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The Asbestos Debacle


In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of.
In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of. - Confucius

wfcwQuestions raised about asbestos discovery in town hall
12 August 2015
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Nick Tiratsoo and Trevor Calver have repeatedly called for someone at the town hall to be held accountable for asbestos failings
Questions have been raised over management of asbestos by Waltham Forest council, again, after suspected asbestos dust was removed from the town hall, one year after the authority said all dust and debris had been removed.
Comment
mdj says... 7:44pm Fri 14 Aug 15
'In court it was revealed in 2002 the authority was warned about asbestos, but no action was taken.'
Another question that may occur to the hard-pressed council tax payers of this borough is why they have had to pay a fine for criminal negligence for which they carry no blame, while the easily-identifiable council leaders and chief executives who took no action over many years to protect their staff from a lethal industrial disease walk away with impunity.
wfcw50k legal bill for council's prosecution over asbestos failings
26 June 2015
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Asbestos was found in the basement of the town hall in 2012, despite warnings dating back to 2002.
The legal bill paid by Waltham Forest council during its prosecution for failing to protect its staff from deadly asbestos cost the taxpayer £50,500, it has emerged. 
The authority was fined £66,000 last month after pleading guilty to four charges relating to asbestos in the basement of the Forest Road town hall. 
Despite warnings dating back to 2002 the council failed to act, leaving staff and visitors exposed to the cancer-causing substance.
The authority was also ordered to pay court costs of £16,000 to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which brought the prosecution. 
A Freedom of Information Act disclosure has now revealed the council paid £50,500 to hire QC Mr Richard Matthews to represent it in court. 
wfcwCall for Martin Esom's resignation
20 March 2015
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On 27 January 2015, Trevor Calver and Nick Tiratsoo called for LBWF Chief Executive Martin Esom to resign over the Town Hall asbestos affair.
wfcwMartin Esom: No records exist of briefings given to cabinet members by asbestos contractor NPSL
23 January 2015
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Chief executive Martin Esom claims there are no records of briefings given to cabinet members on multi-million pound contract after asbestos found in town hall
The authority, this week, was convicted of knowingly putting workers at risk in areas of the town hall in Forest Road, Walthamstow.
Now the company which council chief executive Martin Esom confirmed was contracted to advise on asbestos matters throughout the period has denied any involvement in the scandal.
Norfolk Property Services London (NPSL) was formed in 2007 as part of a deal between the council and Norfolk Property Group on a multi-million contract to act as a consultant to the authority and procure services for construction matters. 
The council took 20 per cent ownership of NPSL and secured two seats on its board.  Board members have included Mr Esom, council leader Chris Robbins, mayor Terry Wheeler and cabinet member for business Mark Rusling.
Mr Esom has previously said NPSL was charged with advising the council on asbestos, but today a company spokesman said it “nothing to do” with it.   Mr Esom also confirmed that, in order to avoid a conflict of interest, he tasked his deputy Shifa Mustafa to report to the council’s cabinet on NPSL’s work on asbestos. 
It has now emerged there is only verbal evidence on the advice given.  The council will next appear in Snaresbrook Crown Court on February 2.
Comment
livedheretoolong, Fri 23 Jan 15
According to the council's own expenditure records for the year 2014 (which are freely available on their website) NPSL were paid a total of £3,372,417.09 for their services.
wfcwCouncil in court over deadly asbestos
19 January 2015
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The council will appear in court today to face charges of breaching health and safety laws relating to asbestos.  The authority has admitted it knew about the presence of the deadly substance at the town hall in Forest Road, Walthamstow. However, staff at Waltham Forest council were not prevented from entering affected areas of the building between 1984 and 2012.
wfcwWhat accredited qualifications are council officers, councillors or members of parliament required to obtain?
Or is Britain destined, like the Co-op, to be run by amateurs having no formal qualification or abiity in finance, administration or governance?
wfcwThe council will appear in court in January for breaching asbestos health and safety laws.
17 December 2014
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The authority has admitted it knew about the presence of the dangerous dust in the town hall basement room. Staff were not prevented from entering affected areas of the building between 1984 and 2012 as it was believed they were within acceptable levels.
A survey carried out in January 2012 ahead of major works revealed asbestos in the basement, boiler room, generator room, cable room, print room and lobby. Documents were found covered with the deadly dust, it is claimed.
wfcwProsecution of Waltham Forest council for breaching health and safety laws relating to asbestos has been adjourned for the second time.
10 September 2014
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The authority has admitted it knew about the presence of the deadly material at the town hall in Forest Road, Walthamstow, but did not prevent staff from entering affected areas of the building between 1984 and 2012 as it was believed they were within acceptable levels.
wfcwCouncil in court over asbestos
1st July 2014
