NEWS

Grenfell Tower Meeting Sees Scathing Attack Directed At Kensington And Chelsea Council

'When are you going to up your game?'

23/08/2017 23:48 | Updated 24 August 2017

The council meant to be in charge of dealing with the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire was called a “disgrace” and told to come to meetings prepared with answers during another heated Grenfell Response Team meeting on Wednesday night.

Questions were raised about the availability of key services such as housing and mental health support - 10 weeks after the devastating blaze, which killed at least 80 people.

In a passionate speech, local resident Cathy Cross said that Kensington and Chelsea, unlike other local authorities, is “very rich” and that it was time the council “upped their game”.

Representatives from Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council were on the panel during the sixth, and believed to be last, Grenfell Response Team meeting.

“When is this council going to actually house people. When is this council going to get kids out of hotels. When is this council going to take care of people’s mental health?

“When is this council going to stop treating people with utter contempt, coming to these meetings and not having answers to questions, having senior managers who have to go across there and ask someone called Jim ‘where are our services?’ It is a disgrace.

“When are you going to up your game?

“When are you going to realise that when people have died that should be the worst thing you can do to your local citizens.

“The worst thing you can do to them should be murdering them. It should not be that 11 weeks on you cannot even provide survivors or the families of the dead with basic services. When are you going to up your game?”

Cross’s comments came after a woman who was suffering from PTSD asked the panel where the support services were for those needing help with their mental health. 

“They (the council) do not understand. We are struggling, help us,” the woman pleaded with the panel.

Robyn Doran, chief operating officer for Central and North West London Trust, said that there were pop up clinics being provided for the local area every day.

But when there were shouts of “where”, the NHS boss was unable to name the locations and had to call for help from a member of her team.

There were calls for more services to go to survivors living in hotels.

Many raised questions about the number of survivors still waiting for permanent housing.

According to the latest Grenfell Response Team newsletter, so far 177 offers of accommodation have been made, 58 offers have been accepted and 23 households rehoused. 

A Grenfell Tower survivor, who lived on the 16th floor and who only gave his first name as Hamid, told the panel that he was still living in a hotel and just wanted to return to his normal life.

He told the panel that he needed to be rehoused as soon as possible.

Council chief executive, Barry Quirk, said that he was looking to treble the council’s housing stock set aside for Grenfell survivors, which currently stands at 105 properties.

Another woman who had family members living in the tower said that housing is a “priority” and urged more mental health support to be given to her grandson who is still traumatised from the fire. 

As an increaing number of people demanded answers to key questions, Quirk said: “On the one hand you can’t ask for crystal clear plans that you can respond to and then on the other say actually you want to be involved in building it.”

PA Wire/PA Images
Ten weeks on from the fire and scores of survivors are still waiting for housing.

At times Elizabeth Campbell, leader of the council, and Quirk looked flummoxed at some of the questions put to them.

At one point, Lancaster West Estate resident Joe Delaney queried when the decision was made to remove the Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) from overseeing the estate where Grenfell sits.

Delaney asked when the decision was made to remove TMO from managing the North Kensington estate. 

Quirk said that the decision was made earlier this week, yet Delaney said he had been informed by TMO on June 22 that they had been removed from managing Lancaster West Estate.

To looks of confusion, Delaney said: “This goes back to an issue that quite a few people have raised here tonight, where it seems that your left hand doesn’t seem to know what your right hand is doing and then your right hand goes and issues a press release.”

Quirk agreed that Delaney’s point was an “important one” and that both hands need to know what the other is doing.

Campbell faced renewed calls for her to step down as leader of the council, to which she responded: “I’m stepping up because I want to do everything I can.. to make things better.”

Overall, Wednesday’s meeting, which was held at Al Manaar, the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, was calmer than previous meetings.

Pepe Francis, one of the organisers of the Notting Hill Carnival, was sat on the panel and gave further details of the plans to commemorate Grenfell victims at this year’s event.

He said that at 10am on Sunday, 40 doves will be released to honour those who died in the fire.

On Monday at 3pm there will be a minute’s silence, which will see all music stopped. Francis called the silence the “carnival’s contribution to victims of Grenfell fire”.

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