Grenfell Tower residents 'still having rent payments taken out of bank accounts'

Tory local councillor Catherine Faulks calls erroneous rent deduction a ‘tiny thing’ before quickly backtracking and insisting council is providing residents with sufficient support 

May Bulman
Saturday 01 July 2017 17:32 BST
Tory RBKC Councillor Catherine Faulks: Grenfell residents still being charged rent is 'a tiny thing'

Former residents of Grenfell Tower are still having rent taken out of their bank account for the burnt-out property in north Kensington, according to a campaign director representing survivors.

An unknown number of tenants who managed to escape the blaze discovered earlier this week that rent instalments had been deducted for their flat in the 24-story block

Tory councillor Catherine Faulks called the erroneous rent deduction a "tiny thing", before quickly tracking back on her words and insisting that Kensington and Chelsea Council had provided affected residents with social workers to deal with such matters.

Yvette Williams, coordinator of Justice4Grenfell, told Radio 4's Today programme a resident had approached her on Friday saying they'd "just got their bank card and things back, and seen that their rent has been deducted."

Her claim was backed up by Pilgrim Tucker, a community organiser working with the Grenfell Action Group, who tweeted on Saturday: "All bar one of the evacuated residents from uninhabitable blocks around grenfell I spoke to this morning are having rent deducted by council."

During an interview on the Today programme moments after Ms Williams raised the concern, Ms Faulkes, when asked about the rent payments, said she was "very sorry to hear that" and could "understand its very distressing".

But when then asked why the council had allowed it to happen she responded: “Oh come on, that’s a tiny thing — I mean it’s not a tiny thing for them it’s a huge thing and it’s very upsetting.

"But the council are in the process of trying to house 400 people. They’ve got people in hotels, they’ve got a social worker for every single family who is triaging them into a wraparound service.

"I’m very sorry to hear that’s happened, but that person to whom that has happened will have one person connection they can go to to sort it out."

She continued: “I know you’re hearing a lot of noise about nothing happening but actually, on the ground there is a lot of hand-holding going on and I haven’t heard anyone in the media speak to someone who is receiving that help.”

In response to the reports that residents were being charged rent, the Radical Housing Network, which has been campaigning for the rights of survivors, demanded that the council release financial information on all rental income they have collected and refunds any rent collected.

“We know that hundreds of residents, evacuated because their homes are uninhabitable, with no gas or hot water, are staying in unsuitable hotel accommodation still having to pay their council rent," a spokesperson said.

“Residents of Lancaster West estate must have urgent clarification on this issue. We demand refunds for any rent collected, and reassurances that no other Grenfell survivors are affected.

"Confidence in Kensington and Chelsea Council is at rock bottom – for reassurance and clarity, the council must release financial information on all rental income they have collected."

It comes after the Tory leader of Kensington and Chelsea council, Nick Paget-Brown, resigned in the wake of the fire, saying he accepted a “share of responsibility” for the “perceived failings”.

Two other senior officials involved in the Grenfell tragedy earlier said they were standing down, following criticism of the council’s response to the disaster, which officials say claimed the lives of at least 80 people.

The Labour Party meanwhile launched a drive for the council to relinquish its handling of affairs until the crisis was brought under control.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who welcomed Mr Paget-Brown's resignation, said the Government had “no option” but to appoint “untainted” commissioners who had “a genuine empathy for local people and the situation they face” to take over running the authority.

Shadow housing secretary John Healey said the move would amount to “specific, immediate, obvious and necessary action”, while shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne added the powers should be used to “get a grip on what has gone dreadfully wrong”.

Jeremy Corbyn said he had written to Prime Minister Theresa May urging her to widen the scope of the public inquiry ito the disaster.

The Labour leader said he asked for a two-part inquiry, the first looking at specific issues around the fire in at the building and reporting back soon, and an additional second part “looking at the national issues”.

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