RBKC attempts to re-house residents ‘incompetent’

21 Jun 18

Kensington and Chelsea council’s efforts to re-house residents after the Grenfell Tower fire were ‘incompetent’ and ‘indifferent’, a survivor has suggested to MPs.

Edward Daffarn, from the community group Grenfell United, also gave evidence to the housing, communities and local government committee yesterday that the council had shown residents potential properties that had not passed essential safety tests.

“Residents were going in viewing properties, liking the properties they were seeing, started to choose furniture, starting to imagine that they could move on with their lives only to be told further down the line that the property that they had seen and been shown by the council didn't have a fire safety certificate, was not fit to live in.”

He said that proper fire risk assessments – statutory safety checks of properties that are not a private home – had not been done on homes being shown to residents.

“The properties that were bought by RBKC were bought without a fire risk assessment [having been done],” the former Grenfell resident said.

Daffarn added: “Two words that have floated to the surface, organically, every time we think about the government’s response to what happened on the 14 June and the local authorities response- those two words are incompetence and indifference.”

The council has set aside £235m for rehousing people affected by the fatal Grenfell Tower fire on the 14 June last year and has been buying properties out of that.

Although, a RBKC spokesperson told PF that the council had shown “one case” that did not meet fire safety standards and that it had apologised for this.

They added that it had only failed “the most stringent possible tests”.

Of the 203 households left homeless after the tower-block blaze, 101 have accepted permanent re-housing but have not moved to date.

There were also 19 people who have not accepted permanent re-housing, according to leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Elizabeth Campbell, who appeared in a later session of the committee yesterday.  

Eight-two residents have accepted new homes and moved in.

Sophie Earnshaw, of the North Kensington Law Centre, said that former Grenfell residents have been under “pressure” to make important decisions about their housing and felt obliged to accept “unsuitable offers”.

Survivors in the committee were also critical that the government had only initiated a consultation on the banning of combustible cladding, which it published on Monday. 

Natasha Elcock, former Grenfell Tower resident and member of Grenfell United, said: “No one should go to sleep at night knowing that they have got combustible cladding wrapped around their building.

“It should be banned and it should be banned now.”

Daffarn added that the £400m promised to councils and housing associations to remove cladding was not enough.

He added: “Grenfell 2 is in the post,” unless the government steps in.

Daffarn also told the committee yesterday that “the culture does not seemed to have changed within the council”.

He added: “Interactions with [council leaders] does not lead to any actual change in the pace of service being delivered.”

In November last year the council claimed it was a “different organisation now”, responding to a highly critical report into its handling of the fatal tower block fire.

An interim report by the Grenfell Tower taskforce, set up by the government to look into the tragedy and draw up a recovery plan, had called RBKC’s response to the fire “sluggish and chaotic”

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