ANOTHER VIEW; Docklands needs marathon effort

Share
Related Topics
As yesterday's London Marathon wound its way down the newly reopened Marshwall road, runners and onlookers had a chance to see the effects of the Docklands blast 10 weeks ago. They must have been impressed by progress. The authorities have worked hard to make offices safe.

But what about the 550 families whose homes were devastated? From the route, which looped past the Barkantine estate, everything seemed fine, apart from a banner, draped from one tower block, proclaiming "Help the Barkantine". In reality, many victims still lack the support they need. Families that lost homes and possessions and sought grants have been turned down by the Department of Social Security. Those still living in Lantern House, the most badly damaged block, have yet to learn whether the Government will provide any new money.

British Telecom has been unsympathetic. I wrote to Sir Iain Vallance, BT's chairman, about the company's decision to impose reconnection fees after the blast. His office replied: "His heart goes out to the local community". But it declined to waive the charges.

Tower Hamlets council has done its best. Staff collected three tons of broken glass and replaced more than a thousand windows and doors. Our teachers got the local primary and nursery school reopened three days after the school hall had been blown apart.

All this will probably cost about pounds 1m. Yet the Government has so far failed to say what financial help will be available. When I showed John Gummer, the Environment Secretary, around the damaged estate, he told me to apply to the little-known Bellwin Fund. Yet, to date, civil servants haven't decided whether we are entitled to apply, and have failed to produce an application form.

The main problem would seem to be that applicants are expected to have taken out insurance against terrorist attacks. Yet this had become prohibitively expensive for Tower Hamlets, given its large number of properties and an increase in premiums that followed the earlier, unsuccessful attempt to blow up the Canary Wharf tower.

So, much as everyone on the Isle of Dogs enjoyed yesterday's race, local people kept asking me: "If they can do all this with the Marathon, why can't something be done to help us?"

When a tragedy like this occurs in America, the President declares a state of emergency. In Northern Ireland, the Government coughs up. Yet here in mainland Britain, local councils and voluntary groups are expected to pick up the pieces and grovel to civil servants, who behave as though they wish they would go away.

The Government must revise the entry criteria that is barring families and local authorities from immediate financial assistance. We need a properly co-ordinated national response to disasters like the Docklands bombing to be up and running before the next London marathon gets under way.

The writer is a Labour councillor for Millwall ward on the Isle of Dogs.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough, Cam...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Benedict Cumberbatch attends a special screening of his latest film The Imitation Game  

Benedict Cumberbatch race row: What's the actual difference between 'coloured' and 'person of colour'?

Matthew Norman
Pressure is growing on Chris Grayling to abandon the Government bid to advise Saudi Arabia on running its prisons (Getty)  

What in sanity’s name is Chris Grayling doing in the job of Justice Secretary?

Matthew Norman
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy