Socialist Worker

Tory-led Kensington and Chelsea council in fresh bid to sideline Grenfell survivors

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2575

Ordinary people organised to support Grenfell survivors following the fire - while the Tory-led council abandoned them

Ordinary people organised to support Grenfell survivors following the fire - while the Tory-led council abandoned them (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The Tory-led council that ignored safety warnings ahead of the Grenfell Tower fire is still trying to sideline residents’ voices.

Council tenants in Kensington and Chelsea, west London, have serious concerns about new plans to hand over control of council housing stock.

The council took control of its housing stock away from the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) last month.

The KCTMO, along with the council, had ignored Grenfell residents’ repeated warnings that the tower was a death trap.

But a document outlining plans for the new management shows that it hopes to have the last say in any handover. It offers no break from the lack of democracy that surrounded the KCTMO.

In order to shut down the KCTMO resident members would have to vote yes to the council’s entire document.

But that document gives the council chiefs the right to appoint anyone they like to the new management body.

That could leave the door open to housing associations and private housing registered providers to get a foothold in the organisation.

Campaigners and tenants in North Kensington also fear that Notting Hill Housing could be brought in to run the homes.

Notting Hill was behind the infamous Aylesbury Estate “regeneration” in Southwark, south London, which saw council tenants and leaseholders forced out.

North Kensington housing activist Jan Sweeney told Socialist Worker, “If we agree to the document we could be handing it all over to a housing association.”

Vote

Jan added that most council tenants will be excluded from the vote. “Not every resident can vote,” she said. “You only get a vote if you’re a KCTMO member.”

There are only around 5,000 KCTMO members, but there are 10,000 homes managed by the KCTMO.

That means people who have only recently come to Britain or people in a precarious housing situation—such as subletting—are less likely to get a vote.

Meanwhile, the council has been dragging its feet over housing Grenfell Tower survivors and those displaced by the fire.

And those who are rehoused may lose their council tenancy.

At the end of last month council leader Elizabeth Campbell said 20 families were in permanent accommodation. Even that may be an overestimate.

The council leadership has been in negotiation with housing associations since at least early August.

That negotiations have taken so long is a scandal in itself and many questions remain to be answered.

For instance, are housing associations resisting? Or are the council waiting to see if they can claim the money back from the Tories, rather than take it out of their reserves?

Kensington and Chelsea council should be doing everything it can for survivors. Instead it’s trying to exclude them from any involvement in the decision affecting their future.


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