Housing activists fear whitewash after ‘social cleansing’ judge appointed to lead inquiry
THE government was accused of planning a “stitch-up” of the Grenfell Tower inquiry yesterday after a judge with a track record of “facilitating social cleansing” was appointed to be its chair.
Campaign group the Radical Housing Network (RHN) described Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s appointment, which emerged on Wednesday evening, as “deeply distressing.”
Criticism of the judge centres around a case he presided over which allowed Westminster council to rehouse a mother of five children 50 miles away from her community.
Titina Nzolameso refused an offer of accommodation near Milton Keynes after the government’s benefits cap made the rent on her London flat unaffordable.
When she refused to take it, the council decided that its statutory duty to secure her a home had ended.
In November 2014, Mr Moore-Bick said it was not necessary for the council to explain in detail what other accommodation was available.
Ms Nzolameso’s lawyer Jayesh Kunwardia had said that the ruling gave the green light for councils to “engage in social cleansing of the poor on a mass scale.
“Council tenants are being threatened with homelessness unless they agree to uproot themselves from communities they’ve lived in for years,” he added.
The decision was overturned by the Supreme Court in April 2015.
RHN said that the decision to appoint Mr Moore-Bick shows that “the government is clearly preparing a stitch-up, trying to put a judge at the heart of the Establishment in charge of the inquiry, who supports the inhumane housing policies which have led to Grenfell.”
The group backed up its claim by pointing out that the chair of the so-called independent panel advising on safety measures, Sir Ken Knight, had previously opposed fitting sprinklers in tower blocks and recommended £200 million in cuts to the fire service.
“These two appointments are yet further evidence that the Establishment is not committed to providing justice for Grenfell residents, and are unwilling to put in place measures which will prevent a tragedy of this enormity from happening again,” RHC added.
Pilgrim Tucker, who worked with Grenfell Action Group to expose the safety flaws at the tower, said: “Theresa May has ignored tenants and appointed a completely inappropriate judge. We can have no faith that this inquiry will produce justice for Grenfell residents.”
At least 80 people have died since the fire in west London two weeks ago, with hundreds displaced and declared “missing.”
Jason Miller and Corinne Jones escaped the 17th floor with their two children and have since been living like “refugees” in emergency accommodation.
Mr Moore-Bick met a handful of residents to discuss the investigation yesterday morning. But many who lived in Grenfell Tower were unaware of the meeting, Mr Miller said.
He added: “We have reservations about the judge as well and previous cases he has presided over because it has related to people in social housing.”
PM Theresa May claimed that “no stone will be left unturned” by the inquiry, during which Mr Moore-Bick is expected to consult survivors and victims’ families about the scope of the probe.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan called for the interim report to be published over the summer, amid concerns that the inquiry could take years.