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23/05/2018 09:47 PM
Grenfell inquiry: tributes to victims continue for fourth day - live

Commemorations continue to be paid to the 72 people who lost their lives in the fire last June

A representative has read out a tribute from Victoria King’s older sister, Penny. She said:

After losing touch with my younger sister Vicky I spent many years trying to find her through friends in the UK. Eventually, thanks to the Salvation army family tracing I was able to get in touch with her and my niece Alexandra living in Grenfell Tower.

If this had not been the case no family member would have known they had perished… the time we had back being in touch means a great deal. I wish it had been for much longer. They were and are still together, and that is what is important. The fire was a tragedy for all of us.

The inquiry stream is now live:

Staff at the inquiry have announced that mother and daughter Victoria King and Alexandra Atala will also be commemorated today after a change of heart from the family.

Here at Day 4 of the #GrenfellInquiry. Bernard Richmond QC says that one benefit of the past few days is that family members who didn't feel ready to participate are now going to do so. https://t.co/TTOt72hCWL

Some comfort can come from the knowledge that she and Alexandra were devoted to one another and spent so many mutually-supportive years together.They died at each other’s side and now they can rest together in peace. We will remember them always.

Our report yesterday that the £400m Theresa May announced to replace combustible cladding on scores if council and social housing blocks will come from the budget for building new affordable homes, is starting to sink in.

The housing minister Dominic Raab said that the money would be replaced in the 2021/22 affordable homes programme but admitted it means fewer new cheap homes in the the short run.

The idea had been to run until Tuesday to give people chance to have some time during half term, but the sessions now look likely to run into Wednesday.

We are being told that there will be nothing extraordinarily distressing in today’s presentations.

Proceedings start at 10.30 because some of the presentations are being moved around.

According to the Press Association, mother and daughter Victoria King and Alexandra Atala will also be commemorated today.

The stream of the inquiry is due to go live any time now.

The stream will go live shortly: https://t.co/pSDVTXZkMR

Last night, Elizabeth Campbell was voted in as leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, following the local elections earlier this month when the Conservatives held the council comfortably.

She has been on the council since 2006 and was previously a board member of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation.

She made a speech which directly addressed Grenfell. Here are some extracts.

I would like to quote from a speech made recently by the Conservative MP Kwasi Kwarteng.

“The suspicion today is that as the royal borough has got wealthier and wealthier, the political class, the people running the borough have really forgotten some of the less advantaged members of their community, while there is massive compassion, I don’t think there’s enough empathy as to how important this issue actually is and how seriously people of different faiths and certainly different communities take this issue.

It is our responsibility to ensure that the whole, unvarnished truth is told. We will not shy away from that, nor from the implications and the consequences of telling the truth. We have handed over hundreds of thousands of documents to the police and to the inquiry.

We will give them both everything they ask for and everything they need in order to find out what happened.

Inquiry staff are once again handing out a “trigger sheet” on the content of video tributes for Grenfell tower victims due to be played today, after some 20 survivors walked out and one woman collapsed in distress after viewing footage of tower on fire.

Inquiry proceedings were halted for half an hour during Tuesday’s session after the footage was played of the tower on fire and people trapped behind the windows.

Learning from its mistakes. The #GrenfellInquiry has now published a “trigger sheet” which informs attendees of any potentially upsetting content in the commemorations.

Follows awful scenes yday when several people needed medical attention after footage of the fire was played. pic.twitter.com/iZFMDGsyM3

Today’s list of commemorations revolve principally around two families, one Eritrean, the other Bangladeshi.

We know that Bangladeshi Komru Miah came to the UK in the 1970s as an economic migrant, started a second family here and lived on the 17th floor with his wife and three adult children.

Less is known about the backstory of Eritreans Mohamednur Tuccu and his wife Amal Ahmedin, daughter Amaya and sister in law Amna Mahmud Idris. They’d certainly been in the UK at least 10 years. I’m not completely clear on who lived in Grenfell and who was just visiting on the night of June 14.

