In the shadow of Grenfell: The blaze that gutted the tower will overshadow this part of London for a considerable period of time [Image: David Levene for the Guardian].

The government has put out a new press release in its latest attempt to reassure the former residents of Grenfell Tower – and the public at large.

It fails, obviously.

Let’s have a look at it:

“Finding permanent new homes for former residents of Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk is a top priority for both the government and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC).”

So it should be. But isn’t it significant that the government has to stress this fact at the top of a press release?

“Some permanent housing is now available and the council has published details of how they will work with families to allocate permanent homes.”

Details that are not mentioned in the press release to the public. Something to hide, still?

“No one will be forced to accept any home,”

The council was forced to include this after stories appeared, saying attempts were being made to coerce people into moving out of Kensington and Chelsea – and in fact out of London altogether.

“and the council will continue to make more offers as long as it is reasonable and practical to do so.”

Reasonable and practical according to whom, and under what criteria?

“The information for residents also includes a summary of commitments to residents from the council and government, including:
•residents will be offered permanent furnished social housing within 12 months and all moving costs will be covered”

An admission of a broken promise. Wasn’t it supposed to be within three weeks of the fire?

“•when residents move out of hotels or emergency accommodation (whether to temporary accommodation or a permanent home) they will not have to pay rent, service charges or core utility bills (gas, water and electricity) during this period”

Obviously this is after someone complained about having to do so.

“•after this 12 month period residents that had held a council tenancy at Grenfell Tower or Grenfell Walk will pay no more in rent and service charges for their permanent social housing than they were paying before; those who did not hold a council tenancy for a flat in Grenfell Tower or Grenfell Walk will be charged at a social rent level”

This is after reports appeared indicating that the former Grenfell residents were being asked to pay higher rent and service charges, simply because they were unfortunate enough to be involved in a massive fire that destroyed their homes and could have killed them.

“The council will hold meetings with former residents of Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk individually so they can explain the process in detail and answer any questions.”

Why individually? Is it because residents always get the better of council officers in wider meetings?

“They will continue to provide housing advice and support to residents throughout the rehousing process. If residents have any questions about the housing allocations process they can contact RBKC on 020 7361 3034.”

As you can see, this press release isn’t about rehousing the survivors of Grenfell. It is about trying to restore trust.

It doesn’t succeed because it has to refer back to incidents that have eroded trust.

Here’s a video in which residents explain how they have been treated, and how they feel about it. There’s very little trust in the council or the government here, and the (new) leader of the council (the former leader resigned because of Grenfell, remember) admits that there have been failings:

In this video, new Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad accuses the council of incompetence – and what about the statement from contractors Rydon – who put the flammable cladding on the walls of Grenfell, that turned it into an inferno? They said they had removed all information about the tower from their website “as a mark of respect”.

No. This Writer agrees with residents who say it was removed in an attempt to hide the facts. See for yourself:

All of these mis-steps, by the council and the minority Tory government that is backing it, mean trust in our elected representatives is being eroded.

And that’s dangerous – not just for the government, but for society in general.

Our civilisation runs on trust. We trust businesses to sell products that work; we trust local, regional and national government to safeguard our interests.

Without that trust, we won’t support those businesses with our money; we’ll call on the elected representatives who failed us to step down – and if they refuse to do so, we’ll take further action that risks a breakdown of society as we know it. Matters can escalate very quickly, even here in the United Kingdom.

That’s why the Tories are trying to restore trust. But they’re trying in a very lacklustre, half-hearted way.

They are concentrating on what they think they should say to make us all feel better, rather than what they should do.

Not good enough.

And remember: They would not have lifted a finger for these people without the massive public support for them that has continued to push the mass media into covering their struggle for justice. That’s not good enough either.

If these people need to be pushed into doing the right thing, then they’re not the right people for the job – in local or national government.


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