Residents affected by the Grenfell Tower atrocity were passionate and angry during a lengthy exchange with the Prime Minister, a bishop who sat with them revealed.
Sixteen ‘very ordinary people’ sat in Downing Street to bring their concerns to Theresa May in an ‘unprecedented’ meeting and finally felt they were listened to, the Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin said.
He is hopeful the meeting which lasted nearly two hours, attended by victims, residents, community leaders and volunteers, was the starting point for a process of ‘lasting change’.
He told the Press Association: ‘I’m positive because I think it was a real chance for local residents, people affected by this tragedy, to voice their concerns directly to the Prime Minister so that she could hear them.
‘That’s why I’m positive about it, because I think in the past local residents here have not always been listened to.’
He said that feeling of being ignored is a source of much ‘deep frustration’, and told how people have been left feeling ‘that decisions are taken about their lives and their homes that they are not party to’.
He described the residents as ‘brilliant’ in how they raised and explained their concerns to Mrs May.
He said: ‘I thought the way they expressed themselves with a mixture of passion and reason was fantastic, and I hope it’s the beginning of a process, not the end of a process, the beginning of a process of real listening between Government, RBKC (the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council), local residents, that will bring about lasting change.’
Following the meeting, Mrs May released a strongly-worded statement in which she said on-the-ground support for families in the immediate aftermath of the blaze ‘was not good enough’.
She said she has ordered daily progress reports on housing for those affected, and vowed the public inquiry into the disaster will be ‘open and transparent’.
Dr Tomlin said the residents had gone from living normal lives before the tragedy to bringing their frustrations to the very top of Government.
He said: ‘Clearly it’s quite unprecedented for 16 very ordinary people, who this time last week were walking their dogs or talking to each other in the streets around here and north Kensington, actually to be in 10 Downing Street talking face-to-face with the Prime Minister. I think it was a good thing to do.’
Asked if there were angry exchanges, he said: ‘We tried to hold it well as a meeting. There was passion, there was anger, but there was good, hard, reasoned argument used by the residents.’
Questioned as to whether the anger followed Mrs May’s initial visit to the west London site during which she did not meet residents, he said: ‘We didn’t talk directly about that.’
Dr Tomlin said he believed residents left the meeting feeling ‘reassured that they were listened to’, but added: ‘Time will tell as to whether it makes a difference.
‘We wait to see what action will come from it, but they were reassured that they were listened to.’