HOUNSLOW Council's leader has been accused of attempting to score political points out of a tragic fire in which two people died.
Independent Community Group member Phil Andrews said he was 'sickened' by Jagdish Sharma's comments, which appeared in his regular Chronicle blog, calling them 'as low as it gets'.
However, Hounslow Council's leader defended his comments and said Mr Andrews needed to develop a 'thicker skin'.
Mr Sharma had written about last Wednesday's flat blaze in Heston, in which a woman leapt three storeys to her death and a man's body was later found inside.
After paying tribute to all those who helped as the sad events unfolded, he ended with a dig at his former political rival Phil Andrews, accusing him of 'dithering' over whether to stand in next May's local elections.
Mr Sharma wrote: "It was interesting to contrast this experience (the response to the fire) 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."
Mr Sharma's comments were in response to Mr Andrews' blog in which he accused the council of failing to properly involve residents in decision-making, comparing its attitude to that of BBC sitcom character Basil Fawlty.
Mr Andrews said he was 'utterly sickened' the Labour group leader had used such a tragic event as an excuse to launch a political attack.
"I really can't believe Jagdish actually wrote this. To try to score a political point from such an awful tragedy is about as low as it gets, and if this what we can expect from Labour as the local election approaches they should prepare themselves for the most angry backlash imaginable because our residents are decent human beings and they are not going to accept this kind of thing," he said.
Mr Sharma defended his remarks, saying: "Mr Andrews is happy to fire pot shots at the council, as he did in last week's Chronicle, but when he is put straight on issues he doesn't like it at all. He'll need to develop a thicker skin if he has any ambitions to be a councillor.
"The point I made was that the tragedy of the Heston fire elicited a swift and caring response from the community and represented real community involvement, in contrast to the criticisms Mr Andrews made in his own column."