Lawyers said Steve McGuirk, pictured, was ‘compromised’ by his time as a former chief fire officer, when he and others advised the Government on crucial safety issues due to be considered by the new inquiry
A fire expert appointed by the Grenfell Tower public inquiry faced calls to stand down yesterday amid claims he had overseen swingeing cuts to the fire service.
Lawyers said Steve McGuirk was ‘compromised’ by his time as a former chief fire officer, when he and others advised the Government on crucial safety issues due to be considered by the new inquiry.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said he was also the principal adviser to local councils on fire safety and questioned if he could be impartial and independent about recommendations given to councils, including the West London council which owns Grenfell Tower.
Martin Seaward, for the FBU, said Mr McGuirk had overseen cuts and closures during his time as chief fire officer and chief executive of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service.
The FBU has asked the inquiry to analyse the effect of cuts and closures on the emergency service response to the fire at Grenfell, in which 71 people were killed.
Mr Seaward said: ‘He has been at the forefront of deregulation in the fire service from 1999 to 2015. He has been a champion of the change and transformation that has taken place in the fire service, and that has led to cuts and closures.’
The lawyer said firefighters sent into the tower – and control room operators who took 999 calls from trapped residents – had faced harrowing scenes which had left them deeply traumatised, and urged the inquiry to treat them as ‘victims’ of the disaster.
Richard Millett QC, counsel for the inquiry, said it had carried out checks on all experts appointed to help the inquiry, adding: ‘We are satisfied that none of our experts is conflicted.’
Meanwhile a group of bereaved families and Grenfell survivors called on Theresa May to appoint a panel to sit alongside inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick, and handed a petition of 16,000 signatures into Downing Street.
The FBU has asked the inquiry to analyse the effect of cuts and closures on the emergency service response to the fire at Grenfell, in which 71 people were killed
Five law firms, representing 179 people from the Grenfell community, have written to the Prime Minister saying Sir Martin does not have the confidence of survivors and residents.
The Prime Minister is due to attend tomorrow’s national memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral and Sandra Ruiz, whose niece was killed in the tower block, said she would find it difficult to face Mrs May unless a panel was appointed.
She said: ‘I would find that very difficult – for her to come and shake our hands without the appointment of a panel.
‘Obviously we will welcome her, but she will have to come and face us and we will be asking those questions of her. It’s not much to ask.’
Karim Mussilhy, whose uncle Hesham Rahman was killed, said: ‘We’re really losing confidence in this public inquiry … we feel like we’re being forgotten and not listened to.’
The Prime Minister was booed and heckled by some residents when she visited the tower in the immediate aftermath of the deadly fire, amid criticism of the Government’s response to the disaster.
Lawyers for Kensington and Chelsea council, which owns Grenfell Tower, said it had made more than 1.5million documents available to police as part of the criminal investigation into the blaze.
The Grenfell inquiry is expected to analyse whether previous fire safety recommendations were implemented in the wake of a 2009 fire at Lakenhal House in South London, which killed six.
Councils have now been ordered to introduce tougher safety measures in tower blocks but the BBC reported the cost had reached at least £600million, and was likely to top £1billion.