Kensington and Chelsea council terminates contract with Grenfell Tower landlord

Body 'no longer has the trust of residents,' says deputy council leader

Harriet Agerholm
Wednesday 27 September 2017 23:26
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A silent march for the victims in London earlier this month
A silent march for the victims in London earlier this month

Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKC) has voted unanimously to terminate its contract with the landlord of Grenfell Tower.

The decision came on the same day it emerged that at least 18 children died in the fire, many of whom were siblings.

The Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) manages 9,760 homes in the borough, including the Lancaster West Estate, of which Grenfell is part.

Candlelit vigil marks 100 days since Grenfell tragedy

Deputy council leader Kim Taylor-Smith said at a council meeting on Wednesday night: “The TMO no longer has the trust of residents.”

The association had managed the properties since April 1996, although the council retains ownership of the buildings and responsibility for strategic housing policies.

Cllr Taylor-Smith said the council was working with the TMO to bring its contract to a close, citing a lack of confidence in its fire safety record and a unanimous vote of no confidence from 25 residents' associations.

But he said RBKC was “drawing the contract to a close in an organised fashion”.

He added: “We are listening to residents and consulting on how they want their homes and neighbourhoods to be managed in the future.”

The council has faced fierce criticism over the speed of its response to the fire and there was growing concern that only a small proportion of the residents had been rehoused.

Yet, speaking at a council meeting on Wednesday, leader Elizabeth Campbell insisted "this is not a time for haste, this is a time for getting it right".

She said 20 families are now living in permanent accommodation, while another 52 households had accepted an offer in principle, adding: "We are working around the clock to do whatever we can to get people into new homes."

Cllr Campbell said Kensington and Chelsea had bought 120 homes, while a further 20 purchases were in the hands of solicitors and 20 more under negotiation.

"I am confident the number of people moving in to new homes will increase dramatically in the coming months," she said.

She was heckled by residents seated in the public gallery, with one shouting "You move in to a tower block then".

Labour councillor Robert Atkinson was cheered when he called on the Government to recommit to its promise of an amnesty for any illegal migrants affected by the fire.

He said it was the only way for any inquiry to get to the full truth of what happened on the night of 14 June.

He condemned the slow rate of progress at rehousing survivors, saying: "The council needs to be doing more and needs to be doing it faster."

The meeting began with a minute's silence to remember all those who died in the fire, followed by the appointment of Cllr Benazir Lasharie as deputy mayor.

​Cllr Lasharie gave a tearful acceptance speech, saying: "The tower has been part of my life — the first thing I could see when I left my home and the last thing we would see when I came home."

She described growing up in the shadow of the tower and playing in the park at its base as a child, adding: "This council needs to change".

Members of the Independent Grenfell Recovery Task Force appointed by communities and local government minister Sajid Javid were present at the meeting to "challenge and support" the council, said Kensington's and Chelsea's mayor Marie-Therese Rossi.

She said: "They are looking at whether the council is up to the job of dealing with the long-term recovery of those who have suffered as a result of the Grenfell Fire tragedy."

The most recent victims of the fire to be identified include two sisters, two three-year-old girls, a boy aged six, a teenager and a woman in her 30s.

A number of the dead were siblings, with the fire wiping out complete families.

Senior Coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox told Westminster Coroner's Court: “We hopefully now only have a handful of formal identifications to make.

“I have identified 67 different victims of this fire.

“Many sadly today were young children who died.

“I have opened and adjourned and suspended the inquests of all 67.”

She said all children on the missing list had been accounted for and identified, adding: “I hope that has managed to bring some relief to the families who have been anxiously awaiting the return of their children to them.”

Police now believe that the death toll from the 14 June blaze may fall slightly from its estimate of around 80.

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