NEWS

Grenfell Tower Fire Council Leadership Must All Quit, Petition Demands

'These failings have served to corrode the public's trust in the council as a competent public authority.'

19/07/2017 09:02
Dan Kitwood via Getty Images
A petition is demanding the resignation of the entire elected leadership of the Kensington and Chelsea Council following the Grenfell Tower fire

A petition demanding the resignation of the entire elected leadership of the council at the heart of the Grenfell Tower disaster will be debated at its meeting later.

More than 1,500 people have signed the petition to Kensington and Chelsea Council, passing the threshold for a debate by councillors.

The full council meeting will also see the formal election of its new leader after the local Conservative group nominated Elizabeth Campbell earlier this month, while the new chief executive will be appointed.

Campbell, just days into the job, sparked outrage after admitting she had never been inside a tower block.

Victims and survivors groups have voiced their anger at the authority’s actions in the lead up, and in response, to the devastating fire at the 24-storey block that left at least 80 people dead.

HuffPost UK reported on Tuesday that fears were mounting that the meeting could be abandoned because of protests aimed at unseating the council and forcing a snap election

A peaceful protest is planned by the Justice 4 Grenfell group but social media is awash with calls for anarchists to storm the civic centre.  

Labour group leader, Robert Atkinson, believes protests could derail the meeting completely and, with Parliament set to go into recess the next day, leave the authority “headless” for the summer. 

A public meeting on Tuesday night descended into shouting as residents’ frustration boiled over, with several outbursts about the delay in rehousing survivors.

PA Wire/PA Images
Elizabeth Campbell is to be formally elected the new leader of the 
council at a meeting on Wednesday evening

Just 32 of 169 offers of temporary accommodation had been accepted as of Tuesday morning.

The petition to be debated by the council said: “The cabinet’s decisions across a series of departments have culminated in the horrifying and completely avoidable loss of life in the catastrophic fire at Grenfell Tower on the 14th of June 2017.

“Given the council’s failure to respond to the litany of safety and fire concerns raised by Grenfell Tower residents, we have no confidence in this council’s ability to manage or build public buildings and therefore demand the immediate cessation of all regeneration projects, particularly the construction of new buildings, but including the demolition, or ‘improvement’ of current buildings stock – projects of the kind that the current cabinet have shown themselves grossly incapable of managing.”

In a response, interim chief executive Dr Barry Quirk, the head of Lewisham Council, said the council’s response to what he called “the most disastrous incident in the UK since the Second World War” was inadequate.

“This is deeply regrettable and the council needs to provide an apology to those whom it has corporately let down.

PA Wire/PA Images
Dr Barry Quirk, centre, pictured with Dr Deborah Turbitt of Public Health England and Campbell

“These failings have served to corrode the public’s trust in the council as a competent public authority.

“Trust cannot be commanded, it can only be earned. And the council needs to acknowledge that it needs to deliver quality, reliable, consistent and credible responses if it is to begin to earn public trust.”

Of the call for the cabinet to resign, Quirk’s response said Campbell had selected a new leadership team, which would need to be approved by the full council.

Several motions proposed by councillors in response to the Grenfell tragedy last month will also be discussed, including a call to urge the Government to grant undocumented residents a permanent right to remain in the UK.

The motion, proposed by Councillor Robert Thompson, said the council “laments” that the Home Office have requested undocumented people to register with it and be subject to immigration rules after a year.

Other motions include calls for the council to use some of its £250 million reserves to free up more housing for survivors and an education fund to support young people affected by the disaster.

The meeting will take place at Kensington Town Hall from 6.30pm.

More inquests of victims are expected to open on Wednesday, after the coroner said on Monday the number of those formally identified had risen from 34 to 37.

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