Grenfell Tower is clearly visible from Hammersmith & Fulham, as this picture from Wood Lane station clearly shows, taken on 9 December by Santanu Vasant (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Critical Grenfell report from Hammersmith & Fulham

On Wednesday 6 December, Hammersmith & Fulham council published a report about H&Fs response to the Grenfell Tower disaster and RBKC’s lack of interaction with H&F immediately after the disaster. It is in part a very critical report, highlighting the lack of leadership and initiative demonstrated by the RBKC cabinet in the immediate days after the disaster.

50 of the homeless Grenfell families are still living in hotels in Hammersmith and Fulham, and H&F is providing dozens of social workers to support them. The report reveals that on the day of the fire, the chief executive of H&F called his counterpart in RBKC three times offering to help, but after having received no acceptance to this offer of assistance even after the third call, H&F decided to send staff over anyway.

The report, which can be read in full here, states that this inaction wasn’t limited to RBKC’s contacts with H&F: “Under London’s local authority Gold arrangements, any borough can request mutual aid when facing an emergency incident, but there is a process to go through. A request has to go to the London Resilience Group (LRG) and be signed off by London Local Authority Gold. We anticipate this will be a key area of interest for the public inquiry. Either the London Resilience Group was not sufficiently coordinated or RBKC did not request the support at an early enough stage.”

The report highlights a range of concerns in the immediate aftermath of the fire. These include:

In late June, artist Ben Eine painted this wall in Shoreditch, inspired by poet Ben Okri’s poem about the Grenfell Tower fire. Picture by Duncan C (CC BY-NC 2.0)

* H&F was not notified by RBKC that Grenfell survivors were being accommodated in Hammersmith and Fulham and only found this out through the West Kensington Tenants and Residents Association. Council officials then had to obtain further information about survivors from hotel managers.

* The Grenfell rest centre was “quite chaotic”. According to the report, staff felt there needed to be more information about who was in charge. There was also a lack of coordination between rest centres. At one point there were five rest centres, but only one of them was formally recognised as such. This was due to the instant community response: lack of quick council action and leadership lead to community groups opening unofficial rest centres.

* There was initially a lack of a clear policy from RBKC about the impact that an acceptance of an offer of temporary accommodation in H&F might have on the displaced households’ rights to be rehoused permanently in RBKC. Some evacuees refused offers of temporary accommodation from H&F because of fears that they could lose their right to be rehoused in RBKC.

* Lack of knowledge of what the London resilience team can offer. The Local Authority Panel is developing service-level agreements to provide London with consistent and effective resilience in the future.

* The response from the LRG was to allocate social workers to work with the survivors and evacuees initially for two weeks. This led to constant changes of key workers for the Grenfell victims, which is not helpful in building supportive relationships.

The report states: “Had it been a terrorist incident, the national response would have been immediate. There needs to be more national response planning for this type of incident.”

The report also expresses disappointment “that central government has not made additional funding available to carry out the essential refurbishments and safety measures that have been identified as being needed.”

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