At the first full Kensington and Chelsea council meeting since the Grenfell Tower fire, one of the survivors gave an emotional speech accusing the local authority of treating residents with contempt and ignoring warnings that their lives were at risk.
Edward Daffarn, who escaped from his home on the 16th floor of the tower, was one of the coauthors of the Grenfell Action Group blog who warned the west London council that it would take a "catastrophic fire" for the building's landlord, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, to take notice of safety concerns.
Directly addressing the newly appointed council leader Elizabeth Campbell, who was formally sworn in at the Wednesday meeting to heckles from the public gallery, Daffarn said: "Let me tell you about three community groups that were existent in Grenfell Tower.
"There was the Grenfell Tower Leaseholders Association, there was the Grenfell Tower Action group, and there was the Grenfell Tower Compact – we weren't allowed to call it the residents association because we were so bullied by the TMO that we had to call it a 'compact'."
He continued: "Let me tell you that all of those organisations around the past two or three years have been telling this council explicitly how you were treating us, how you were putting our lives at risk, how you were treating us with contempt. And when I sit here now and I look out, I see the same councillors – you included – who are responsible for that.
"You roll your eyes at me, but I will show you an email that we wrote to you in July 2010, on the eve of this cabinet taking the decision to fund Kensington Aldridge Academy. We wrote to you, and you were cc'd into that email and we told you that if you build this building you will be putting the fire safety of Grenfell Tower residents at risk, and you ignored us."
He continued: "That email was cc'd to our MP, the leader of the council, and to you, Elizabeth Campbell, and you ignored us. The way you treated our community groups with contempt was despicable."
He added: "If you councillors from the ruling party honestly believe that you have the legitimacy after everything you've heard here tonight – after everything that's happened in north Kensington over the past few weeks – you need to seriously reconsider.
"Because I'll tell you one thing: The wounds that have been created in north Kensington are not going to heal as long as you're ignorant enough to believe that you have the right to rule over us."
Though Campbell did not directly respond to the speech, she said she was "deeply sorry for the grief and trauma" residents were suffering.
She said: "We did not cope well enough in our initial response to the tragedy. I know that you will have heard me apologise for the inadequate response of the council. Tonight I reiterate that apology to you directly, no ifs, no buts, no excuses.
“I am deeply sorry for the grief and trauma you are suffering. I am deeply sorry that we did not do more to help you when you needed it most. ... I understand why you are angry. I am determined to do everything in my power to help you.”
The cabinet meeting started at 7pm and continued until the late hours of the evening, but ended abruptly after one of the survivors collapsed on the floor.
Hundreds of protesters, many of whom were Grenfell residents and locals, gathered outside the town hall calling for the Conservative group that runs the council to resign.
Fiona Rutherford is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Fiona Rutherford at email@example.com.
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