Finally we have one of the most compelling individuals of all - Fathia Alsanousi, a Sudanese exile, mother, teacher, dressmaker, upcycler, a pillar of the Sudanese community in London. Of all the Grenfell life stories I heard during our project to find out more about the victims, hers was the most inspiring.

In an interview with Jon Snow on Channel 4 News yesterday, the man who predicted the Grenfell Tower fire criticised the Kensington and Chelsea authorities. “What we were saying wasn’t just wild propaganda. It was evidenced, this is what’s happening to our community,” he said.

He went on to condemn the government for the failure to rehouse the survivors within the promised time frame: “The state has still not met that obligation.”

"Theresa May said that within three months we'd be rehoused. The fact is, there are still many families - many with children - who are still living in hotels." The man who predicted the Grenfell Tower fire says: "The state has still not met that obligation." pic.twitter.com/pWKbkjVGOU

A veteran housing academic and former government adviser has drawn up 10 key lessons from the Grenfell Tower fire including annual “MOT” style safety tests on high rise blocks, giving tenants a say in upkeep, and forcing leaseholders to provide access keys to their flats.

Lesson 1: There should be a single point of control for any multi-storey block so that everyone knows, whether it is staff, residents or emergency services, where to go and who is responsible whenever an emergency arises.

Lesson 2: A full record of work that has been done must be kept, including the costs, the rationale, the specifications and implementation, with a continuous sequence of recorded information from start to finish, handed over on completion to the responsible owner/manager.

Here’s a programme for today’s hearing.

Commemorations will be paid to Mohamednur Tuccu, Amal Ahmedin, Amaya Tuccu-Ahmedin, Amna Mahmud Idris, Kamru Miah, Rabeya Begum, Mohammed Hamid, Mohammed Hanif, Husna Begum and Fathia Ali Ahmed Elsanosi.

The programme for today's commemorative hearing. A link to the live stream will be posted prior to commencing at 10am. pic.twitter.com/xNmnM8OUdP

A £400m fund announced by Theresa May to pay for replacing combustible cladding on up to 158 social housing high-rise buildings following the Grenfell Tower fire, means fewer affordable homes will be built in the coming years, it has emerged.

The government has admitted that the funds for the renovations are being taken from the Affordable Homes Programme.

Related: Replacing tower cladding will mean fewer affordable homes in coming years

Proceedings start at 10am. It’s worth noting that the Guardian’s portraits of all 72 people who died in the fire are being updated each day of the commemorations as more details emerge about them.

Related: The lives of Grenfell Tower: the 72 victims of the fire

Welcome to our live coverage of the fourth day of the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire.

Tributes from family and friends continue to be paid today to the 72 people who died in the fire last June.

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23/05/2018 05:59 AM
Replacing tower cladding will mean fewer affordable homes in coming years

UK government admits £400m to replace flammable cladding will be taken from Affordable Homes Programme

A £400m fund announced by Theresa May to pay for replacing combustible cladding on up to 158 social housing high-rise buildings following the Grenfell Tower fire, means fewer affordable homes will be built in the coming years, it has emerged.

The government has admitted that the funds for the renovations are being taken from the Affordable Homes Programme.

Related: Theresa May pledges £400m to remove Grenfell-style cladding

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23/05/2018 04:42 AM
How to square the circle of social care funding | Letters
Readers respond to a Polly Toynbee article and to a supplement on dementia

Polly Toynbee points to the dilemma facing politicians over paying for social care (The social care crisis drags on, thanks to May’s cowardice, 22 May). The legitimate human desire to pass on one’s hard-earned wealth – in the vast majority of cases one’s house – to the next generation clashes with the legitimate need for the state to draw on that wealth to pay for social care.

The case often put by my Leeds constituents was “We’ve paid for our house so why should we not be entitled to pass it on to our son or daughter.” The huge flaw in this argument is that the current value of the house to be passed on is way above what the person paid for it decades before, even including the addition of general inflation.

