Quite why, and how, the head of Kensington and Chelsea Council has consecutively and continually ducked out of public and media consultations and confrontations in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, is hard to map. All the stalling in the world will not provide an opportunity for clawback. Even if tomorrow, Kensington council were to be exonerated of blame for the fire, their actions since Grenfell have been so incompetent they are at the very least guilty of escalating the human tragedy.
Other councils will already be scrutinising their protocols, governance, processes, and communications to ensure it can’t happen to them. Journalism and PR students will be analysing the detail of the narrative for decades to come. Right now, however, we don’t have the breathing space to do that, and the council’s perceived intransigence is not just undermining the good works it has done, it is fuelling a growing mistrust in figures of authority. Grenfell is the painful and possibly dangerous culmination of a slide that began with the banking crisis.
Forced to starve Peter in order to feed Paul, the officers of local government make unenviable decisions every day. To compound matters there is a perceived disconnect between the many routes citizens are offered to make their voices heard – websites, email, phone, social media – and the often lacklustre response when they do. Ways have to be found to say I hear your pain even if the pay-off is, And I’m sorry that the solution required cannot be actioned at this time.
Holding strategies only work, however, in the early stages of the disputes process. They don’t work when the complainant is at breaking point. Or, in the case of Grenfell, long past the point of no return.
Kensington Council’s top team may be hiding – putting their hands over their eyes like children and pretending they can’t see the crowds at the door – but they can’t run. And when their fingers are finally prised apart, they will see that their ineptitude has placed them on the edge of the abyss with the might of the law lined up to push them in.
An interesting read from today’s Guardian on the key questions that remain unanswered. The photograph used in this post is by PA’s Lauren Hurley.