Kensington & Chelsea’s response ‘sluggish and chaotic’, says Grenfell taskforce

7 Nov 17

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea “failed its community” on the night of the Grenfell fire and in the weeks that followed, according to the taskforce set up to examine the tragedy.

The taskforce’s first report, which was presented to parliament by communities secretary Sajid Javid yesterday, described the council’s response to the disaster as “sluggish and chaotic”.

Javid warned the RBKC that the government was “not taking any options off the table” regarding the council’s future.

The report criticised RBKC for being insular, too traditional and “distant from its residents” in the years before the fire. 

On the key question of finding new accommodation for residents whose homes were destroyed, the taskforce described the council’s progress as “painfully slow”.

Only 47 households have been found permanent homes, and 131 households are still in emergency accommodation out of a total of 204, nearly five months after the fire.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Javid welcomed signs that “much-needed change” was under way at RBKC, but highlighted four specific areas where the council had to improve.

First, it needed to deliver its services more quickly, he argued, and should be innovative instead of “relying too much on tried and tested solutions that are not up to the task”.

Javid also raised concerns that staff lacked the specialist skills to deal effectively with such a traumatised community, although he welcomed the fact that the NHS specialists are now providing the council was expert training.

Finally, the council’s processes were too impersonal for the people who turned to them for help.

“A much greater degree of humanity must be put at the heart of all RBKC’s recovery work,” Javid told MPs.

More than 80 people were killed in June when fire spread rapidly through Grenfell Tower, trapping residents in their flats on the upper floors.

The council has received sustained criticism over the poor fire safety at the tower, which led to council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown quitting and being replaced by the end of that month.

Robert Black, the chief executive of Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, the arm’s-length body that managed Grenfell Tower, also stepped down.

The Independent Grenfell Recovery Taskforce has been asked to work with the local authority on developing a recovery plan for those affected by the fire, with a specific remit to look at housing, community engagement, providing “cross-cutting” support for survivors, and making long-term plans for the Grenfell Tower site.

The taskforce has not provided a timeline for its next report, but said it intended to look in more detail at the delivery and effects of support services provided to survivors.

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