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23/05/2018 12:29 AM
Theresa May 'minded' to go beyond Grenfell review and ban flammable cladding

PM tells Commons she intends to go further than Hackitt report which did not recommend a ban

The government is “minded” to ban flammable cladding on high-rise buildings in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, Theresa May has said.

The prime minister told MPs she intended to go further than the government-commissioned review authored by Dame Judith Hackitt, which did not recommend a ban.

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22/05/2018 09:00 PM
No link between homeless villages and crime rates, Guardian review suggests

Guardian study of two US cities finds crime is likelier to go down than up in neighborhoods that host city-sanctioned encampments

They stood in a rainy parking lot under fir trees, 60 homeless men and women, young and old, patient and weary. The glow of a single lightbulb outside the “office” – a shack of plywood, duct tape and plastic sheeting – illuminated their faces.

It was the 9pm check-in at a homeless village called Right 2 Dream Too in Portland, Oregon. The code of conduct was read aloud. Then the roll call began: one by one, people showed ID and stepped through the chain link fence, towards portable toilets, bedrolls, warmth, sleep and safety.

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22/05/2018 06:30 PM
The GPs offering a lifeline to homeless patients | Patrick Greenfield
So far this year, 56 homeless people have died in the UK. But a surgery in Brighton shows how coordinated care could save lives

At least 56 homeless people have died on the streets and in temporary accommodation in the UK so far this year. It brings the total recorded to almost 300 since 2013, according to research by the Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. The true figure is likely much higher as no official figures are collected, making it hard for health professionals to respond to the increasing number of deaths.

Related: Deaths of UK homeless people more than double in five years

The more you push people to the margins, the more they fall out of the system and end up on the streets

Related: At least 78 homeless people died in UK over winter, figures reveal

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22/05/2018 10:12 AM
New York judge orders man, 30, to move out of family home after parents sue

Michael Rotondo, who reportedly moved back home eight years ago, issued with eviction order after he thwarted parents’ efforts

A judge has ordered a 30-year-old man in New York state to move out of his parents’ house, after a short legal battle.

During the hearing on Tuesday, state supreme court justice Donald Greenwood tried to convince Michael Rotondo, who reportedly moved back home eight years ago, to leave the family home in Camillus, near Syracuse, of his own accord. But Rotondo, who represented himself in court, argued that he was entitled to six more months of living with his family.

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22/05/2018 05:01 AM
Turning Queen Mary’s House into luxury flats would leave NHS staff homeless | Letters
Neil Macehiter says it will make recruiting staff harder, and Stewart Pimbley on the betrayal of the London building’s past

The response of Stephen Clark, spokesman for planning on London’s Camden council, to the marketing of Queen Mary’s House as potential luxury flats (NHS privately planning to turn London hospital building into block of luxury £10m flats, 19 May) is mealy-mouthed to say the least. His concerns should extend beyond the fact that the hospital has not applied for planning permission and that the council “wouldn’t want to see just luxury homes on the site”.

With the NHS struggling to recruit and retain key staff – not least because of the lack of local affordable accommodation – the council should be making its opposition to the Royal Free’s plans clear, or demanding that developers are required to replace the lost accommodation at an equivalent rent in the locality. Anything else would demonstrate an abdication of its responsibilities.
Neil Macehiter
Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire

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21/05/2018 07:00 PM
Shakespearean tragedy of Shirley Porter scandal told in shadow of Grenfell

Shirleymander, Gregory Evans’s play about the 1980s ‘homes for votes’ furore, is to be staged in Kensington. He believes its lines are now more relevant than ever

Last summer, I went to the Playground theatre in west London to discuss the first stage production of my play Shirleymander about Shirley Porter and the “homes for votes” scandal of the 1980s. When I arrived at Latimer Road tube station, a short walk from the theatre, I smelled the tainted air, saw the blackened husk of Grenfell Tower, and knew immediately that this would be the right play in the right place.

