Grenfell Tower cladding ‘was changed to a cheaper type to save money’

Fireproof cladding fitted to Grenfell Tower was changed to a cheaper type in a bid to save £293,000, it has been claimed.

Cladding at the tower has been partially blamed for the devastating blaze that left at least 80 people dead. Police investigating the disaster say it has since failed safety tests.

According to leaked emails seen by The Times, project managers Artelia UK, who were overseeing a £8.6million refurbishment of the 24-storey block, came under pressure to slash costs.

An email from July 2014 from the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation read: “We need good costs for Cllr Feilding-Mellen and the planner tomorrow at 8.45am!”

The email, referencing Rock Feilding-Mellen, deputy leader of the council and its housing committee chair, set out three options including using aluminium panels rather than zinc, the paper reported.

Zinc panels would have been non-combustible but the tower’s aluminium cladding had a flammable polythene core.

Grenfell fire meeting scrapped after journalists gain access

However, the council told the Standard that the budget for the project had been £6.9million but Cllr Feilding-Mellen had actually wanted it to be increased to £10.3million.

A spokesman said: “Cllr Feilding-Mellen and the cabinet were willing to approve significant and repeated increases in the overall budget based on the advice received from KCTMO, which was responsible not only for specifying and delivering the project but also for ensuring the building met the necessary and current building regulations.

“Any requests by Cllr Feilding-Mellen and the housing department to justify the TMO’s requests for increases to the budget would have been made in the spirit of ensuring that public funds were being well managed and could be justified. Safety would not have been compromised.”

The revelation came after chaotic scenes at Kensington Town Hall on Thursday evening, when a meeting of senior councillors about the disaster was called off.

Kensington and Chelsea council had tried to hold the meeting in private but, after a legal challenge allowed press inside, the session was cancelled, with claims it could “prejudice” a forthcoming inquiry.

Retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s appointment to lead the probe has caused controversy after it emerged he once ruled a Westminster tenant should be moved 50 miles away to Milton Keynes.

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