A Kensington councillor has been instructed to apologise to a survivor of the Grenfell Tower disaster following a complaint about his behaviour at a council meeting.
The complaint was made about Councillor Matthew Palmer, who represents Queen’s Gate ward, following a budget meeting at Kensington and Chelsea Council on March 7.
Grenfell survivor Edward Daffarn wrote to the council’s chief executive Barry Quirk on the evening of the meeting, claiming that Cllr Palmer’s behaviour had been “obnoxious and highly disrespectful”.
Mr Daffarn's email alleged that Cllr Palmer had “shouted out to the minority party 'where are the sprinklers?' in relation to the absence of sprinklers at Grenfell Tower on the night of the fire and the amendments of the proposed 2018/19 budget that the Labour group were proposing.”
The council's audit and transparency committee considered the complaint on Thursday (July 19).
Cllr Palmer told the committee: “I certainly did not make comments half a dozen times, shouting where are the sprinklers. I was absolutely certain I had not done that.”
“I never had any intention to upset anybody,” he told the committee. “But I was trying to make a point about a budgetary point in a debating chamber.”
He said he had sent an apology to the complainant last week via the council’s monitoring officer LeVerne Parker.
Ms Parker told the committee that after reviewing the complaint she thought there was a breach of the Council Members’ Code of Conduct and there should be further investigation.
In her report she said a recording of the meeting did not pick up further interventions by Cllr Palmer as the camera was directed at other speakers.
“It is clear, however, that Cllr Palmer did interject when other councillors were speaking,” her report said.
Cllr Palmer said interjections were “along the lines of 'Where’s the budget?'”
After the committee deliberated for over half an hour chairman James Husband said: “We agree that Cllr Palmer did mention sprinklers, by his own admission, more than once. We understand that Mr Daffarn was upset by this whether that was the intention or not.
“We accept that when Cllr Palmer refers to sprinklers he was addressing his comments to the minority party and not to the members of the public.”
He ruled that Cllr Palmer did not say anything in his speech that had breached the code. However, the committee found he had failed to make an unequivocal apology for any upset. It did not think the letter Councillor Palmer sent last week was sufficient.
They said the council had to treat people with respect and has signed up to the Hillsborough charter for families bereaved by public tragedy following the Grenfell fire.
The committee formally asked him to apologise unequivocally to Mr Daffarn for the upset he experienced.