Seventy-two people died in the fire that broke out at Grenfell on 14 June 2017. Over the weeks that followed, the newly opened theatre, which is in a converted bus depot, became a space where traumatised locals could meet and talk, vent and grieve. The organisation Grief Encounter held workshops there, giving counselling and support to some of the many families directly affected by the fire.

Dame Shirley seemed to me Macbeth with shoulder pads, Richard III in a pink velour leisure suit

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21/05/2018 05:42 AM
Too many measures targeting homeless people | Letters
More data is needed on the various sanctions used, write Helen Mills and Matt Ford. Plus: David Redshaw suggests that Margaret Thatcher’s party is doing her proud

It is great to see investigative work being done on antisocial behaviour powers, showing the impact on those who are homeless. These measures require such probing (Homeless people facing fines and prison, 21 May). Since antisocial behaviour powers were devolved to local areas by the coalition government in 2014, there is no centralised, routinely publicised data about how they are being used. Freedom of information investigations are now the only way to answer questions about who is sanctioned by antisocial behaviour measures.

Your article singled out public space protection orders (PSPOs), but there are a range of measures that are used to sanction the homeless. For instance, our own research suggests that dispersal powers, a police-only measure to move people on for a period of up to 48 hours, are far more routinely used than PSPOs and result in far more prosecutions. There is a requirement to publish PSPOs and consult about them. Other measures, such as community protection notices and dispersal powers, have no such obligations. PSPOs are the more visible element in a wider spectrum of enforcement approaches which are being employed with very little scrutiny. Stop and search has annual statistics rightly drawing attention to its use. It is interesting that similar powers the police have to stop people, confiscate items, and exclude them for periods of up to 48 hours, are regularly deployed with no centralised data collection about their use.
Helen Mills and Matt Ford
Centre for Crime and Justice Studies

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21/05/2018 02:35 AM
Grenfell Tower fire inquiry opens with tributes to 72 victims – as it happened

Follow live updates on the opening of the Grenfell Tower inquiry when family and friends will pay tributes to the victims

That’s it for the blog today. Robert Booth has more on the opening day here:

Related: Grenfell victim's family plays audio of last words at public inquiry

Related: The Grenfell Tower public inquiry: key questions answered

The leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council said she hopes to find permanent homes for all the households displaced by the Grenfell Tower fire by the end of the summer.

Here’s a summary of what he heard from the opening day of the inquiry:

Here’s the full statement from Mohammedu Saye father of Khadija Saye.

The short address by Sam Daniels spoke volumes of the continuing distress and anger on the part of many families at the events of last June.

It was fascinating to hear more about Mary Mendy. I spoke to her cousin Clarrie Mendy shortly before the inquiry and got a sense of a strong, independent west African woman devoted to her only birth daughter, Khadija Saye.

I didn’t know she had a niece, Marion Telfer, who considered her an irreplaceable mother figure in her life. We knew Mary worked as a carer but hadn’t quite got the sense of the great humanitarian she was, travelling back to Gambia to help with local charitable works.

Here’s the full statement from Mary Mendy’s niece, whose name was given as Marion.

For the first time in my life my aunt is not a phone call away. She’s not there to listen to my complaints or my gossip. My aunt made me a priority in life. She was the best aunt an sister we could have asked for. She was warm and kind. She welcomed everyone into her home. Grenfell tower was a place all her family and friends could find shelter if they ever needed it.

Mary Mendy was a carer who worked within her community. She was a humanitarian who made it a passion to help those less fortunate than herself. She frequently travelled to Gambia and offered donations to hospitals and other organisations. On the night of 14 June 2017 our family lost two much-loved members. My aunt was the strong one, the fighter and the protector. The pain is unbearable. There are no words to describe the emptiness that it is in our hearts.

That concludes the presentations for today.

Moore-Bick thanks the families for moving and “impressive” presentations and says the inquiry will resume on Tuesday.

A statement by the father of Khadija Saye, is then read out to the inquiry. He said photography was her burning passion.

A film made about Saye before the Venice Biennale, including clips of her in her Grenfell home, is introduced to the inquiry.

