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 step down from his role at Unity Homes and Enterprise, which manages 1,200 homes and specialises in supporting BAME communities. 

Akbor (pictured), who has held the role of chief executive at the organisation since 1999 and was awarded an OBE in 2019 for services to the community in Leeds, will sit at the inquiry’s hearings from 2 November.

Ali Akbor

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.

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.”

The Inquiry, which this week began hearing evidence from the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) about its role in the tower’s ill-fated refurbishment, has lacked a third member for over seven months.

Mehra was herself a replacement for the panel’s original third member, Nabeel hamdi, who resigned without explanation in December 2019.

Bereaved and survivors group Grenfell United had expressed concern that the panel’s two other members, retired judge Martin Moore-Bick and architect Thouria 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.”

On twitter, the group tweeted: “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.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan welcomed the appointment, saying Akbor will be a “valuable asset to the work of the Inquiry.” However, he said: “Questions must be asked as to why it took the Prime Minister 263 days to make this appointment after the resignation of Benita Mehra. It has now been more than three years since the horrific Grenfell Tower fire and this Inquiry is far too important to become a political afterthought.”