Revealed: Grenfell probe cost 150 times more than the saving made by replacing cladding

1 November 2019, 15:19

The Grenfell tower illuminated in green on the day the first report from the public inquiry was published
The Grenfell tower illuminated in green on the day the first report from the public inquiry was published. Picture: PA

More than £50 million has been spent so far on the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire.

Some £40.2 million funded by the Cabinet Office has gone towards the probe, according to financial information up to March 31 released by the inquiry.

The overall figure is more than 150 times greater than the savings made by replacing the fire-retardant cladding on the tower block with cheaper combustible panels.

Just under half of the overall cost - £18.8 million, went towards legal funding for core participants including 585 survivors, bereaved and local residents, the Fire Brigades Union and the Fire Officers' Association.

The total includes payment of between £210,000 and £220,000 for Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the retired judge leading the probe, for the year up to March 2019.

He made no expenses or accommodation allowance claims in this period.

The remainder of the funds went towards the inquiry secretariat, assessors, experts, accommodation and technical and operational support.

The tower block's refurbishment prior to the deadly blaze cost £8.7 million.

Up to March 2019 the inquiry held 123 days of hearings with more than 140 witnesses.

It has received and reviewed more than 500,000 documents of which over 200,000 are expected to be disclosed to core participants.

Separately, freedom of information requests by the PA news agency reveal expenses totalling more than £10.2 million from public and governmental bodies taking part in the probe.

London Fire Brigade spent £2.64 million on the first phase of the inquiry, while the local council, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, spent £4.54 million.

The same council was responsible for overseeing a decision to save £293,368 from Grenfell's refurbishment budget by replacing zinc cladding with a fire-resistant core for cheaper aluminium panels with a combustible polyethylene core, the Guardian reported.

The Home Office spent £2.35 million, and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spent £642,812.26.

The Metropolitan Police, which is conducting a separate, criminal investigation, did not disclose its costs.

The total amount spent so far exceeds some other public inquiries in recent years, including the Iraq inquiry which, according to the fact checking website Full Fact, cost £13 million.

Meanwhile, the Saville Inquiry which looked into the deaths of 13 people on Bloody Sunday, lasted 12 years and cost £192 million, Full Fact said.

Hearings for the second phase of the Grenfell inquiry will start in January.

But there are concerns that the funds available to the inquiry are insufficient, given the scale of documents to work through, number of core participants and number of bodies involved in the second phase.

Deborah Coles, executive director of the Inquest charity, which is supporting some of the core participants, said: "You cannot put a cost on justice.

"The vital role that the families' lawyers play in going through thousands of documents and making sure that evidence is properly presented and helping them through a complex and difficult process cannot be overestimated.

"In the next stage there will be unlimited funds for the corporate lawyers so there has to be a level playing field for families.

"The inquiry must give families the truth, justice and accountability they deserve and also see structural change which is in the public interest. Families' lawyers can help ensure they have a voice and that the key issues are addressed.

"For the sheer scale of the task at hand, there are serious concerns that the Inquiry is currently under resourced." £50m Grenfell probe cost 150 times more than saving made by changing panels

Reporting by PA