A family statement read on behalf Marion, the niece of Mary Mendy whose daughter Khadija Saye was also killed in the fire.

She talked about the pain of remembering her aunt at night. Although the pain feels like a it will last forever, it will soon be replaced by happy memories, it said.

The inquiry resumes with a brief tribute to Joseph Daniels by his son Sam.

He said:

The events of that night took his life and all trace of his existence from this world. He never stood a chance of getting out. It should never have happened.

That was a tough morning for a lot of people in the room and there were lots of tears. I looked around after Saber Neda’s final phone call was played and the RBKC leader Elizabeth Campbell looked shaken and moved. Earlier she told me: “I want to bear witness and pay respects. When I speak to people I know it has been just awful.”

But there is also a strong feeling of relief at proceedings having got underway after a long wait. Sir Martin Moore-Bick and the lawyers are taking a back seat at the moment and the focus is entirely on the families and friends of those who died.

While we wait the inquiry to resume at 2pm, here’s the Guardian’s editorial on what it should uncover.

Related: The Guardian view on the Grenfell Tower inquiry: necessary but not sufficient | Editorial

Almost a year on, there remains a disturbing feeling that justice is far from being delivered. The families of the dead are a long way from possessing any sense of completion. The inquiry, led by a judge, is a necessary step, but it is far from being a sufficient one.

The government has yet to make much progress on the houses that the former Grenfell residents need – only one in three of the families are living in a permanent new home. Woeful handling of the situation by Kensington and Chelsea council has not improved much since it dumped its ineffective leadership last year, bringing in a new head who’d never been to a tower block. Unsurprisingly the council continues to build fewer affordable homes than any other London borough.

The opening remarks by Richard Millett, lead counsel to the inquiry, are also worth recalling.

He set out the importance of hearing the tributes to the victims. Millett said:

In our search using the tools of evidence and science at our disposal we risk losing sight of why we are doing it and the people that we are doing it for. So it is only right that this inquiry starts not with the study of combustible materials, fire spread, and the building regulations – that will come soon enough – but with the individual human voices and faces of this tragedy.

“Today and in the days that follow you will hear from the family and friends who have lost their loved ones in the flames at Grenfell tower and to whose memory our search for the truth is dedicated.

There are some for whom the weight of grief is simply too great to bear and who have chosen to grieve privately or in silence. For them the inquiry is honoured to provide a voice with which to name their loved ones. So may we remember Victoria King, flat 172; so may we remember Alexandra Atalal, flat 172; so may we remember Marco Gottardi, flat 202; so may we remember Abufras Ibrahim, flat 206; so may we remember Abdeslam Sebbar flat 81 and so may we remember Sheila, flat 132.

In his opening remarks chair of the inquiry, Sir Martin Moore-Bick said the tributes were an integral part of the inquiry. It is worth recounting the text of his opening remarks:

“When we die, we live on in memories of those who knew and loved us. It is fitting therefore that the opening hearings of the inquiry should be dedicated to the memory of those who died. They will be remembered through the words and pictures chosen by the people who knew them best and loved them most. Their families and friends.

“They will share with us their memories of those whom they have lost. During the coming days there will be much sorrow. Sorrow at the memory of lives cut short and sorrow at the contemplation of promise unfulfilled. Sorrow at the loss of close relations and sorrow at the absence of friends and neighbours.

The inquiry started with the youngest victim Logan Gomes. Marcio and Andreia Gomes had told the story of their escape from Grenfell tower with great clarity and composure on a Newsnight programme last year.

On the night itself, the parents managed to get themselves and their two daughters down the fire escape and out of the building, but Andreia was taken to hospital and put into an induced coma. They were subsequently told that doctors believed Logan’s heart gave out because of a lack of oxygen during the escape.

Until today the family had said little about Denis Murphy’s life in the aftermath of the fire, so this was all compelling new testimony.

It’s really striking just how many Grenfell families lost their “lynchpin”, as his sister Anne Marie Murphy described him. The oldest of four children, and from a generation and a family where the oldest son pretty quickly becomes a role model to his younger siblings.

