Councillors finally hold meeting about disaster – in private
GRENFELL TOWER fire survivors were left reeling yesterday after senior councillors shut them out of their first meeting on the disaster over fears they would cause “disruption.”
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) said last night’s cabinet meeting would be held in private.
The meeting was chaired by council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown, who faces calls for his resignation over the fire that killed and displaced hundreds of residents two weeks ago, which was exacerbated by flammable cladding and shockingly poor safety compliance.
Councillors joined by support officers and “invited guests (if any)” will be convening to discuss the fire, according to a notice on RBKC’s website.
The notice said: “Please note this meeting will be held entirely in private session, pursuant to Standing Order 31.01, in the light of the risk of disruption (as witnessed on Friday June 16) and consequent security and public safety concerns.
“As such it will be open only to council members, support officers and invited guests (if any).
“The public minutes of this meeting will be published, in due course, on the council website.” It is unclear whether any survivors have been invited to the meeting as “guests.”
The RBKC notice explained Standing Order 31.01 as giving chair Mr Paget-Brown the right under common law and statute to exclude the public “if he or she is of the opinion that there shall be a disruption to the business.”
Following the fire, hundreds of people held a protest demanding answers from the council at Kensington Town Hall at which a handful of people managed to enter the building before being forced to leave.
The protest ended with a rally at the site of the burned-out tower block.
Journalists’ union NUJ acting general secretary Seamus Dooley said: “We are deeply disturbed at the news that the Kensington and Chelsea council cabinet meeting will be held in private. The ban on media attendance should be lifted immediately [as] the horrific fire is a matter of grave public interest. The public have a right to know if public policy failures contributed to this disaster.
“There is no justification for behind-closed-doors discussions. This can only contribute to further alienation of residents who feel their voice has not been listened to.”
RBKC has come under intense criticism for its response to the crisis, with many Grenfell Tower residents being ignored by the councillors and left to fend for themselves.
And the residents’ Grenfell Action Group had raised many concerns over fire safety in the building with RBKC and councillors over the years but were ignored, while one resident was even threatened with legal action and accused of harassment.
RBKC chief executive Nicholas Holgate quit last week, allegedly under pressure from Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan demands the resignation of the entire council leadership.