London council did nothing to prevent asbestos exposure for a decade

8th June 2015

A council in East London that was made aware of the presence of asbestos in its own town hall reportedly waited ten years before taking any action to have it removed.

Waltham Forest Council found out about the potentially deadly dust in the basement of the town hall as long ago as 2002. However, it wasn’t until a member of the public asked to see documents relating to election expenses in 2012 that the truth was revealed, mirror.co.uk reports

The Health and Safety Executive has now stated that “an unquantifiable number” of employees and contractors have been exposed to asbestos as a result of the council’s disregard. Fines of £66,000 were issued after the council admitted Health and Safety at Work offences.

Many former employees and members of the public service union Unison have protested outside the public buildings since the news broke. Unison branch officer Dave Knight has called it “a matter of criminal negligence”.

“There should be some real accountability when serious, life-threatening breaches of health and safety legislation occur. We therefore call on Waltham Forest Council to launch a full inquiry into all the circumstances that have led to this prosecution,” he added.

A council spokesperson said they “fully accept” that they should have done more, bbc.co.uk notes.