I visited Bells Gardens Community Centre this morning which has been set up by the tenant's movement to provide residents formally of Lakanal House with hot food, clothes, toys for their children and other support. There are many victims of this fire and it is essential that they are looked after properly and re-housed as a matter of urgency.
People raised many issues with me, including:
- The need for legal advice. They want clarification on what their rights are and what they are entitled to. I have contacted Southwark Law Centre who have agreed to visit the Centre to offer advice to people.
- They want a better system to communicate updates.
- They are seeking clarification on compensation. What amount is being offered and how was this sum reached? When will it be paid and how will they receive any money?
- The security around the building. Are their possessions safe in Lakanal House?
- The suitability of temporary accommodation. Many people told me that they are unhappy with their temporary housing situation. Some residents are in cramped accommodation – often 4 people sharing a bed, often far away and two families with young children told me how they were living above pubs with loud music playing through the night.
- Housing options – the residents want to make informed choices about their housing situation and do not want to feel blackmailed into accepting properties which are not suitable for them.
I have contacted Southwark Council to raise these concerns and will continue to press for a public enquiry into the fire. I am taking a delegation of local people to meet with John Denham MP, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, on Wednesday next week to explain why a public enquiry inito the fire is essential.