NEWS

Kensington And Chelsea Councillor Kim Taylor-Smith Forced To Apologise After Bereaved Father Walks Out Of Grenfell Meeting

The deputy leader rejected calls to resign.

27/07/2017 00:46 | Updated 27 July 2017

The deputy leader of Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council was forced to apologise at a Grenfell meeting on Wednesday after a bereaved father walked out of the room during a discussion about rehousing.

Kim Taylor-Smith was talking about the “pressure” he was facing rehoming survivors of the tragedy when he told Ramiro Urbano, who lost his 12-year-old daughter Jessica in the blaze, that the local authority will “go at your speed” in allocating new houses.

So far, 169 offers of accommodation have been made to survivors of the fire, with 44 offers being accepted and 11 households rehoused.

Kathryn Snowdon
Kim Taylor-Smith was forced to apologise after bereaved father Ramiro Urbano walked out of a Grenfell Response Meeting.

After Urbano left the meeting at Notting Hill Methodist Church, Taylor-Smith was asked “please don’t speak to him like that”, with some claiming the Tory councillor was being “condescending”.

One volunteer told Taylor-Smith: “You’ve just spoken to that gentleman who lost his child. You look like you’re fed up. Can you imagine how everyone else is feeling?”

Earlier in the meeting, Taylor-Smith told residents: “I’ve heard many people asking me to resign and I had extensive press interviews, which is not something I enjoyed the next day [after the full council meeting] being asked that same question; resign, resign, resign.

“I’m not going to resign because somebody needs to step up and somebody needs to take on this job. And if I don’t deliver on this promise then there’s an election coming in May and you can vote me out.”

He told hecklers they can “shout as much as” they like, adding: “Shouting is not going to help.”

But he admitted that residents had been “let down” by the council. 

Elizabeth Campbell, leader of the council, apologised for the “shameful” way residents were treated then.  

At the fourth meeting of the Grenfell Response Team, which was much calmer than previous gatherings, it was announced that scaffolding will start to go up in the next two or three weeks. 

Michael Lockwood, of the Grenfell Response Team, said it will take a minimum of 12 weeks to cover the building, but assured residents that the structure was “safe and stable”.

Lockwood added that the criminal investigation will conclude in January.

During the meeting, a volunteer, Bhupinder Singh, revealed there had been 20 suicide attempts since the fire, with one successful attempt this week.

Singh, who volunteers to provide hot meals to local people every night, told Campbell: “What I have seen in the last six weeks - first I was embarrassed, then I was ashamed, now I’m disgusted.

“There is a level of incompetence that I’ve seen in this council.”

Singh added: “We had a successful suicide... and you’ve still not come down.

“You are so out of touch I’m embarrassed.” 

A man who introduced himself only as Stephen said he lives about 70 yards from Grenfell Tower in Verity Close. He said that those on his street “have been the silent victims of the fire”.

“I’ve had enough. Public Health England, I really don’t believe your statistics.

“Because every day I use my asthma pump more and more. When I look at my window ledge, it is black with dust from Grenfell Tower.

“I am 70 yards away from the tower. I do not believe your statistics. My chest is wheezing and I have been woken up in the night by disturbances.

“It’s anti-social. I’m telling police officers off at 3am to stop kicking an empty coke can around. I had one police officer laughing at 3am like a hyena. I’ve had enough. I’ve seriously had enough. I want out of Verity Close.”

He added: 

“Of course the tenants of Grenfell Tower should be looked after. Of course, but you are forgetting the areas around. Verity Close, Silchester Road, we are suffering big time and I’ve had enough. I need some respite. I’m at breaking point.”

A representative from the Metropolitan Police said that some officers, who are working round-the-clock “try to let off steam, which is inappropriate when you’re trying to sleep”.

Yvonne Doyle, from Public Health England, said the air quality around the burnt-out high-rise tower is being monitored, yet many residents said they had been suffering from breathing difficulties in the wake of the fire.

One woman said that people she knows are having pains in their chests and nose bleeds as a result of the fire. Many others in the room shouted out in agreement with her comments.

A volunteer asked the panel to do more for the families of the deceased who live outside the area and are not part of the community, who she described as “completely isolated” and lacking support. 

Rachel Turner-Wright, director of commissioning for children’s services at the council, tried to assure residents that more would be done for survivors and those affected by the issues raised.

Questions were again raised regarding the true number of deceased, with bereaved father Urbano telling the panel: “To us, to the people who lived in the tower, the figures do not add up.”

At least 80 people have died in the fire, but residents believe the true death toll is much higher.

Another man, who said he lost six members of his family in the fire, said the community does not “trust” those on the council.

When asked about existing regeneration projections, Campbell assured residents that they had all be stalled. “We have no plans to go ahead with regeneration schemes that exist,” she said.

Chris Imafidon said it is traumatic just to have to walk past the shell of the 24-storey tower every day.

“Each time you walk around this place we see an edifice that reminds me of what happened on June 14.

“Do you think that the collective mental health of everyone in this area is exactly the same?”

Empics Entertainment
It will take at least 12 weeks to cover the burnt-out shell of Grenfell Tower, residents told.

Some shouted out “too long” when they were told it would take at least 12 weeks to cover up the building.

After concerns were raised at the meeting about rogue lawyers targeting survivors, police said they were aware that there were people who were “trying to take advantage”.

Suggest a correction
Comments

CONVERSATIONS