Grenfell bungling and the democratic deficit
The extraordinarily inept way in which Kensington and Chelsea council has handled the Grenfell Tower disaster (Public barred as leader of council gives his apology for failings, 30 June) has been exacerbated by first-past-the-post elections and Blairite local government reforms. Before the introduction of streamlined cabinet decision-making, the old committee-based system at least ensured that any opposition councillors’ constructive comments and objections had to be minuted before key decisions were made, and not after the event.
Even if within the Royal Borough more than half still wish to vote Tory next May, at least the introduction of the single transferable vote would ensure much more diversity. Instead of four-and-a-half Labour wards confined to Kensington, including Grenfell Tower, there would be less geographic polarisation without any safe seats. STV has transformed Scottish local elections so that it is even possible for a Conservative to squeak into the last elected place to represent one of Glasgow’s poorest wards. So why can’t the wealthiest wards in Chelsea use it to replace their worst Tory councillors with some real representatives?
New Barnet, Hertfordshire
Thank you for your excellent coverage on the struggles faced by the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire (Opinion, 29 June). Many ex-residents are still not coming forward to get help, even if they have serious injuries, because they fear being referred to Home Office immigration teams. Theresa May’s statement that survivors would not face immigration checks while accessing services has not dispelled fears on the ground. The government has not provided assurance about how any exemption would work or whether personal details survivors give to hospitals now, such as addresses, will be used to trace them further down the line.
It is shocking that in these circumstances a medical charity, Doctors of the World, has been forced to launch a clinic to help those too afraid to get NHS care. Years of government moves to create an explicitly hostile environment for migrants has led to an immense fear among some communities that cannot be turned off like a tap.
Executive director, Doctors of the World UK
I wish you and others would stop describing the Grenfell residents as poor. They are not poor, they are poorly paid. There is a difference.