The thing that struck me most about Mohamed ‘Saber’ Neda from conversations with his son Farhad is that this was a prominent, career-minded Afghan who had to restart his life utterly from scratch after fleeing in the 1990s.

There were several other Grenfell victims like that - Fathia Alsanousi and Bassem Choukair spring to mind.

Lawyers for Mohamed Amied Neda begin three statement on behalf of his family who sitting are beside them.

Anne Marie, sister of Denis Murphy, takes to the floor to read a statement on behalf of the family.

We as a family feel strongly that there is no reason in the world why anyone should have death forced upon them in such a horrific way. The day Denis died a part of all of us died too. To us Denis was an inspiration and we feel lucky and blessed that he was part of our family. His warmth and love will stay with us forever.

The family of stillborn baby Logan Gomes comes to the stage. Logan’s father Marcio Gomes introduced his wife Andreia and his legal team.

Marcio shows a slide of a twinkle-twinkle poster from the room that the family had prepared for Logan. He said the family, including the couple’s two daughters, escaped from their 21st storey flat at four in the morning.

“Our sleeping angel he was. We let him go with the doves so that he can fly with the angels. This has been our hardest battle. We are proud of him even though he was with us for only seven months. You only know what you are made of when you are broken.

Lead counsel to the inquiry, Richard Millett, begins his opening remarks.

Millett starts with facts about the history of the 24-storey block, before describing how the fire started and took hold. The last survivor escaped at 8.07am he said.

Moore-Bick says the fire represented the biggest loss of life in a single event since the second world war.

Sorrow will tempered by joyous memories of those who died, he said. He talks about the importance of getting to the truth. He then calls for 72 seconds of silence to remember those who died.

Here we go ... Retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick is welcoming participants and the viewing public to the start of the inquiry.

There is a levelling atmosphere to the gathering at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel. In the moments before the inquiry begins at 11am families and friends of the victims are milling over cups of tea alongside senior police officers, the leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Elizabeth Campbell, NHS workers who have been involved in the mental health response, solicitors for the core participants and high profile barristers including Michael Mansfield QC.

I joined one conversation where Nabil Choucair, 43, who remains in temporary accommodation with his family after the fire, buttonholed Campbell over problems with his key workers. Across the room, Det Supt Matt Bonner, the Scotland Yard detective in charge of the criminal investigation, got his bearings. He will be attending for the whole of the next two weeks to hear the tributes to the deceased.

When proceedings get underway in the next few minutes you should be able to watch a live stream from the inquiry’s YouTube.

The live stream of today's hearing will begin at 11am: https://t.co/dvSRBXF0E7

The first victim to be commemorated will be Logan Gomes who was stillborn in hospital the day after the fire. His mother, Andreia, who was seven months pregnant, lived on the 21st floor with her husband Marcio and two children.

The programme for today's commemorative hearing. A link to the stream will be posted at 10:45. pic.twitter.com/wGuHbIGrwB

It is going to be a tough week With the strength and love of the community we can get through this but lets hope that the truth prevails and that justice is served on those culpable for this horrific fire #72Angels #grenfellunited #justice4grenfell #justiceforjessie https://t.co/JX9tbZU1tk

Shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, said the inquiry must examine why the concerns of residents about safety were ignored.

Natasha Elcock, who was rescued from her 11th floor flat along with her six-year-old daughter and her boyfriend, has spoken of the importance of hearing tributes to the victims of the fire at the start of the inquiry.

My heart goes out to every single bereaved family who are doing pen portraits this week and next week. But I’m immensely proud of them because through all their grief and sorrow ... they want to do their relatives proud. They want to ensure that their memory is brought to the inquiry.

“I think it is exceptionally important that it starts with this. We have spoken to the Hillsborough families and they explained how much this helped them in the process. So we are grateful that the judge and the inquiry team have allowed this to happen. And for those who don’t do it on this phase it possibly can happen in phase two if families wish to do so.

