LBWF and the Town Hall asbestos scandal: new evidence emerges

LBWF is due in Southwark Crown Court on Friday 29 May for sentencing over its conviction for breaking health and safety legislation in relation to asbestos in the Town Hall.

In the subsequent fall-out, further questions no doubt will be asked about how LBWF interacted with NPS London Ltd, since in formal terms the latter was a key player in the authority’s Asbestos Policy (for which see the ‘documents’ tab).

It is already established that

(a) policy or no policy, there was a good deal of confusion about the asbestos in the Town Hall, the dates when reports were received, who exactly was supposed to manage what, etc.; and

(b) Shifa Mustafa (described by Chief Executive Martin Esom as ‘my deputy’) reported to Cabinet members about NPS London Ltd. Board deliberations only ‘verbally’.

I’ve now looked at another level of interaction between the two organisations, and this, again, is very disturbing.

In early February 2015, I asked LBWF the following:

‘In relation to the contract dated 1st March 2007 between LBWF and ‘NPS London Ltd and NPS Property Consultants Ltd.’, I note that ‘The Managing Director of the Company and “the Executive Director of Corporate Services” of the Council’ are required to ‘meet once every two (2) months during the Operating Period to discuss the performance by the Company of the Services’ (clause 7.5). Please will you list the dates when these meetings occurred in 2011 and 2012, and forward any records that exist of what was discussed on each occasion?’

I now have a reply.

It turns out that in the crucial years 2011 and 2012 the performance meetings in question were held on only seven occasions, not the twelve that were contractually required.

NPS London Ltd.’s MD was present on five occasions, with the NPS Group MD present at the other two, so NPS London Ltd. fulfilled its contractual duty on that particular count.

However, whether LBWF reciprocated is open to question. The person who was virtually an ever present on the LBWF side was Kirsten Shiels, who as far as I can see was Head of Capital Programmes. Occasionally, one or two other more junior LBWF staffers attended, too, but none ring a bell. The Executive Director of Corporate Services appears conspicuous by his/her absence.

The most interesting thing, though, is the following, from the 22 June 2011 meeting:

‘Reporting

KS [Kirsten Shiels] pointed out monthly reporting needs to be improved. The standard project reports produced for LBWF are being provided with a significant amount of detail missing. Lack of cost plan, cash flow, no risk log. KS went through last month’s reports with PMs [project managers]. Reports that were agreed with TA [Trevor Adams, MD NPS London Ltd.] and Tony Barrett are not filled in, only a figure inserted. Report is not acceptable.

KS reminded TA they agreed with PG that reports should go to Ash Jones as the central person and copy to Project Manager. Therefore, all reports to be sent to Ash and copied to Project manager. They are at present receiving empty documents with information not filled in. KS wants monthly completed documents from this month onwards. TA to look into and instruct staff to comply’.

Ms. Shiels seems to have been admirably forthright.

But if reports were not being completed properly, is this perhaps another clue about why confusion developed regarding the Town Hall asbestos situation, with the lamentable consequences that then ensued?

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