The Town Hall asbestos investigation led by LBWF Director of Governance and Law Mark Hynes now has been running for 100 working days, yet not delivered a single finding. What gives?

Director of Governance and Law Mark Hynes’ investigation into my apprehension that, from 2015 to 2021, LBWF may not have managed the large amounts of asbestos that riddled the Town Hall in line with the demands of the relevant health and safety legislation, has now run for exactly 100 working days, yet so far failed to deliver a single finding.

Mr. Hynes last comment on the subject was an e-mail of 30 January 2023 which reads: ‘Although I was hoping to have concluded my review into the concerns you raised about asbestos management compliance, the matter is still ongoing. I hope to have concluded matters in the near future and will write to you again at that time’.

This lack of progress is surprising. The legal requirements regarding asbestos are well-known and straightforward. Mr. Hynes from the outset underlined that he took the issues put to him ‘very seriously’. Moreover, he is not working on his own, with ‘global law firm’ Clyde & Co., fresh from a bruising encounter with no less than the US Department of Justice, drafted in to offer ‘support’, no doubt at significant expense (LBWF is currently refusing to reveal the figures).

So what’s the problem?

One impediment seems to be that LBWF is struggling to find the paperwork necessary to prove its compliance. Some is said to reside ‘with third parties’ – never a good sign.

In addition, as has become ever more obvious, this is a high stakes game for all concerned.

Those who work in the Town Hall know that LBWF has a poor record over asbestos, and was successfully prosecuted in 2015 by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for exposing council staff and contractors to dangerous asbestos dust, so will want confirmation that there has been no repeat.

Specifically, have council staff been kept informed ‘throughout the asbestos management process’, as the HSE requires? And have contractors working in the Town Hall been given up to date information about where asbestos is located, and what condition it is in, so that they can proceed safely?

On the leadership side, two senior officers will be particularly attentive to what emerges.

LBWF Chief Executive Martin Esom, amongst other things, signed off the council’s 2013 ‘Asbestos Policy Statement’, a short, sharp list of key principles; made several emollient comments before and after the 2015 trial; and has (as far as can be ascertained) remained the named ‘Statutory Duty Holder’ throughout. 

For his part, Mr. Hynes’ day job, ever since he joined the council in 2016, is to make sure that absolutely everything it does is lawful.

Thus, should it be revealed that LBWF has erred, both will find themselves in the spotlight.

High stakes, indeed.

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