Welcome to the start of our live coverage of the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire.

The first stage of the inquiry will start at 11am at the conference centre at the Millennium Gloucester hotel, in South Kensington. It will begin with a welcome by its chairman, retired appeal court judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, and some opening remarks by the lead counsel to the inquiry, Richard Millett. It will then move on to tributes by family and friends to the 72 victims of the fire on 14 June last year.

Related: Grenfell inquiry to begin taking evidence – Politics Weekly podcast

Related: The lives of Grenfell Tower: the 72 victims of the fire

Not all families wanted to contribute: their grief is still too raw. But the majority did, and the details about individuals – and about the group as a whole – say a lot about 21st-century Britain.

The makeup of the 72 people who died shows how diverse, open and tolerant Britain has become in the past 30 years (more than half the adult victims had arrived in the country since 1990).

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21/05/2018 12:04 AM
'It’s terrible': how Windrush row turned one man's life upside down

Lloyd Grant, who left Jamaica in 1970, has been homeless since being wrongly told he was not allowed to live and work in UK

As Lloyd Grant explains what it’s like to be homeless, his voice breaks and he looks down. “It’s terrible,” he says. “When you see other people with their door keys, coming home from work, you wish you were them. Being homeless really takes it out of you; you don’t know how you will survive the next day.”

Related: Windrush migrants still sleeping rough one month after minister's promise

Who are the Windrush generation?

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20/05/2018 07:00 PM
Pipe dreams: can 'nano apartments' solve Hong Kong's housing crisis?

The city with the world’s tiniest and costliest living spaces may soon convert drainpipes into homes. The aim is to get young people on the property ladder – but how small is too small?

“Both indoors and out, life in Hong Kong can feel pretty suffocating at times,” says 39-year-old finance worker Wai Li, who rents a 200 sq ft (19 sq m) “nano flat” by herself in Hong Kong’s Sheung Wan neighbourhood. Li’s living area is little more than the size of two standard Hong Kong parking spaces.

“I’ve just learnt to work around the lack of space by keeping things tidy and only holding on to the stuff I really need. My bed is the largest piece of furniture here and so that’s where I tend to hang out. There isn’t room for much else.”

Can you imagine being the kid who lives in a converted drainpipe? That’s not what I picture when I think 'home'

Related: Boxed in: life inside the 'coffin cubicles' of Hong Kong – in pictures

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20/05/2018 06:06 PM
Emotions run high as Grenfell Tower fire inquiry opens

Inquiry into blaze that led to 72 deaths launches this week with tributes from friends and relatives

Almost a year after the Grenfell Tower fire, the first substantive hearings of the inquiry into the disaster will open on Monday with tributes from friends and relatives of the 72 victims.

For the next two weeks, the lives of those who died will be remembered in a series of commemorations delivered in the form of video recordings and personal statements. The proceedings will be streamed live on the inquiry’s website.

Related: The lives of Grenfell Tower: the 72 victims of the fire

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20/05/2018 04:00 PM
EU blocking cities' efforts to curb Airbnb, say campaigners

Commission is hypnotised by ‘sharing economy’ and not seeing its downside, says researcher

The explosive rise of short-stay Airbnb holiday rentals may be shutting locals out of housing and changing neighbourhoods across Europe, but cities’ efforts to halt it are being stymied by EU policies to promote the “sharing economy”, campaigners say.

“It’s pretty clear,” said Kenneth Haar, author of UnfairBnB, a study published this month by the Brussels-based campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory. “Airbnb is under a lot of pressure locally across Europe, and they’re trying to use the top-down power of the EU institutions to fight back.”

Related: Berlin and Barcelona use sleuths to root out illegal holiday lets

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20/05/2018 05:15 AM
'We still have hearts': homeless on the streets of Kettering

A look at the impact of one council’s crackdown on begging, loitering and alcohol use

It is lunchtime in the large market town of Kettering, Northamptonshire, and 38-year-old Ethan is sitting on a black bench in the centre of town as shoppers flow past.

Dressed in a black jacket and jeans, he says he has been destitute for nearly a decade – with periods spent sleeping rough – although he is now living in temporary accommodation.

Much of his time has been spent in Kettering, he says, and he has seen the town change over the years. In 2016, the council introduced a public space protection order (PSPO) which, among other things, makes it an offence to beg in the area.

Related: Hundreds of homeless people fined and imprisoned in England and Wales

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20/05/2018 05:05 AM
The Guardian view on the Grenfell Tower inquiry: necessary but not sufficient | Editorial

An obsession with deregulation of building fire regulations meant warning signs of looming disaster seem to have been missed on the watch of Conservative ministers

The public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire finally begins this week with a fortnight of testimony from friends and relatives of the 71 people who died in the terrible blaze on the night of 14 June 2017. The blackened shell of the 24-storey tower has become a symbol of the inequalities of Britain. Almost a year on, there remains a disturbing feeling that justice is far from being delivered. The families of the dead are a long way from possessing any sense of completion. The inquiry, led by a judge, is a necessary step, but it is far from being a sufficient one.

The government has yet to make much progress on the houses that the former Grenfell residents need – only one in three of the families are living in a permanent new home. Woeful handling of the situation by Kensington and Chelsea council has not improved much since it dumped its ineffective leadership last year, bringing in a new head who’d never been to a tower block. Unsurprisingly the council continues to build fewer affordable homes than any other London borough.

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20/05/2018 05:00 AM
Hundreds of homeless people fined and imprisoned in England and Wales

The Guardian finds over 50 local authorities with PSPOs in place prohibiting begging and loitering

Growing numbers of vulnerable homeless people are being fined, given criminal convictions and even imprisoned for begging and rough sleeping, the Guardian can reveal.

Despite updated Home Office guidance at the start of the year, which instructs councils not to target people for being homeless and sleeping rough, the Guardian has found over 50 local authorities with public space protection orders (PSPOs) in place

Related: The Guardian view on Windsor’s homelessness: a parable of modern Britain | Editorial

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20/05/2018 03:53 AM
David Donnison obituary
Distinguished academic who played a key role in shaping social policy in the 1960s and 70s

David Donnison, who has died aged 92, was one of a group of outstanding academics who played an important part in shaping social policy during the 1960s and 70s, and, in his case, well beyond. He remained engaged in public debate until the end of his life.

David was, first and last, a “bottom up” person. Who should decide the design of the housing estates into which rehoused tenants should move? Who other than the tenants? Who should manage their estates or, where possible, own them? Who else but the tenants, at least in a major way? What discretion should officials have in deciding on the benefits claimants should receive? None, or nearly none, he argued in a fierce debate with Richard Titmuss, his colleague at the London School of Economics. Claimants should have clearly defined statutory rights.

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19/05/2018 07:00 PM
Mapleton Crescent: the London high-rise factory-built in Bedfordshire

Wandsworth, London
This stylish new 27-storey residential tower is an exemplar of innovative modular housing, each flat built and fitted out off-site, then craned into place at the rate of one storey a day

It’s a beautiful chimera, now more than a century old, that a house might be built in the same way as a car. It has long seemed so practical, so sensible and at the same time inspiringly progressive that the benefits that Henry Ford discovered in the production line – speed, efficiency, cheapness, quality – might be applied to the places where we live. Le Corbusier had a go in the 1920s. So did Buckminster Fuller, with the aluminium yurt he called the Dymaxion.

Somehow, their machine-age nirvana keeps on not quite happening. The world is not covered with Dymaxia, nor the many other variations on the theme. The nearest Britain came to living the dream was with the postwar prefab – quick and cheap, for sure, but rationed in their comfort and beauty, modern nostalgic revisionism notwithstanding. In the 1960s, government promotion of factory-built housing tended to produce results that were not particularly cheap, or functional, or good-looking, but were at least numerous.

The flats arrive on site complete with plaster, paint, windows, doors, wiring, plumbing, bathrooms and tiles

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