Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, visits the scene of a fire disaster, Britain June 15, 2017. © Neil Hall / Reuters
16 June, 2017
Properties deliberately kept empty by millionaires within a stone’s throw of the Grenfell Tower disaster should be used to accommodate survivors who lost their homes, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says.
After touring the scene of the fire and speaking to residents on Thursday, Corbyn told journalists: “Kensington is a tale of two cities – it is among the wealthiest parts of this country, but the ward where this took place is one of the poorest.
“Residents must also be rehoused, using requisition of empty properties if necessary, in the community they love.”
He later said in a parliamentary debate: “It cannot be acceptable that in London you have luxury buildings and flats kept as land banking for the future, while the homeless and poor look for somewhere to live.”
A mass vigil is planned to take place on Friday at the scene of the fire. Up to 2,000 people have confirmed on Facebook that they will be attending.
It is set to begin at 6pm local time.
Kensington and Chelsea Council said 110 households had been given temporary accommodation by Friday morning, according to the Press Association.
Housing Minister Alok Sharma told MPs on Thursday the government guarantees “every single family” from the Tower will be rehoused in the local area.
However, the borough council’s latest statement says those made homeless may need to be housed in other areas of London.
“While we will try do our upmost (sic) to ensure those affected remain in or near the borough, given the number of households involved, it is possible the council will have to explore housing options that may become available in other parts of the capital,”
Prime Minister Theresa May, already under pressure following the poor Tory showing in the general election, has been tongue-lashed by the public over her response to Grenfell.
Visiting the scene of the disaster on Thursday morning, the PM only met with firefighters and appeared to avoid meeting survivors and local residents.
Corbyn, meanwhile, spent 40 minutes speaking to families and volunteers in the rest centers and local church.
Labour MP Harriet Harman was quick to tweet that May’s behavior was “not okay.”
Theresa May should have met #GrenfellFire residents. She should have been prepared to listen to them Not OK to speak at them via TV
— Harriet Harman (@HarrietHarman) June 15, 2017
May appeared later on television to announce a public inquiry and tell residents of the tower that “the Government will make every effort to make sure that they are rehoused in London and as close as possible to home.”
Metropolitan Police have also announced that they have appointed an officer to lead their own criminal investigation.
On Friday, Tory Communities Minister Sajid Javid announced that all 4,000 tower blocks in the UK would be inspected.
“This should never have happened in a country like Britain in the 21st century. It is not acceptable,” he told the BBC.
He also said he would strip the controversial cladding, which is thought to have allowed the fire to spread so rapidly, from such buildings.
It has been alleged that the cladding was installed to make the tower less of an eyesore for residents of nearby luxury flats.