Grenfell Tower: Campaigner slams government apology four years after fire as ‘too little too late’

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has admitted to a series of failings in the years leading up to the Grenfell Tower disaster and apologised to victims of the fire.

The Justice4Grenfell campaign founder Yvette Williams has slammed the government’s apology to Grenfell victims - four years after the deadly fire - as “too little too late”.

This comes after the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities admitted to a series of failings in the years leading up to the Grenfell Tower disaster and apologised to victims of the fire.

The government’s barrister told the Grenfell Tower public inquiry it was "deeply sorry for its past failures" in overseeing building safety.

"Why couldn’t they have apologised four-and-a-half years ago,” the 56-year-old told LondonWorld.

“They have put the bereaved families through four-and-a-half years of hell.”

Yvette Williams, left, at the opening day of the Grenfell Tower inquiry. Credit: BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

Ms Williams and her daughter witnessed the horrific fire at the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block in North Kensington.

She has played an important role in the campaign for accountability and justice for Grenfell victims ever since.

On Tuesday, counsel for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Jason Beer QC, said: “The department is deeply sorry for its past failures in relation to the oversight of the system that regulated safety in the construction and refurbishment of high-rise buildings.

“It also deeply regrets past failures in relation to the superintendence of the building control bodies, which themselves had a key role in ensuring the safe construction and refurbishment of such buildings.

“It apologises to the bereaved residents and survivors of the fire for such failures.”

He said the Government, as well as the public and residents of the tower, had trusted that “those constructing and approving high-rise blocks and supplying the products used in them were following the law and doing the right thing”.

This trust was “both misplaced and abused”, he said, adding: “The department greatly regrets that it took the Grenfell Tower tragedy to lay bare this misplaced and abused trust.”

In this file photo taken on June 14, 2017 police man a security cordon as a huge fire engulfs the Grenfell Tower early June 14, 2017 in west London. Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP via Getty Images.

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry began on September 14 2017 to investigate the causes of the fire and other related issues.

Findings from the first report of the inquiry, released in October 2019 affirmed that the building’s exterior did not comply with regulations, which caused the fire to spread so quickly and that the fire service were too late in advising residents to evacuate.

A second phase to the investigation began on the third anniversary in 2020.

Grenfell United said in a statement yesterday: “The government’s statement at the public inquiry today is deeply offensive.

“It is a disingenuous attempt to carry on their masquerade of innocence.

“Previous prime minister David Cameron’s refusal to come to the inquiry, despite living a stone’s throw from Grenfell Tower, is proof of the government’s reluctance to uncover the true extent of their culpability.

“Grenfell United previously said ‘the system isn’t broken, it was built this way’.

“Their financial gain led to the death of our 72.”

The group said that the government knew about the deadly materials and the consequences, “but covered up the risks”.

“Let’s see how long their apology stands up against the evidence at the public inquiry in the coming weeks. No one should be exempt from accountability,” it added.

The government has since banned the use of combustible materials on buildings and has proposed a Building Safety Bill with measures to introduce a new building safety regulator.