Opinion: Supporting victims of tower block fire
PUBLISHED: 14:16 06 July 2019
The recent fire in De Pass Gardens was truly devastating and will have surely shocked everyone in Barking and Dagenham.
I have spent the past few weeks working to make sure that everybody affected by the fire is supported and given all the help they need.
The day after the fire I visited the site with the Mayor of London to receive a briefing from the London Fire Brigade.
I also met with residents affected and volunteers at Thames View Community Centre, which has acted as a rest centre. I would like to once again extend my thanks to the dozens of donations made and all the help given. Here, I made it clear to all residents that my team and I are here to help with any short-term issues and with long-term rehousing.
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I have since held a follow up meeting with a number of families whose homes were completely destroyed by the fire. I have made a number of commitments to them to provide all the support and advice I can during this very difficult period.
I have recently held a one-to-one meeting with the leader of the council, where I urged the council to provide a single point of contact so that the most affected residents always feel listened to and kept up to date.
I am pleased that the council has made initial progress securing suitable new housing for those worst affected.
In parliament, I asked the secretary of state for housing a number of important questions about how we can prevent a fire similar to this reoccurring. I asked why smaller blocks of flats are allowed to have untreated wood on their exterior. I also asked why buildings this size are not always fitted with water sprinklers and why residents are unable to hold anybody to account when serious mistakes are made.
I will soon be holding a meeting with the secretary of state for housing where I expect a clear set of answers to my questions. It is unacceptable for inadequate safety regulations to remain unchanged.
Regretfully the damage caused by this fire can never be reversed. However, I will be pushing hard to ensure an incident like this can never happen again.