Ali Akbor replaces Benita Mehra, who resigned in January over links to Grenfell cladding manufacturer Arconic
The government has appointed the chief executive of a Leeds housing association as the third member of the panel for the Grenfell Inquiry.
Ali Akbor will sit at the inquiry’s hearings from November 2, alongside chairman Martin Moore-Bick and architect Thouria Istephan, a partner at Foster & Partners.
The delay in appointing a third panellist after two resignations was criticised by a group representing the bereaved and survivors of the fire which claimed 72 lives in 2017.
Akbor, who was awarded an OBE in 2019 for services to the community in Leeds, is leaving Unity Homes and Enterprise where he has been chief executive since 1999. The housing association manages 1,300 homes and specialises in supporting BAME communities.
He will replace former panel member Benita Mehra who resigned in January over her links to Arconic, the manufacturer of the deadly cladding which was used on the Grenfell tower’s refurbishment
Mehra was herself a replacement for the panel’s original third member, Nabeel Hamdi, who resigned without explanation in December 2019.
The Inquiry, which this week began hearing evidence from the Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) about its role in the tower’s ill-fated refurbishment, has lacked a third member for over seven months.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said Akbor “will bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the role, as well as a crucial understanding of the issues at the heart of Phase 2 and an unwavering commitment to improving people’s lives.”
Architect and former RIBA president Paul Hyett was appointed as an expert witness to the Grenfell Inquiry in 2018.
Bereaved and survivors group Grenfell United had expressed concern that the panel’s two other members, retired judge Moore-Bick and architect Istephan, did not have enough experience of social housing and community relations.
In a statement on the appointment of Akbor, Grenfell United said: “We can only but hope that this panelist has been thoroughly checked and will live up to the responsibility he has before him.
“We have already heard evidence on how we were labelled as troublemakers for speaking out for our safety. It’s imperative that the panel learn the lessons and produce meaningful recommendations so that social housing tenants are never treated in this way again.”
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On Twitter, the group wrote: “40 months since the fire, 18 months after the commitment was made and two days after our landlord, the KCTMO, started giving evidence, a third panelist to the Grenfell Inquiry has been appointed.”