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Grenfell Tower residents call on new Kensington council leader to resign amid shouts of 'murderers'

'You've let the dead down, now you want to come for the living?'

Henry Austin
Wednesday 19 July 2017 22:37 BST
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Residents call for new council leader to step down at chaotic meeting on Grenfell disaster

Grenfell Tower residents heckled and booed the new leader of Kensington and Chelsea council during a stormy public meeting.

Shouts of "shame on you" rang out from the chamber as Elizabeth Campbell was formally elected after being nominated by the local Conservative group. Others cried out “murderers”.

She replaced former council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown, who resigned in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed at least 80 people.

As Ms Campbell addressed the chamber in Kensington Town Hall and at times could not be heard amid the yells of "resign", prompting calls for order.

She said: "We meet at a time of unimaginable grief and sorrow. The Grenfell fire is the biggest civilian disaster in this country for a generation."

But as she described how she had spent the past few weeks meeting survivors, the new council leader faced shouts of "Who?"

Continuing Ms Campbell admitted the council had "let down" the victims of the Grenfell tragedy, adding: "I am deeply sorry for the grief and trauma you are suffering.

She said: "I am deeply sorry we did not do more to help you when you needed it the most."

Local residents used the meeting to express their anger that victims had not been identified or buried. Others asked why survivors were still waiting to be rehoused.

A woman who said her teenager niece had perished in the blaze addressed the chamber.

Grenfell survivor at council meeting: "You've let down the dead"

She said her brother and sister-in-law could not speak in public because "their pain is too huge".

She told councillors: "I think you should be highly embarrassed by the response," adding that it had been "totally inadequate".

A "simple acknowledgement of an email would have gone a long way", she said, referring to a previous attempt to get in contact.

The family of the deceased "are being treated like cattle", another woman said.

"How can we have faith in you, come to you guys for help?", she asked.

Another man shouted at Ms Campbell: "You've let the dead down, now you want to come for the living?

"You are not in power, you will not be. The people must choose you and we have not chosen you... step down and resign."

Another resident said the treatment of the fire victims' families had been "disgusting", adding: "We've been swept under the carpet."

One local, in tears and speaking via a translator, said: "I beg you, do not play a game with us. I beg you, do not tell us lies. I beg you, do not waste our time."

Robert Atkinson, the leader of the Labour opposition on the council, repeated his party's call for commissioners to take over the running of the Conservative-run council.

He told Ms Campbell she was "part of the old regime" and said there was "nothing" the Tory council group could do to restore the confidence of locals.

This was met with cheers from the public gallery.

Attention then turned to a petition signed by more than 1,500 people, demanding the resignation of the entire elected leadership of the council and therefore passing the threshold for a debate by councillors.

Lead petitioner and local resident Eve Wedderburn told councillors "we do not recognise your right to govern our community".

She added: "The problem here is not perception, but your actual culpability in an actual crisis."

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