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Scrutiny chair: national government 'failed' in its Grenfell response

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Residents of the Lancaster West Estate are currently living on an emotional “knife-edge” caused by national government’s failures, the chair of the Grenfell scrutiny committee at Kensington & Chelsea RBC has said.

Speaking with LGC ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Grenfell Fire, Robert Thompson (Lab), who works as a priest at St Clement’s Church on the estate, said raw emotions have also resurfaced due to the impact of the ongoing inquiry.

“People are listening to an awful lot of what’s being said in the inquiry and their trauma is being reignited. People can remember what they heard, what they saw, what they smelled that night. That means that a lot of people are very tense and a lot of people are emotionally on a knife edge at the moment,” he said.

Cllr Thompson said it is “very hard” to calculate the cumulative psychological  impact of the tower on local residents, especially on the hundreds of children attending the local schools.

Cllr Thompson, who represents the neighbouring Dalgarno ward on Kensington & Chelsea, warned a sense of public anger, which has been “quite expressive over the past year”, is currently heightened.

“Here we are one year on after the government promised everyone would be re-housed and that is simply not the case. It is also the case that nobody has been brought to justice for what’s happened,” he said.

Cllr Thompson said the council had responded to events “in a fairly good way” while the national government had “continued to fail” in its response.

“This was a tragedy of such national proportions that it required a national response and the government’s failure to put the council into special measures [in the immediate aftermath of the blaze] was a failure to take control centrally. It highlights the ways in which national government failed the community in the wake of Grenfell,” he said.

Cllr Thompson said the responsibility for rehousing survivors should ultimately lie with the government and not the council.

“The council was expected to find the properties in North Kensington and they’ve found 307 in eight months. It has responded in a fairly good way but that is always seen as a failure because the national government over-promised at the start,” he said.

Prime Minister Theresa May wrote in an op-ed for the London Standard on Monday how the initial response to the fire “was not good enough” and added: “I include myself in that.” She also said she “will always regret” not meeting the survivors in the immediate aftermath.

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