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Tory councillor says court order making council’s private Grenfell fire meeting public was a 'stunt'

Catherine Faulks criticised the press for wanting to cover the private meeting

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Saturday 01 July 2017 10:35 BST
Tory RBKC councillor: Making Council’s Grenfell fire meeting open to the press was a 'stunt'

A Conservative councillor from Kensington has dismissed a High Court order that allowed the press to report on a private council meeting about the Grenfell fire as a “stunt”.

Catherine Faulks said the meeting about the fire was to be held in private because of concerns about “public order” and defended the council’s decision to cancel the meeting after when it became clear it would be subject to scrutiny.

The postponement, which came on Thursday means that council has not properly met as a body since the fire took place. The court order was pursued jointly by media outlet who had been locked out of covering the meeting; Downing Street said on Friday it would have expected the council to respect the court order.

Ms Faulks, who is married to Conservative peer and former Cabinet minister Lord Faulks QC said: “It was a very clever stunt by the press to create this impression of chaos in this meeting that we were having and I just want to explain: the meeting was for all councillors of all parties to disseminate information about exactly what we are doing on the ground.

“The press decided to get an ex parte application at the last minute which means that the council had no right to reply or say they were doing or see what the reasons they had put forward to have the injunction put in private.”

Asked to explain why the meeting was in private, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The reason we had given primarily to have the meeting in private was that we were worried there was a public order issue which had already been demonstrated by the invasion we had of the council.”

Nicholas Paget-Brown, who resigned as leader of the council on Friday night, had justified stopping the meeting from going ahead on the basis that holding it in public could prejudice an upcoming inquiry into the disaster, in which at least 80 people have died.

By law local authority meetings have to be open to the public barring a very specific set of circumstances, which the High Court judged had not been met in this case.

The councillor’s intervention comes after Mayor of London Sadiq Khan called for commissioners to be brought in to run the London borough because it had become “clear that the local community in and around North Kensington has lost trust in the council and that the administration is not fit for purpose”.

Yvette Williams, a spokesperson for the Justice4Grenfell campaign, said on Saturday morning that she supported the Mayor’s call for a commissioner-led borough but that residents had to be involved in the selection process.

“We’re quite capable of running a local authority but they need to speak to us, we’re not going to have people consistently imposed on us, selected by who?” she told the same programme.

“The deputy leader and the leader were never voted in the north of the borough, they’ve never represented us and that’s possibly why there’s this disconnection with the community there.

She continued: “It’s taken the Mayor of London to suggest to downing Street that maybe commissioners should come in, Downing Street didn’t ask Padget-Brown to go, so why would we then trust that process to bring people in?

“I do support the Mayor in terms of a commissioner-led borough but how are those people going to be selected, that’s what we don’t know.”

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