We have much more to do, says head of Grenfell Tower response team


Authorities have promised to do more for those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire a week after the disaster killed at least 79 people.

John Barradell, head of the newly established Grenfell Fire Response Team, paid tribute to the volunteers and community members who stepped in after the blaze, and vowed that more will be done.

He added: "One week on from the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, the thoughts of everyone working for the response team is with the friends and family of all those who have been affected.

"We are doing all we can to co-ordinate and bring in additional support to help local people who have suffered so much, but know we have so much more to do and won't let up on our efforts.

"As well as looking to deliver much more and effective practical and emotional help, we are listening very closely to the community so they can direct help to where it is needed most.

"I would also like to take this opportunity to pay enormous tribute to the local people and volunteers from the neighbourhood and beyond who have flocked to the scene to help out in the aftermath of the fire and we are privileged to be working alongside them."

Airbnb was the latest company to pledge its support and has offered free accommodation for relief workers.

It comes after reports that the leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council offered to resign after facing widespread criticism of his administration over the disaster.

Nick Paget-Brown said fellow councillors had shown him "overwhelming" support following heavy criticism from residents of the tower, which was engulfed by flames in the early hours of June 14.

He has faced questions over materials used in the council's £8.6 million refurbishment of the tower, with suggestions that cheap cladding could have played a role in the fire.

Other London boroughs and central Government officials were also drafted in to help with relief efforts after the fire as residents claimed council staff were nowhere to be seen.

Mr Paget-Brown, a Tory who has been leader of the council since 2013 and a councillor since 1986, said: "In the circumstances it has of course been appropriate to ensure that as leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council I continue to have the support of my colleagues.

"They have said overwhelmingly that they back me and are behind my key priority at the moment, which is to work with Government, charities, volunteer and resident groups and the emergency services to rehouse and assist all those affected.

"This is absolutely rightly the focus of all of our attention and efforts."

Protesters tried to storm the council's offices on Friday, demanding answers from Mr Paget-Brown and his team.

Labour has called for answers from the Government after leaked letters appeared to show ministers were repeatedly warned that fire regulations were not keeping people safe in high-rise blocks like Grenfell Tower.

Shadow housing secretary John Healey wrote to Communities Secretary Sajid Javid demanding a formal response after the BBC said the letters showed ministers were warned that people living in high rises were at risk.

The dozen letters, sent by the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group after a fatal 2009 fire in Lakanal House, south London, warned the Government "could not afford to wait for another tragedy", according to Panorama.

The first firefighters at Grenfell Tower may not have expected the outside of the building to be flammable, a senior union official said following the programme.

Dave Green, national officer at the Fire Brigades Union, spoke after claims were raised by Panorama that the first crews to arrive believed the blaze was contained and extinguished within the flat where it started.

The programme on Monday night quoted sources as alleging it was only as those firefighters left the building that they saw the blaze was still burning on the outside of the 24-storey tower in north Kensington.

Mr Green said the claim was "speculation" but that 1970s buildings like Grenfell Tower were designed so that each flat was a box which contained fire within itself, with a non-flammable concrete exterior.

There has been speculation that cladding applied to the outside of the building during the £8.6 million renovation project, finished in May last year, may have played a role in the spread of the fire.

Mr Green said: "Clearly it was a hot night and if the (fire) was fairly close to an open window, then potentially the flames could have got outside - if there were net curtains, something like that, it could have got up.

"Then the cladding might well have been smouldering.

"As a firefighter you wouldn't have thought to look outside. We would assume that the outside of the building would not be compromised."

Claims that survivors of the disaster who refuse to be rehoused hundreds of miles from London risk being classed as "intentionally homeless" have been branded untrue by the official Grenfell response team, which acts for local and central government, and various charities and organisations.

Labour Tottenham MP David Lammy tweeted he had heard that survivors were being threatened with such a sanction, which he branded "absolutely despicable".

A spokesman for the Grenfell response team told the Press Association: "This is simply not true. No-one is being forced to move out of London, or being threatened with being made homeless."