LBWF’s Flat Entrance Door scandal: an update on developments

In the past few weeks, fresh revelations have emerged about the scandal surrounding LBWF’s 2017-18 purchase and installation of the 217 flat entrance doors (FEDs) at Walthamstow’s 21 floor Northwood Tower, and four sheltered housing blocks (Boothby Court, Goddarts House, Holmcroft House, and Lime Court) – FEDs which all remain in place today.

The following provides a summary.

Certification

When selling to customers, manufacturers of FEDs routinely provide certification for each item in the order, confirming details such as batch number, fire safety rating, fire and smoke test history, and installation requirements, as this example illustrates:

Such information is obviously vital, especially if problems arise.

However, when LBWF recently was asked under the Freedom of Information Act to produce the certificates for the 2017-18 FEDs, while it readily divulged the 100 for Boothby Court, Holmcroft House, and Lime Court, it now admits the 117 for Northwood Tower and Goddarts House cannot be ‘traced’.

Perhaps the latter were mis-filed; perhaps they were never supplied in the first place; or perhaps they have been destroyed, accidentally or on purpose. Who knows? But whatever the explanation, that the certificates are not to be found certainly undermines confidence in LBWF’s wider approach to fire safety.

Third party FED fire tests 

During 2019, when preparing for litigation (see below), LBWF sent three samples taken from the FEDs at Goddarts House for fire testing by Thomas Bell-Wright International Consultants in Dubai.

Previously, LBWF had repeatedly insisted that all 217 FEDs were FD60, that is, they gave 60 minutes fire protection.

However, in the Thomas Bell-Wright International Consultants’ tests, the FEDs failed well before the hour mark, at 31, 34 and 45 minutes.

Confronted by such an embarrassing outcome, LBWF chose to 

(a) emphasise that though the tested FEDs might not be FD60, they were unarguably FD30, and so met the minimum standard stipulated by the Building Regulations; and

 (b) extrapolate this conclusion, contrary to Thomas Bell-Wright International Consultants’ explicit advice, to cover all the FEDs at the other four locations, too, meaning that there was no need for replacements

Against this background, it is surprising – at the very least – to learn in the last few weeks that LBWF is now embarked on a further testing programme, again run by Thomas Bell-Wright International Consultants, but this time allegedly involving samples from Northwood Tower.

Perhaps the scepticism expressed on this blog and elsewhere that the first Thomas Bell-Wright International Consultants tests gave assurance across the board has finally hit its mark?

Fraud

The LBWF corporate anti-fraud team has for some months been investigating why and how the 217 FEDs were originally purchased.

Asked for the team’s report, LBWF states as follows:

‘The investigation into this matter is currently ongoing therefore the report you have requested is not held.  In order to assist you with your enquiry, I can advise that the Council holds information for the purposes of that investigation.  However, the information it holds is exempt under section 30 (2)(a)(I and iv) which relates to information held by a public authority as it was obtained or recorded by the authority for the purposes of its functions relating to (i) an investigation which may lead to a decision to institute criminal proceedings.   The Council considers that public interest weighs in favour of maintaining the exemption in respect of information held for these purposes.  

In addition, information held is also subject to other exemptions such as Section 40(2) personal data of individuals affected, or who are sources of information and section 41 (confidential information) where information may identify any confidential sources which has been provided in confidence by a third party.

It may assist you to be aware that the Council will publish information at the conclusion of any civil litigation or criminal proceedings (should there be any) as part of its reporting of the work undertaken by the Internal Audit and Anti-Fraud Division to the Audit and Governance Committee, in a suitable format for publication’. 

Litigation

LBWF is also involved in litigation about the purchase of the 217 FEDs, its antagonist being Osborne, a company that prior to 2019 was contracted to look after LBWF’s housing maintenance programme, etc..

A post on this blog in January 2020 (see link below) summarised the then state of affairs:

‘at an Audit and Governance Committee meeting in September 2019, it was noted that one of the top two items on LBWF’s strategic risk register was a financial dispute with Osborne “leading to substantial claims”; that notice of final accounts had been issued, along with a payless notice (“a notice a payer under a construction contract can issue in order to pay less than the payee (the contractor or subcontractor) has applied for”); and that counsel had been engaged “to adjudicate and carry forward legal action”.

And quite clearly, LBWF considers this to be a rather sensitive issue, because in a paper on the agenda at the following Audit and Governance Committee meeting, while it is noted that “Financial dispute with repairs and maintenance contractor leading to substantial claims” fall “outside of the Councils risk tolerance levels as the residual risk score remains high”, everything else about the dispute is “withheld”’.

Subsequently, no further detail about this litigation has emerged, though if LBWF believed that Osborne would roll over, that has not occurred, and a court hearing currently seems a likely bet.

Related Posts

LBWF’s claim that it followed ‘technical advice’ over fire safety at Northwood Tower and four sheltered housing blocks is revealed as questionable, even a falsehood

Fire safety scandal (3) is LBWF making it up as it goes along?

Fire safety scandal (2): Cllr. Louise Mitchell responds to my statement at the December 2020 full Council about flat entrance doors, admits fraud may have occurred, but otherwise again fails to impress

Fire safety scandal (1): recently disclosed e-mail reveals industry expert’s warning that the LBWF specification for flat entrance doors on its estates prioritised ‘design’ over ‘compliance’, thus potentially ‘endangering lives’.

Learning the lessons of Grenfell…or maybe not: LBWF’s 2017-18 flat entrance door update programme at Northwood Tower, Goddarts House, and other sheltered housing blocks

LBWF and fire safety at Northwood Tower: yet more jiggery-pokery?

Fire safety at LBWF’s Northwood Tower in Walthamstow: a further chapter in a long-running and dismal story

Goddarts House sheltered housing in Walthamstow: new facts, new controversy

Private Eye on fire safety at Goddarts House sheltered housing complex, Walthamstow

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