The Leader of the Council, Councillor Nick Paget-Brown was kind and gracious enough to come to Lancaster West in September and meet with representatives of the Genfell Action Group, the Grenfell Tower Leaseholders Association and the Lancaster West Residents Association. He wrote to us on 3rd October briefly setting out his recollection and understanding of the issues raised. This was indeed welcome and appears to have been a clear indication of Councillor Paget-Brown’s genuine and ongoing interest in the problems besetting this community. Paget-Brown letter
Unfortunately, some of the points in his letter were, in our view, somewhat inaccurate, and seemed to betray a failure on his part to fully understand the issues we had brought to his attention, or at least to fully grasp our perspective and our particular concerns
In his letter he queried, for example, whether and why there is a perception among social tenants that the Council might be trying to get rid of them, when it was already explained clearly to him, during the meeting, that an important source of such perceptions is the decision already made by the Council to withold from the new Regeneration Decant Policy the ‘guarantee’, previously included in the Core Strategy, that tenants decanted during regeneration would subsequently be allowed to return to their original neighbourhoods. Needless to say this is a matter of great concern to social tenant groups boroughwide.
He asked if there might be a way for Lancaster West residents to control their domestic heating. This was, of course, the wrong question to ask. It is no secret in this community that the real issue is the urgent need to replace the obsolete, dysfunctional and grossly energy inefficient district heating system – not just in Grenfell Tower but throughout the entire estate. The question for councillor Paget-Brown to address, therefore, is whether the will exists in Council and TMO circles to locate and commit the substantial funding needed for these works.
He asked what caused the the Grenfell Tower power surges and why residents have not claimed against their own insurance. Once again we must express concern that he has not properly understood that most residents have no such insurance, because they cannot afford to pay for it. More importantly, we believe very strongly that the TMO was negligent in this matter, which they deny, and it is therefore their responsibility to compensate residents for the loss of electrical appliances as a result of that negligence. The Council and the TMO (and their insurers) have already refused such compensation based on the TMO’s contrived, and in our view disingenuous, denial of negligence.
We are therefore appealing directly to the Leader to fully understand the power surge victims’ predicament and to investigate if compensation can be paid from the £250,0000 that we have been told the Council keeps in reserve to meet such emergencies. Grenfell Tower power surge victims would greatly appreciate the Leader’s direct involvement in helping us to resolve this painful issue which has further damaged the already fraught relationship between local residents and the TMO – and by extension with the Council itself.
We are also very concerned that the health and safety aspect of the power surge crisis, and the very real fire risk faced by residents, has been covered up by the TMO, and we will be continuing to raise this issue with Cllr Marshall at the Scrutiny Committee.
Finally, Councillor Paget-Brown pondered whether the EMB ‘is any good’, and whether sufficient numbers of residents will volunteer to serve on it to make it work. The short answer to this question is, of course, that currently the EMB is indeed useless, but the real issue, which NPB needs to understand and address, is the constant disempowerment, undermining and marginalisation of the EMB, over many years, by both RBKC and TMO that is the root cause of its decline. The question therefore is – will Councillor Paget-Brown use his powers as Leader to reverse this undeclared policy of repression, and instead ensure that in future the EMB, and the Lancaster West Management Association which elects it, can count on the full and genuine support of the Council and the TMO, without which it can never function effectively?
It would be impossible for us to judge at this point whether Councillor Paget-Brown’s words are evidence that he missed the point on several important issues. We seriously doubt this, and suspect that it is far more likely that his responses were carefully crafted to avoid making promises that might prove to be politically unpalatable, or beyond his power to deliver. As already stated, he gave the impression that he was listening and that he was genuinely concerned about the issues at Lancaster West. We can only hope that he will therefore fully investigate these matters to ensure that he fully understands the issues. We should wait, therefore, to see what he will do.
He certainly knows how to talk the talk.
Let’s just wait and see now whether he can walk the walk also.
We are expecting to meet with Councillor Paget-Brown again shortly when he will be hosting us at his house. We can hardly wait. Meanwhile our readers might like to check out a recent post on the Hornet’s Nest blog that considers the possibility of a brighter future under NPB’s leadership.