusive of fees), which is £1.6m above the current, proposed budget.

5.3 A range of options have been considered to bring the scheme within budget. It is now proposed to market test the works through an open OJEU tender to ensure that the best contractor is selected and value for money achieved. Subject to planning and procurement risks, this process will result in a start on site in Quarter 4 of 2013-14. By comparison, the IESI procurement process with Leadbitter would have resulted in a start on site at the end of Quarter 3; however, that route also had a significant risk of delay if a negotiated agreement could not be achieved with the contractor.

5.4 In tandem with this procurement process, the design team will undertake a “Value Engineering” process to maximise the delivery of key project outputs within the proposed budget.

The following is the current indicative timeline for the delivery of the works:

 Prepare tender documents: August 2013

 Planning Approval: September 2013

 Tenders issued: November 2013

 Tender return: December 2013

 Evaluation January 2014

 Contract Award: February 2014

 Start on site: March 2014

 Completion of work: March 2015

 

6. Resident Engagement

6.1 Resident engagement in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower has been reviewed and actions agreed to ensure that all residents have clear information about the current status of the scheme and are clear about how they can influence the proposals.

6.2 Recent engagement includes:

Grenfell Tower Newsletter: A newsletter was sent to all residents on 14th May giving an update on progress and inviting them to a public meeting.

Public Meeting: A public meeting was held on Monday 17th June. 25 residents attended and commented on the scheme design proposals.

 

6.3 Next Steps involve a further newsletter which will be sent to Grenfell Tower residents giving feedback and responding to the issues raised at the public meeting. A series of further meetings is planned.

 

6.4 Further engagement is planned over the summer period to ensure that all residents have an opportunity to engage in finalising the scope of works; be consulted on the designs submitted to planning and be involved in the selection of the contractor for the works. Particular focus will be given to face to face contact with residents to ensure the widest possible engagement.

7. Conclusions

7.1 The refurbishment of Grenfell Tower is a large and complex project and time and careful planning has been required to ensure that the proposals and design of the scheme meet the requirements of residents, RBKC and Planners. Particular focus has been required to ensure that the project representing value for money and can be successfully delivered to the satisfaction of residents.

Grenfell Tower Power Surges

8.1 A series of surges were reported in Grenfell Tower in May 2013 and KCTMO has been actively investigating the cause.

8.2 Residents have been informed in writing and face to face contact has been made with all 45 residents affected to identify and resolve any issues arising.

A summary of the current situation is as follows:

 

A fault has been identified on the incoming mains supply and a repair has been carried out to a faulty cable. There have been no further surges since this repair was completed and further tests have been carried out on the mains.

 Ongoing monitoring of the incoming electrical supply and we are investigating whether there are other factors that have contributed to the surges.

 Full renewal of the rising electricity main is planned to commence on 7th July. This work will include the installation of surge protection to give additional protection to the block.

 An electrical contractor has carried out electrical testing to all individual properties in the block to ensure that domestic supplies are safe.

 Arrangements have been made for a contractor to inspect any damaged electrical appliances reported by residents

 Details of residents’ damaged equipment are being collected to deal with any compensation claims.

8.3 In summary, KCTMO has carried out some repairs and continue to monitor the situation. It is too early to say whether the problem has been fully resolved and where responsibility lies for the cause. It is possible that the fault that has been rectified is not the primary cause.

8.4 KCTMO has worked hard to keep residents informed throughout by letter and face to face contact. They have also discussed the matter at the residents’ meeting on Monday 17th June and have responded to residents who have made direct contact with the TMO in relation to the surges.

8.5 There has been a considerable volume of communication from a small number of residents in the form of blogs and open “round robin” e-mails, some of which is from people who are not residents of the block. This communication contains a lot of speculation about the cause of the problem. KCTMO has not responded directly to this communication and has focused on keeping residents informed of the facts through direct communication.

8.6 Residents have been advised to inform their insurers of any loss or damage for which they may wish to claim. KCTMO has also stated that they will collect information and pass the details to their insurers. To date 25 residents have submitted claims for damaged electrical goods. These claims are now with RBKC insurers. KCTMO is also making further contact with the 20 residents who have not claimed to ensure there are full details of any loss.

8.7 Financial help has also been offered to residents who may have lost fridge or cooking facilities at the time of the incidents, however, to date no residents took up the offer.

FOR INFORMATION

LAURA JOHNSON

DIRECTOR OF HOUSING

Contact Officers:

Peter Maddison, Director of Assets and Regeneration, KCTMO

Tel: 020 8964 6140 and E-mail: pmaddison@kctmo.org.uk

Amanda Johnson, Head of Housing Commissioning

Tel:0207 361 2178 and E-mail:Amanda.johnson@rbkc.gov.uk

Prime minister should reverse her willingness to incinerate tens of thousands of foreign civilians with Trident


This week Theresa May, rightly as prime minister,  made a very sympathetic statement in support of families and friends of flat dwellers in the Grenfell Tower who  have died or been injured.

This follows earlier statements this month expressing her abhorrence of more innocent civilians people dying at the hands of ruthless maniacal terrorists in Manchester and London.

Yet she seems sanguine over launching Trident in our national “defence”, which would kill millions of innocent civilians.

On the  weekend  before Election day, Mrs May asserted in an article in the Mail on Sunday, that Jeremy Corbyn held chilling views on Trident nuclear WMDs, because he would not use them.

Indeed, in the Parliamentary debate on Trident renewal on 18 July  last year when SNP’s George Kerevan, asked her: "Are you prepared to authorise a nuclear strike that could kill hundreds of thousands of men, women and children?” Mrs May replied with one word: “Yes.”(Hansard column 56; https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-07-18/debates/7B7A196B-B37C-4787-99DC-098882B3EFA2/UKSNuclearDeterrent)

When sane Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn refused to confirm he would defend Britain from nuclear attack by using Trident in retaliation,  in a BBC tv Question Time Q&A during the election campaign he was jeered. Indeed, a young woman in the audience reacted, saying she did not understand why so many people in the room were keen on killing millions of people by using nuclear weapons.

This week, negotiations have resumed at the United Nations in New York to conclude a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, to ensure no innocent civilians are ever incinerated in their tens of thousands by nuclear weapons launched by design or accident. The British government refuses to participate, despite 117 nations doing so This is shameful and unacceptable.( http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/nuclear-weapon-ban/reports/NBD2.1.pdf)