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21 July 2017
Grenfell survivors tell Tories: "Step down and resign"
Bob Sulatycki, West London Socialist Party
Hundreds of local residents, together with supporters and campaigners, lobbied the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBK&C) council meeting on 19 July at which the Tories presented their new leader, Elizabeth Campbell.
Residents were not impressed and demanded that she and her fellow Tory councillors should instead resign their seats.
There was also fury that no one, either from the council or private contractors, has yet been arrested by the police. "If there had been a terrorist attack involving this loss of life, does anyone really think nobody would have been arrested even a month later?" was how one person put it.
The public gallery was packed and some residents were allowed in to address the council. In some extremely moving speeches residents spoke of family members and friends who had died in the blaze. But they were also extremely angry that the council had badly let down them down.
One survivor, Mahad Egal, accused the council of acting for political gain, of criminal acts, selfishness and disgrace.
"You've let the dead down. Now you're going to come for the living? ... Madam, step down and resign," he urged Campbell.
All of this was being relayed to supporters outside via a big screen with big cheers greeting the residents when they attacked the council.
The lobby came on the day that it was revealed that not one of London's 20,000 empty homes were seized by councils in spite of the dire housing crisis in the capital.
RBK&C has 1,399 standing empty, but has only made one (failed) application to bring long term empty properties back into use under the 2006 Empty Dwelling Housing Orders.
It has also been revealed through the council's own documents that RBK&C has received almost £50 million from housing developers last year to make up for them building little or no affordable housing in the borough - but did not reinvest this in council housing.
Socialist Party members got a very positive response to our petitions, leaflets and the Socialist. We also received a good response to our call for an independent working class inquiry; to take over empty properties to immediately rehouse those residents who are now homeless; and for the council to use its £300 million reserves to support these residents and immediately improve all social housing in the borough to make it safe.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 21 July 2017 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.