The tragic fire in Heston last week in which two people sadly lost their lives has yet to be explained.
While we await the results of the London Fire Brigade’s investigation, we have been getting on with the important task of rehousing those made homeless by the fire.
Happily, many of the families affected have been able to return to their homes. I met one of the families who were affected last week when they came to the Civic Centre, along with our Mayor, Cllr Sachin Gupta, cabinet member for housing, Cllr Steve Curran, and Feltham and local MP Seema Malhotra.
Mr and Mrs Taziwa and her children were in excellent spirits and were most grateful for the support we had given them.
Council officers worked speedily to find them temporary accommodation as close to their homes as possible, so that family and school lives were disrupted as little as possible. They worked from 2.30am running a rest centre at Heston Village Hall for people who had to be evacuated from their homes. This meant feeding, clothing and reassuring 32 people, including six children, throughout the night and the following day.
Our housing officers worked tirelessly to find temporary accommodation for those who could not return home in the immediate aftermath of the fire. By 5pm, all the families and individuals had been found temporary homes in and around the borough.
It was a thoroughly professional and well-delivered response to a terrible event. I thank and pay tribute to all the council officers involved, along with their colleagues in the police and fire service.
The council is investigating the circumstances behind the management of the property concerned and we will not hesitate to take action if it is necessary.
It is also important to recognise the strength of response and support from the wider Hounslow community. The Foodbox project offered those affected food supplies, the British Red Cross supported people at the rest centre and provided blankets as well as emotional support, and many local residents came forward with offers of help.
This is real community spirit and community cohesion and demonstrates just how strong and caring our communities are.
It was interesting to contrast this experience with the views offered last week by Phil Andrews, who is dithering over whether or not to stand at the next council elections. He clumsily and erroneously criticised the council’s statement of community involvement, which defines how people are consulted on planning issues.
Perhaps he should read our excellent, recently-published consultation and engagement framework, which would set him straight on how we involve residents in council decisions.
The local response to what happened in Heston was a real statement of community involvement – a positive and effective response from the council and the community to a local crisis. That is what this council’s leadership and its officers have worked so hard to achieve.