Theresa May admitted there were flaws in the response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy as she confirmed that the organisation responsible for the high-rise building was being stripped of responsibility for the estate where it is located.
The Prime Minister attended a private meeting with residents of the west London tower block on Tuesday night to discuss concerns over the handling of the aftermath of the fire, which killed more than 80 people.
Mrs May, who faced criticism for initially failing to meet survivors and was booed during a later visit, told residents that Kensington and Chelsea Council “did not respond quickly enough after the fire”, Downing Street said.
She said the meeting attended by 60 or 70 people was “very dignified” and residents were “pleased” that the organisation responsible for managing the building is being stripped of its involvement.
Speaking during a visit to Guildford in Surrey, Mrs May said: “It was a very good meeting last night, it was very dignified, a very respectful meeting, and obviously people did have concerns that they were raising and I was pleased that I was able to tell them – because the Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) is one of the issues that residents have been very concerned about – I was able to tell them that the TMO will no longer have responsibility for the Lancaster West housing estate. People were pleased to hear that.”
The PM heard about “ongoing challenges” including housing, bereavement support and the distribution of donations, which are not reaching survivors quickly enough, according to the Charity Commission.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister acknowledged residents’ concerns about the culture of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the TMO.
“She confirmed that the TMO will be removed from the management of the Lancaster West estate and she recognised that the council did not respond quickly enough after the fire.
“She agreed that it was important that the council listen to and respond to the issues residents face about the support and information they were receiving, including from key workers and housing officers.”
Mrs May also backed the independent probe into the disaster, led by retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, which has faced criticism for failing to consider the broader social and political issues raised by the tragedy.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn recently wrote to Mrs May, raising fears that the probe’s focus was to “avoid criticism” for policy failures “rather than secure justice for Grenfell survivors”.
Her spokesman said: “The Prime Minister emphasised the importance of the independence of the inquiry, including on questions about how it was run. She reiterated that any resident who wanted to take part would be able to and that the Government would fund any legal representation required.
“She explained that, while the judge had not proposed including wider questions related to social housing within the terms of reference, the Government recognised that these should be taken forward elsewhere and had asked the Housing Minister, Alok Sharma, to begin this by holding conversations with social housing tenants across the country.”
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