Kensington and Chelsea council’s response to the murder in Grenfell Tower has been to avoid questions and evade responsibility.
Council leader Nick Paget-Brown said last Thursday, “I’m not the person to give you a straight answer whether sprinkler systems alone, retro-fitted into high rise buildings, would be the solution.”
For local people the lack of a straight answer, or solutions, is nothing new. The council has a history of treating ordinary people with contempt.
In a separate interview Paget-Brown even blamed tenants and residents for the lack of sprinklers. “There was not a collective view that all the flats should be fitted with sprinklers because that would have delayed and made the refurbishment of the block more disruptive,” he said.
Councillors are more interested in helping themselves than ordinary people.
The council leased out North Kensington public library for 25 years in 2015 to the private Notting Hill Prep School.
Pupils on its waiting list included the two children of the borough’s lead councillor for housing and deputy council leader, Rock Feilding-Mellen.
Feilding-Mellen is also spearheading a drive to push working class people out of the borough. The council’s sanitised term for this is the “decant policy”.
It refuses to guarantee that people moved due to redevelopments will have the right to be rehoused in them on the same or similar tenancy. “There may be some circumstances where this will not be possible,” says the policy.
Theresa May reinforced this last Wednesday. She said Grenfell survivors would be “rehoused in London and as close as possible to home”.
That means grieving survivors could be separated and scattered across London—while nearby luxury apartment blocks stand empty.
The council has made Grenfell Tower residents less safe.
A new academy school and leisure centre have been built on its north and west sides. The sites they were built on included a car park where ambulances would park during the annual Notting Hill Carnival.
Last Wednesday fire engines and emergency vehicles should have been there. Instead they were streets away.
The Grenfell Action Group (GAG) was set up to oppose the building plans. They were pushed through anyway. That decision could mean lives were lost unnecessarily.
In July 2013 GAG member Francis O’Connor was instructed by a solicitor to take the group’s blog down. It said she had posted blogs that had “in general been critical of everything that takes place” on the Lancaster West estate where Grenfell Tower stands.
GAG was banned from communicating with councillors. Access to the group’s blog was reportedly even blocked on the council’s internet.
The group refused to take the blog down. They have been brutally vindicated in their criticism of the council.