London mayor Sadiq Khan (Lab) has criticised Kensington & Chelsea RBC and the government after meeting with victims of the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, while other London boroughs have been drafted in to help with the response.
Mr Khan said the community was “angry” but Kensington & Chelsea’s leader Nicholas Paget-Brown (Con) has defended the local authority’s response.
Speaking after a service for the victims on Sunday Mr Khan said: “They are angry at not just the poor response in the days afterwards from the council and the government but the years of neglect from the council and successive governments.
“There is a feeling from the community that they have been treated badly because they are poor and some of them are asylum seekers and refugees.
“There’s a feeling the council and successive governments thoroughly don’t care.”
At least 79 people are believed to have died or are missing and presumed dead after a fire tore through Grenfell Tower in the early hours of Wednesday.
Mr Khan, who has written to prime minister Theresa May, said it was a “preventable accident that didn’t need to happen”. He added: “The tragedy we have seen is a consequence of mistakes and neglect from politicians from the council and the government.”
There was a protest at Kensington town hall on Friday evening which caused damage to the building, the council said. It has, however, been reopened today after staff were made to work from remote locations on Saturday.
There have been criticims council staff have not been visible to the community on the ground.
Speaking to the BBC, Cllr Paget-Brown (Con) said: “The last thing after a tragedy of this enormity is to wonder wheter we have got the right high-vis jackets.”
He said three emergency centres for victims were set up in the early hours of Wednesday morning and added: “What people do need to know is Kensington & Chelsea officials have been working around the clock since Wednesday… I am sure there are challenges and we will look at all of that that but to say the local authority is not present and we are not working together with other councils is inaccurate.”
When a major incident happens in London, boroughs can invoke an established resilience response mechanism bringing in help from other areas in the capital. Kensington & Chelsea invoked this on Friday afternoon.
A Grenfell fire response team made up of representatives from London-wide local and regional government, central government, British Red Cross, Metropolitan Police and London Fire Brigade has now been set up.
Speaking on behalf of that team Eleanor Kelly, chief executive of Southwark LBC, said: “We want to make clear that whilst the emergency and local community response was nothing short of heroic, we know that the initial response was simply not good enough on the ground. People are angry, and rightfully so.
”Our focus is now ensuring those affected are being cared for and looked after.”
Finding homes for victims is one the main priorities, said Ms Kelly. “The latest information we have is that 201 households have received emergency accommodation to date, of which 113 are homeless,” she said.
While there is “nothing we can say that will blunt the feeling of loss and anger” Ms Kelly hoped the new team will “start to get those affected by this tragedy the urgent assistance from the authorities they need”.
How the pan-London local authority gold team is working:
Chief executives and senior officers from the City of London Corporation, Bromley, Ealing, Harrow, Hounslow, and Southwark LBCs and Westminster City Council have stepped into leadership roles to assist Kensington & Chelsea’s response to the Grenfell Tower fire disaster.
These officials are being supported by senior officers from every London borough and continue to work closely with Kensington & Chelsea officers.
Chief executives and key officers from a range of other boroughs will be taking on further leadership roles in the coming days.