Dear Barry Quirk,
Re: Resignation of Michael Clarke
My name is Mr Mahad Egal, I am a survivor of 15 Grenfell Tower and I am calling for the immediate resignation of Michael Clarke.
It has come to my attention that Michael Clarke is the Director of Communications & Community Engagement at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
I am deeply concerned of the remit of his role at RBKC with obvious sensitivities this requires, given his previous appointment as Head of Press for the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry. This concern is further compounded by his previous role as interim Chief Media spokesman for First Secretary of State Damian Green and Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, and I suggest his position is untenable.
Given your role as Town Clerk with oversight and direct responsibility for your subordinates at RBKC, this also raises alarms about your approach to governing RBKC, moving from the consultation model to a community-led one.
I know that Mr Clarke began his assignment with RBKC in September 2017
at the time he was shown the impact that the lack of effective communications and community engagement has had, the erosion of trust between RBKC and residents was outlined clearly along with an indication of what was needed to effect change. Given Mr Clarke’s remit included these key areas it is obvious that he has consistently failed in his responsibilities and despite repeated warnings, officers maintained a lofty distance from the community and this only increased the suffering and confusion caused initially by RBKC’s disastrous first response on 14th June.
It is reasonable in any professional setting for individuals who consistently underperform to be held accountable for their poor performance. The community has seen no evidence that Mr Clarke has either been reminded of the responsibilities assigned to his position and salary or has himself proactively enacted improvements following repeated contestations from members of the community and various public servants. His position has long been untenable, a view confirmed by the revelations at the last Grenfell Scrutiny Meeting.
Seven months into the recovery of the worst fire in London since World War Two; Mr Clarke and his team presented a community engagement paper that presented a mixture of weak theory, with no evidence of action, meaningful objectives or indeed any indication of actual achievement.
Immediately after the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, Mr Clarke was responsible for hiding the ‘Grenfell Tower Tragedy’ on page 7 of the local ‘Royal Borough’ paper. It is widely acknowledged that the Grenfell Tower Fire has changed the lives of those who live in North Kensington forever, it is, therefore, inconceivable that this was not published on the front page of the paper and presents the first attempt of a ‘cover-up’.
I am deeply saddened by Mr Clarke’s decisions and have no confidence in his future decisions. Survivors of Grenfell Tower are currently suffering from a lack of communication from RBKC, and this is jeopardising the future of the local community. The failure of Mr Clarke to engage with the community has unveiled his intentions of covering up the tragedy. I would, therefore, like to call for the immediate resignation of Michael Clarke.
Please note that a petition calling for the resignation of Michael Clarke will be in circulation following this email.
The Justice4Grenfell Campaign are hosting a Public Meeting on the 1st February 2018, 7pm at Maxilla Social Club, raising the question: ‘How do we get Justice For Grenfell?’
The meeting provides a platform for the community to discuss what justice looks like, and how it can be achieved. This is particularly pertinent as nearly 8 months after the fire, the following issues are still outstanding:
- There have been no arrests
- Hundreds of families are still without permanent accommodation
- Thousands, nationwide, are still living in unsafe buildings and;
- Despite a petition and legal advice, the Public Inquiry panel still remains unrepresentative of our diverse community.
Speakers will include:
- Emma Dent Coad – Local Labour MP
- Clarrie Mendy – Bereaved Family Member & Humanity4Grenfell Founder
- Matt Wrack – General Secretary of the Fire Brigade’s Union
- Joe Delaney – Resident & Grenfell Action Group Member
- Eileen Short – Defend Council Housing
- Kevin Courtenay – General Secretary of National Union of Teachers (NEU)
- Brian Richardson – Stand Up To Racism
The Grenfell Tower fire has highlighted failures in protecting the safety of social housing tenants, adequate public services, lack of equality and human rights with little or no accountability.
The Justice4Grenfell campaign says “It’s vital that those in authority begin to act upon community demands immediately, and lessons are learned, so that no community ever has to face what this community has endured in the last 8 months – only through the responsible authorities implementing action and change, will Justice be done and be seen to be done, by those that matter.”
On Thursday evening, ITN broadcast a report on Fire Safety in RBKC.
Rags Martel speaks with Stephen Mackenzie, a Fire Safety Expert and Judy Bolton, a resident of Kensal House on the ongoing failures of the Council and KCTMO.
This week commemorates 46 years since the Bogside Massacre, often referred to as Bloody Sunday – in which British Soldiers killed unarmed civilians.
A week of talks, events and open mic sessions concludes today with a march, which has become Ireland’s “largest annual human rights event”.
Joe Delaney, a Grenfell Survivor and member of the Grenfell Action Group, spoke on a panel, named “We Shall Overcome: The Patronising Disposition of Unaccountable Power”. He spoke alongside Becky Shah of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, Suresh Grover of the London-based Monitoring Group and Stafford Scott, co-founder of the Broadwater Farm Defence Campaign in 1985, who is now a consultant on racial equality & community engagement.
The Grenfell Inquiry Chairman has today written to all core participants responding to the issues that were raised at the Procedural Hearing on 11 and 12 December.
The main outstanding issue is that Sir Martin declined to recommend to PM Theresa May that panel members with equitable decision-making powers should be appointed alongside him.
‘I am and must remain completely independent of the government and in my view it would be wrong for me to take the initiative by advising the Prime Minister either to appoint additional members to the panel or not to do so. That must be a matter for her own judgment, free of any unsolicited advice from me. If proposals were made to expand the panel, I should, of course, consider them carefully and with an open mind, but unless and until that occurs, I must refrain from comment.’
