"Shut up I'm talking"

June 30, 2017 3:13 PM

Shut upFrightened Newcastle residents called liars and told to "Shut Up!" by a leading Labour councillor.

At this week's city council meeting Newcastle residents, scared for their safety in council owned high-rise buildings after the events in London, came to seek assurances from the council. The reception they received was less welcoming.

Two residents passionately addressed the council, raising concern about the adherence of YHN (who manage the properties on the council's behalf) to fire safety standards and complaining about a lack of information and engagement from the council. Instead of trying calm these fears, or apologise for residents not receiving the communication they wanted (whatever the cause), Cllr. Dunn, responding on the council leaderships behalf, "absolutely refuted" residents' concerns, calling some of them "Lies".

Residents in the gallery, unsurprisingly, responded with shock and anger, to which Cllr. Dunn responded in kind, shouting at them "Shut Up! I'm talking now!". All the residents wanted was a few simple things: assurances that they would have adequate information and inspections, that someone from the council leadership would come visit the properties in question and that they could have sprinkler systems installed to ensure the safety of them, their families and neighbours. They did not deserve that attitude or that kind of abuse from their elected representative.

It is disgraceful that the council leadership under Nick Forbes and Labour could not give them even the basic assurances they sought. Nick Forbes implied that council would not fit sprinklers until Westminster committed the money. Yet the council is sat on cash reserves of £100 million, probably 20 times the overall cost for these systems. If this nest-egg they have been hoarding (whilst cutting services city-wide) is good for anything, then you would have thought emergency fire safety precautions the perfect use. This is the time to say 'hang the cost, people's lives are at stake here'.

We need leaders who are not so fragile that they respond to criticism with defiance and abuse. We need a council leader who, unlike Nick Forbes, leaves their ivory tower, visits residents and responds to their fears instead of sweeping them aside. Most of all we need a council leadership that cares about other people's safety more than their own. As one resident pointed out in the council chamber 'I bet there are sprinklers in here'.

Philip Hall of Newcastle Liberal Democrats, who was in the gallery with protestors