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Response Cllr Lomas to the Grenfell Petition


1. THE PETITION

1.1. The prayer of the petition is:

We, the undersigned, who live or work in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, demand the immediate resignation of the full cabinet of RBKC. The Cabinet’s decisions across a series of departments have culminated in the horrifying and completely avoidable loss of life in the catastrophic fire at Grenfell Tower on the 14th of June 2017. Given the Council’s failure to respond to the litany of safety and fire concerns raised by Grenfell Tower residents, we have no confidence in this Council’s ability to manage or build public buildings and therefore demand the immediate cessation of all regeneration projects, particularly the construction of new buildings, but including the demolition, or ‘improvement’ of current buildings stock – projects of the kind that the current cabinet have shown themselves grossly incapable of managing.

Our demands:

  • The immediate resignation of the full cabinet of the Council
  • An immediate halt of all building projects managed by the Council and associated demolition/transfer of buildings
  • An urgent review of all major planning decisions
  • A full suspension of all ‘regeneration’ projects and local master plans, including estates
  • New community co-designed master plans for key North Kensington areas, including Latimer, Westway and Earl’s Court.

 

MM, the events of a month ago have left a physical and emotional scar on this borough, on London, and on the Country.

The burnt out shell of Grenfell keeps a silent vigil over us.

The faces of the victims peer out from posters stuck on walls and in shop windows.

The eyes of the media have been directed on this Borough like never before.

But the posters are already being taken down.

The media will eventually move on to the next story.

And at that point it will be incumbent on this Council – on members in this chamber – to find a way to work together in the interests of everyone.

Because this Council is the only legitimate body able and equipped to represent the people of this borough.

Its legitimacy is founded on the democratic elections that put all of us in this chamber.

But that legitimacy also depends on - and can only be sustained by - retaining the trust and consent of those we aspire to represent.

 

MM, I recognise that the new leader has talked about the need to rebuild that trust

She has apologised whole-heartedly for this Council’s response to the tragedy at Grenfell

For that she should be given credit.

Further, it is only right that the new leadership be given the time and space to put things right: they deserve a chance.

But a chance is not a blank cheque.

The problem facing this council, this chamber, is existential. If the council fails then each of us has failed individually and collectively.

 

MM, that is why I cannot support this petition.

It wants to create a vacuum when what we need is substance.

                        It’s pursuing a decapitation strategy when we need a clear head.

 In the weeks and months ahead, it is going to take humility and courage from all of us in this chamber to try and build the kind of borough we are all proud to live in and represent.

The humility to accept when we get things wrong

to recognise that none of us has a monopoly on knowledge

to put others before our own political self-interest.

 And the courage to work together, across party lines

to offer leadership and take difficult decisions.

to sooth and not inflame.

Because sometimes it’s more important to find common ground. To work together.

 

MM, the majority group have offered the minority parties on this council roles in the new administration.

It’s a brave thing to do.  

                        It’s the right thing to do.

An all-party way forward represents to best chance to mend our politics, repair our communities, and rebuild trust in this council.

 But it has to be a genuinely all party approach for it to work.

 In that regard, I am seconding a motion on cross-party working later.

The amendment to it, as far as I can understand it, appears to favour this council moving to the committee system.

Institutionalised power-sharing.

Now, we can come to the whys and the wherefores of different systems later when our motion is debated.

 But in the meantime, whatever constitution this Council choses is only half the picture

If we cannot foster a collaborative culture in the here and now – at a time of this council’s greatest crisis – when will we?

            When will we?

                        It will be different rules but the same old divisions.

 So whilst I recognise the very real grievances that have brought the petitioners here tonight, I cannot support their aims.

            Instead of resignations and recriminations we need reconciliation.

                       

The memory of those who lost their lives cannot be sustained by anger alone.


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