A Camden Cock-up

It is disgusting to see how Camden Council has mishandled the fire threat to residents of its high-rise blocks. People learnt of the evacuation via the television news before being told to leave in the middle of the night – in one case, only learning the next morning! Those who have chosen to stay are being threatened with eviction. Many of those who did leave have been left without a place to stay as promised hotel rooms prove unavailable. Many of those affected are elderly or in poor health. Able only to bring a little with them and being allowed back for just half-an-hour(!) to collect belongings under supervision, you can only wonder how families and those with special needs and medical conditions are coping.

Now, I can understand why they are panicking to some degree as it seems the issue isn’t merely that the cladding is a fire risk but that other issues have put individual flats at risk if there is a fire, but I think it has been rushed and poorly thought through. While the Grenfell fire was a tragedy, it isn’t as if such fires have happened regularly and there is no reason to imagine these blocks would have burst into flame had the evacuation been left till morning or even a few days to allow for better organisation and consultation. Also, the reason so many died was because of the advice given to remain in their flats. Nobody will make that mistake. Given that the flats had fire wardens, people were unlikely to be trapped if a fire had broken out.

I suspect that the attitude is influenced by a stereotype that the poor and elderly don’t really have property, living off a knackered sofa, staring blankly at a TV and eating a takeaway, making them easy to relocate to any old dump. In reality, we have families with children, people with pets, probably many with freezers of food that is now likely to go to waste (will they be compensated?) and doubtless many worried that their property will disappear while they in exile.

Personally, if I were in their place, I think I would be amongst those staying. Certainly, I wouldn’t have rushed out in the middle of the night without any idea of where I would go. That the council (who have abjectly failed in their duty to provide people with a safe place to live) is threatening these people with eviction is disgusting. Inform them of the danger, but, having been so informed, leave them be if they decide to stay. It is their decision to make.

Camden Council could have handled this much better.

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