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Asbestos was discovered in a room in the basement of the town hall, which staff has access to between 1984 and 2012 Asbestos was discovered in a room in the basement of the town hall, which staff has access to between 1984 and 2012
Waltham Forest Council is being prosecuted following an investigation into whether or not staff were protected from asbestos at the town hall.
This morning the Health and Safety Executive confirmed it was seeking to prosecute the local authority over alleged breaches of the Health & Safety at Work Act and the Control of Asbestos Regulations. The case, which has been brought by the government watchdog, relates to the discovery of asbestos in a room in the basement of the Forest Road building which staff had access to between 1984 and 2012.
HSE17th April 2013
The HSE asbestos improvement order, published this week, states the council failed to "draw up a suitable and sufficient plan to manage the asbestos or any asbestos containing substances" and had failed to "record how the plan will be implemented". Nick Tiratsoo, a community worker of Odessa Road in Leytonstone, said: "The council endlessly trumpets its alleged merits in public, but this development once again exposes the tawdry everyday realities.
Nutshell HSE raps Waltham Forest Council over town hall asbestos
WF Town HallWaltham Forest Town Hall asbestos plans 'now in place' after safety breaches
17th April 2013
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Waltham Forest Council says it has now complied with an order to improve its management of asbestos at the town hall after being reprimanded for safety breaches.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued a series of improvement demands on the authority after it failed to draw up legally-required plans for, and records of, managing the cancer-causing fibre at the site in Forest Road, Walthamstow.
Last year it emerged that all three types of asbestos - including its most dangerous blue variety - had been found in multiple rooms of the town hall, potentially putting dozens at risk.
The council had known about the asbestos since the 1980s but continued to use the rooms until they were sealed off last year ahead of refurbishment works.
In a statement, the council said the HSE orders were issued on March 26, but were only published this week. The authority said it had met the requirements to draw up plans and records two weeks later.
A council spokesman said it had "pressed" the HSE to update its records, which he said were not up-to-date.
The HSE improvement orders stated that the council had failed to "draw up a suitable and sufficient plan to manage the asbestos or any asbestos containing substances" and had failed to "record how the plan will be implemented".
WF Town HallHSE raps Waltham Forest Council over town hall asbestos
15th April 2013
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A safety watchdog has rapped Waltham Forest Council over its handling of asbestos at the town hall.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued a series of improvement orders on the authority stating it has failed to draw up legally-required plans for, and records of, managing the cancer-causing fibre at the site in Forest Road, Walthamstow.
Last year it emerged that all three types of asbestos - including its most dangerous blue variety - had been found in multiple rooms of the town hall, potentially putting dozens at risk.
It was then revealed that the council had known about the issue since the 1980s but had continued to store sensitive documents in one of the rooms affected.
The authority then announced it would have to destroy around 5,000 of the documents amid concerns they may have been contaminated, although it pledged to electronically copy some "important" financial and legal paperwork.
The news comes as the HSE continues its investigation into the council over the handling of asbestos at all its buildings in the borough.
THis includes the former Warwick School for Boys site in Brooke Road, Walthamstow, where pupils at St Mary's Primary School were due to relocate until asbestos was also found there last summer.
And in February the HSE launched an investigation into the council's handling of water systems in some schools, following concerns there was a risk of the potentially deadly Legionella bacteria developing.
The HSE asbestos improvement order, published this week, states the council failed to "draw up a suitable and sufficient plan to manage the asbestos or any asbestos containing substances" and had failed to "record how the plan will be implemented".
Nick Tiratsoo, a community worker of Odessa Road in Leytonstone, helped publicly uncover news of asbestos at the town hall when he tried unsuccessfully to obtain election records from the council last year.
He told the Guardian: "The council endlessly trumpets its alleged merits in public, but this development once again exposes the tawdry everyday realities.
"The town hall is used by thousands of people every month, both staff and visitors, yet the the council now stands condemned for failing to take the elementary steps which are required to deal with the building’s asbestos.
"Moreover, we know that HSE investigations continue on other council sites. Asbestos is too dangerous to mess around with. Perhaps [council leader] Cllr Chris Robbins can tell us exactly what is going on?"
The Guardian is awaiting a comment from the council.

wfcwHealth and Safety Executive is seeking to prosecute the local authority over alleged breaches of the Health & Safety at Work Act and the Control of Asbestos Regulations.
27th June 2014
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The case, which has been brought by the government watchdog, relates to the discovery of asbestos in a room in the basement of the Forest Road building which staff had access to between 1984 and 2012. In 2012 it was revealed the authority knew about the presence of asbestos throughout that period, but did not stop staff from accessing the building, claiming asbestos levels were “within Health and Safety Executive guidelines”
 
 
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