J4G continues to call on the Prime Minister to urgently make these appointments as a step to building community trust and confidence in the Inquiry.
Other Key points in the response include:-
- Lawyers representing Grenfell families ‘may’ be allowed to question witnesses directly, the chairman of the public inquiry into the fire.
- Ministers, town hall chiefs and company bosses will be told to identify their Grenfell Tower responsibilities amid worries that the inquiry could be hampered by a “culture of denial”.
- An expert in tenant management will draw up a report and give evidence amid claims that “little heed was paid” by the authorities to warnings by Grenfell residents about the fire risk.
- Exploring assistance such as travel, childcare and refreshment costs for victims’ families and survivors to attend hearings in central London. No local venue in Kensington has been secured for future hearings. This was requested at the procedural hearings.
- Documents will be disclosed in “sensible tranches” but not all the raw information submitted will be made available to core participants, with some papers redacted. The inquiry may receive 270,000 documents.
- Local residents will be ‘consulted’ on setting up a “consultative panel” to promote a “sense of engagement” and build confidence in the inquiry.
If you’d like to read the Chairman’s full response, please click here: The Chairman’s Response to Submissions made on 11 – 12 December 2017
A petition has been created by Clarrie Mendy. Please read details the below:
The Bishop’s review of Hillsborough families’ experiences recommends the creation of a Charter for Families Bereaved through Public Tragedy. The Government must implement this recommendation. This petition was started by bereaved relatives of family members who perished in the Grenfell Tower fire.
The Charter will include commitments by public bodies to change in relation to transparency and acting in the public interest. By adopting this, the Government will show that it has learned the lessons of the Hillsborough disaster and ensure that the perspective of bereaved families is never lost. We’re concerned that the Grenfell public inquiry isn’t taking into account the views of bereaved families, survivors, and local community affected. They can be spared the indignities, pain and suffering Bishop James Jones describes in his report as “The Patronising disposition of unaccountable power”.
To sign the petition, click here: Create a Charter for Families Bereaved through Public Tragedy
Definitions of Representation and ‘Exploitation’
Justice4Grenfell attended two days of procedural hearings opening the Grenfell Tower Inquiry this week. We welcomed the consensus that bereaved families and survivors’ voices should be placed at the centre, not on the margins, of the inquiry. It is vital that public confidence in the Inquiry’s work is both raised and maintained in order for justice to be served.
This week, survivors and the bereaved have also called for a representative panel with decision-making powers to sit in parity alongside the judge. It is clear that many bereaved families and survivors do not feel as though they have a central role in the Inquiry process. While Sir Martin More-Bick seems to understand the reasons for the request – namely, diversity of experience, background and ethnicity – it is clear that the only way this can happen is if the Prime Minister exercises her powers under the Inquiries Act 2005 to appoint a panel.
There was talk of a diverse ‘community consultative panel’ to act as a ‘critical friend’ to the Inquiry. Some welcomed this idea, however as Michael Mansfield QC effectively pointed out, ‘the key point that you are missing is that a panel of this nature will not have any decision-making power’. Additional diverse panel members with decision-making powers on parity with the current Inquiry Chair would demonstrate that the experience of the survivors and bereaved families and relatives was understood and considered. This is not a new concept; there are previous examples of public inquiries doing this – for example, the McPherson/Lawrence Inquiry panel.
All public bodies should endeavour to be representative of the communities they serve and a public Inquiry is not exempt from this. The Inquiry must be more representative and reflect the diversity of people from Grenfell Tower and North Kensington communities. Lack of representation in a public body at this level raises questions about the Inquiry’s approach to issues of race, class, age, disability etc. Representation is important. It is about ensuring that those most affected can trust that the process will be fair and truthful. Matters of equality and diversity are central to the work of the Inquiry, and to restoring confidence of all who seek justice.
The current Chair was selected and appointed by the Prime Minister. It was confirmed at the hearing that it is solely in the Prime Minister’s gift to decide if she wants to add additional diverse decision makers to the panel. We will await her decision.
In the meantime, Justice4Grenfell is disappointed to read coverage in some news outlets that clearly seeks to divide the community around Grenfell Tower. We are a community campaign focused on seeking justice. Some media have chosen to focus on creating divisions in our community at a time when we are still grieving and traumatised by what happened at Grenfell on June 14th. Certain media came into our community, shortly after the fire, asking vulnerable volunteers and survivors leading questions to ‘divide and rule’ us; then quoting them in their outlet some three months later. This is an overt example of ‘exploitation’. We’ve moved on as a community and we will not be silenced or divided.
Six months after the fire, there are urgent issues to be addressed. One obvious question is why 80% of former residents are still in emergency or temporary accommodation? J4G is campaigning so that questions like these are raised; so that institutional behaviours in need of change are confronted, and that those ultimately responsible for the tragic events at Grenfell Tower are held to account.
We ask everyone who is committed to the principles of justice and equality for the bereaved and survivors of the Grenfell Tragedy to come and show respect and solidarity for those who needlessly perished. Join us on the Silent March on Thursday 14th December at 6.30pm; meeting point Notting Hill Methodist Church, Lancaster Road, London W11 4AH.
**CORRECTION: In a previous version of this Press Release, J4G referenced that there were 20% of residents still living in emergency or temporary accommodation. In fact, the amount is significantly greater at 80%. The 60% difference here is important.
We apologise for any confusion that this has caused.**