A KENSINGTON and Chelsea council meeting on Thursday evening erupted into anger as Tory council leader Nick Paget-Brown shut the meeting down five minutes before it was due to begin.
He stated: ‘I am told that the press are here as a result of a legal intervention and that therefore means that we cannot have a discussion as we were intending to have because that would prejudice the public inquiry.’
Earlier in the day, the council announced that the cabinet meeting would be held behind closed doors. The reason for this, they claimed, was because of a ‘risk of violence to councillors and staff’.
However, a High Court order was obtained to give the media the right to attend. Reporters were let in to the meeting and as soon as the Tory council leader Paget-Brown was made aware of this he promptly took the extraordinary step of shutting the meeting down sparking calls for his resignation and anger from the local residents who were there.
When Labour councillor Robert Atkinson said to Paget-Brown: ‘You keep telling us you’re taking advice. You are taking the wrong advice,’ an angry local resident shouted: ‘Why don’t you all come to the ward and help people? Why don’t you come down and talk to people on the ground who have experienced this, like me and my family?’
The Tory government yesterday attempted to distance itself from the incident with Downing Street stating: ‘The High Court ruled that the meeting should be open and we would have expected the council to respect that.’
Meanwhile, the cladding on Grenfell Tower, which has been linked to the rapid spread of the fire, was a cheaper alternative. A document which has just come to light has revealed that the contractors working for Kensington and Chelsea council were asked in 2014 to replace zinc cladding with a cheaper but more flammable aluminium version.
One document – a list of requested savings sent to contractors in July 2014 – details potential savings of £693,161, reducing the cost of the contract from about £9.2m to £8.5m. It includes £293,368 that would be saved by fitting ‘aluminium cladding in lieu of zinc cladding’.
The Grenfell fire claimed the lives of over 80 men, women and children. Families of the victims and survivors of the fire are furious that the inquiry into the tragedy will be limited. Retired judge Martin Moore-Bick, heading the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire, has warned: ‘It may not be widespread enough to satisfy all survivors.’
Moore-Bick suggested the focus of his investigation would likely be limited to what caused the blaze, why it spread and how it could be prevented in future. Amanda Fernandez, who lost her 12-year-old cousin in the fire, said she did not have confidence in the investigation. She said: ‘We now have a complete lack of confidence in the inquiry’s ability to address the history of negligence that led to the fire, nor the authority’s failures in the aftermath of the fire.’
There have also been well founded accusations that the retired judge Martin Moore-Bick is not fit to be in charge of the investigation. The 70-year-old’s appointment is extremely controversial after it emerged he once ruled in favour of Westminster Council rehousing a homeless mother-of-five 50 miles away in Milton Keynes.