Government is to support victims in Grenfell aftermath  

23 June 2017

Hattie Williams

Tomb: the remains of Grenfell Tower, west London, where many victims are still to be recovered

Tomb: the remains of Grenfell Tower, west London, where many victims are still to be recovered

THE Government has pledged to conduct a full public inquiry into the fire at Grenfell Tower, in west London, to “ensure that the appro­pr­iate lessons are learnt” from the disaster.

The Queen’s Speech, on Wednes­day, also proposed to introduce an “independent public advocate” for the victims, “who will act for be­­reaved families after a public dis­aster and support them at public inquests”.

The Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, later announced that survivors of the fire would be permanently rehoused in a new housing develop­ment, Kensington Row, two miles away from Grenfell Tower. The Government had acquired 68 one- and two-bedroom “newly-built social housing” flats in the complex, in which prices for private homes start at £1.5 million. Extra public money had been found to fit out the apartments, due to be completed in July, more quickly.

At least 79 people are still miss­ing, presumed dead, one week after a fire ripped through the 24-storey residential block, trapping dozens of residents inside, and all but destroy­ing the building. The figure may still rise, Commander Stuart Cundy, of the Metropolitan Police, warned.

Tributes from faith leaders, polit­icians, and the public have con­tinued to pour in after hundreds of firefighters worked day and night to stifle the blaze from the early hours of Wednesday of last week.

The Archbishop of Canterbury told the House of Lords on Thursday that the “inadequate” state response to the fire had been “a failure of values” compared to the “remarkable” response of the emergency services and local community.

He said: “The support from the state has been inadequate in its response to those urgently and desperately in need. Such failure is ultimately a failure of values. The worshippers at the Finsbury Park mosque, which I visited the night before last, remind us that freedom to worship without fear is a value we cherish as a nation, which was won at great human cost over many years.”

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The Archbishop later requested that no further budget cuts were made to the emergency services. “The number of emergency service people, who for the third time in a very few weeks put their lives on the line and found themselves in a situation of the most absolute horror, seeking to save the victims who were caught in the fire as well as in the previous terrorist incidents, is much higher than would normally be expected.”

The Queen and Prince William visited some of the survivors, at Westway Sports and Fitness Centre, last Friday, as well as local residents, members of the emergency services, and community representatives. The Queen paid tribute to the “bravery” of firefighters and emer­gency services. “It is also heartening to see the incredible generosity of community volunteers rallying to help those affected by this terrible event,” she said.

Clerics were quick to provide comfort to the community, as well as to the emergency services, and those given the task of recovering the dead from the building.

St Clement’s, Notting Dale, was at the front line of the response (News, 16 June). The Vicar, the Revd Dr Alan Everett, said that the church had provided breakfast for the emerg­ency services, as well as those shelter­ing in the church.

Speaking from the pulpit of St Clement’s, on Sunday, the Hon. Assistant Curate, the Revd Robert Thompson, said: “We have also become in­­creasingly aware of how what has occurred is, to a very great extent, the result of the lack of any mean­ingful communication or connec­tion between governments and politi­cians, both locally and nationally, and the residents of this area. The people on the lowest incomes of this parish, the poorest people of this area, simply do not feel listened to, either this week or in previous years, by those in power.”

The Prime Minister first an­­nounced a public inquiry on Thurs­day of last week. But the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said last Friday that, while he welcomed the announcement, “we need answers now, and that’s why I’m calling on the judge who conducts the inquiry to make sure there’s an interim response this summer.”

He was heckled by angry resi­dents during a live television broad­cast. “Understandably, resi­dents are very angry and concerned, and have genuine questions that demand answers,” he said.

It is thought that the cladding, added to the block last year as part of its £9.7-million re­­development, quickened the spread of the fire, despite reportedly meeting fire-safety regulations.

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