Grenfell fire: council leader slammed as a ‘disgrace’ at heated public meeting

"You should be ashamed of yourself!" the leader of Kensington and Chelsea counil was told last night by survivors of the Grenfell fire.

Elizabeth Campbell, the new leader of Kensington and Chelsea, was told “you have no understanding or respect for people in this tower… you’re a disgrace” by survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire at a meeting last night.

Tensions rose at the packed meeting chaired by the official fire response team as residents slammed their “inadequate” relief effort.

Representatives from the Council, police, fire service and Public Health England, who make up the government’s “Gold command” response to the fire, were repeatedly heckled as they responded to a barrage of criticism.

The rehousing of survivors of the fire was most pressing point raised, and the one the government and council have failed on most woefully, as one speaker pointed out:

“All of these people here today are saying: we’re not getting help, these people are still living in hotel rooms two months on.”

Only 14 out of 158 affected families of Grenfell have been permanently rehoused so far, the vast majority of survivors are still living in hotel rooms around the borough.

One survivor of the fire pointed out that Theresa May promised in June that all of the families would be rehoused within three weeks.

The calls for faster rehousing come after it was revealed 159 social housing flats stand empty within the same borough as Grenfell Tower.

One former resident of the tower called the housing situation “terrible”, adding:

“You need to understand survivors don’t want temporary accommodation. Because after a year we don’t know what will happen to us.”

The authority ultimately responsible for the refurbishment and cladding of Grenfell in 2016, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), were notable for their absence from the meeting.

The former head of the TMO resigned at the end of July amid criticism that the body had not listened to fire safety concerns in the run up to the disaster.

The new head of the TMO, Elaine Elkington, angered residents when she failed mention the disaster in her first public statement at the beginning of August.

Despite being the key public-facing body that ran Grenfell day-to-day, the TMO have not attended a single public meeting in the aftermath of the fire, residents told us.

Last night’s meeting repeatedly pushed Elizabeth Campbell to ensure the TMO attended the next meeting; the leader of the council would not make the promise, instead saying she’d promise to ‘ask them to come’.

One speaker summed up this lack of accountability:

“If you’re going to come to this meeting, Elizabeth, come with a strategy, come with answers, do not fob us off”

The meeting was evidently so angry because of being ‘fobbed off’. And if simple promises about housing can’t be kept and the authority with the most questions to answer doesn’t even attend, the anger is all too understandable.

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