Martin Ford 30 May 2018

Council response to Grenfell tragedy was 'weak' - report

Damage caused by Kensington and Chelsea RLBC's ‘weak’ response in the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire will be ‘difficult to repair,’ a report has suggested.

Voluntary organisations and residents were left to fill the void left by Kensington and Chelsea RLBC for weeks after the disaster, which claimed the lives of 72 people on 14 June.

The findings are contained in a report commissioned by the charity Muslim Aid.

In a damning summary of the council’s response, the report read: ‘The consequences of the disaster were compounded by the weak leadership of the response initially led by the local council, which was slow to provide direction, coordination and information and to address multiple pressing needs.’

It added: ‘Particularly in the first few weeks, this void was filled mainly by the community itself, supported by an array of local organisations and businesses, as well as individual volunteers and representatives from external organisations.’

The report continued: ‘The institutional response to the disaster was badly flawed in the first crucial days and the damage that resulted has been difficult to repair.

‘While the authorities are much more in control than they were at the beginning of the crisis, trust between a broad swathe of people who lived in and around the Lancaster West Estate and the local government has been badly damaged.’

Muslim Aid CEO, Jehangir Malik, called on other authorities to learn from the experience.

He said: ‘I would have expected this chaos in a developing country because almost always there is poor infrastructure.

'I honestly thought we had better disaster preparedness and response systems here in the UK.

‘We are now asking for lessons to be learned and for greater coordination of the voluntary organisations with local authorities, including as part of national emergency response structures.’

A council spokesman welcomed the report, but declined to respond directly to the findings.

He said: ‘It is not right for the council to comment in detail at this stage – this is a matter for the public inquiry which is reviewing the events around the council’s response to the tragedy.

‘It is our responsibility to ensure that the whole, unvarnished truth is told so that lessons can be learned and to ensure that such a tragedy can never happen again.

‘We will work with the inquiry to ensure this happens.’

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