Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Last night I attended a packed meeting of Lakanal residents in the Sceaux Gardens Tenants Hall, organised by the local T&RA in response to the council's apparent refusal to hold one on the night!
The Meeting was packed and an overspill meeting was heard in the Town Hall with Council Officers apparently "surprised" at the numbers that turned up?
Harriet Harman MP and Val Shawcross AM attended, along with Labour Group Leader Peter John, Ian, Alison and Sandra Brunswick Ward Councillors and me as Community Safety Spokesperson (Ian also has Housing Brief in Labour Group).
I was disappointed not to see any Executive Members at the meeting but have since been informed that the Leader and Deputy Leader took advice from the tenants reps who were apparently keen for the meeting not to be politician focussed which I of course understand. Perhaps it was a misunderstanding as I think that it would have been good for them to have attended and observed as we did and show a degree of solidarity with the tenants but I cant criticise them for taking and following the reps advice! None of the politicians present made any comments on the night which was exactly the right thing to do but I think that our presence was appreciated!
The people at the meeting were clearly very distressed and many of them seriously traumatised so it was never going to be an easy meeting to manage but over the three hours there were a lot of traumatic evidence given and many good questions asked which I am sure will greatly assist the Inquiry.
Whilst a number of detailed questions were asked of the Fire Brigade and Police response to the incident the overwhelming view was one of thanks for their efforts and for rescuing a significant number of people from the building who would have otherwise died!
Many questions were also raised over Council Policy of high rise blocks, their evacuation, the Decent Homes works carried out in recent years and previous plans to demolish the block.
In such early stages it would be wrong for me to express any views on any of these matters as it will take a lot more investigating before many of these questions can be satisfactorily answered!
I was concerned at some of the comments about the Council's response and am very keen to follow up issues over lack of money for food and clothing, no proper meals in Emergency Shelters, sending people to alternative homes with just an address and then some finding filthy unfurnished properties, lack of one to one advice and lack of counselling to name but a few of the apparent Emergency Response shortcomings and I think we need answers and the Council need to learn from the mistakes! We will be keeping a very close eye on this to monitor how the Lakanal residents are treated in the short and long term and to date the verdict is very mixed althought I think that there was overall agreement that the Council and the Emergency Services were committed to doing the right thing !!
The Labour Group will be putting down an Emergency Motion tomorrow evening at Council Assembly simply expressing our horror and grief at the tragic event and promising to do everything we can to find out what caused it and what we can learn from it and to ensure that it never happens again. Rumours are the Lib Dems are trying to stop us doing it and putting pressure on the Tories to vote it down!! Cant imagine what they are thinking about?
Posted by John Joseph Friary at 2:24 pm