Worried Ledbury residents hoping to question the council about the dangers in their homes were asked to hold a meeting in the open air, while the local Labour Party continued with a private meeting in the estate’s community hall.
Some 80 residents had gathered for a meeting with housing officers at the hall. But they instead agreed to hold their meeting on the grass outside, whilst Labour Party members used the hall to carry out their “selection process” for candidates who will stand in the 2018 local elections.
During the meeting outside the hall, residents exchanged “shocking” photos and videos of the cracks in their flats. Some reported that their cracks had been repaired, only to later reappear.
One local councillor, Barrie Hargrove (cabinet member for communities and safety) was accused of being confrontational with residents who interrupted the Labour meeting asking for the group to use the hall. Cllr Hargrove was also accused of saying “we don’t need your votes anyway” when one of the group suggested that the Ledbury residents would mostly have voted Labour, and would therefore appreciate his help.
Cllr Hargrove later told the News: “The Ledbury TRA hall had been booked by the Labour Party for an important shortlisting meeting, but of course I wanted to make sure that residents were still able to discuss their concerns about fire safety on the Ledbury estate with local ward councillors. I was assured by one of the organisers of the residents’ meeting that our booking could go ahead and that the residents were happy to meet outside the hall.
“I explained that we had a prior booking and that our use of the hall had been previously agreed, but unfortunately they became argumentative and aggressive towards me. One of the three people (who is not a resident of the estate) told me that she would not vote for me, and it was at this point that I responded by saying I wasn’t looking for her vote.
“As someone who lives locally myself, I care very much about the residents of the Ledbury Estate and regularly speak up on their behalf. It is a real shame that the behaviour of just a few people marred such an important discussion about fire safety.”
Grace Lally, of Radical Housing Network, and who was present at the meeting, said: “The three ward councillors said they had never known anything was wrong, and hadn’t seen the fire risk assessments that had led to there being fire wardens on ever floor since Friday. No one from the council had taken in that this was structural problem with the entire buildings.”