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Kensington & Chelsea reveals £75m spending plans after Grenfell

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Kensington & Chelsea RBC has published details of how it has committed more than £75m to support people affected by the Grenfell Tower fire.

In addition to £40m to secure a supply of permanent social housing accommodation and £20m to buy properties on the open market, £1.2m was awarded to Family Mosaic Housing to provide resettlement support to people who need rehousing for two years.

Further costs have been incurred by suspending rents, council tax and service charges for tenants and leaseholders.

LGC understands the council’s spending is likely to rise far beyond the current level.

Speaking to the full council meeting last Wednesday for which the spending report was prepared, council leader Elizabeth Campbell (Con) said: “It has been necessary to take some urgent key decisions – to take care of people’s needs as quickly as possible.

“…we have committed more than £75m from our emergency funds on buying homes, leasing the Curve community centre and providing wraparound care.”

Ms Campbell said a further 100 properties would need to be acquired this autumn.

“We will continue to use our emergency funds until we have provided all the homes and support that people need,” she added. “So far, 52 families have accepted permanent housing offers and 20 families are now in their new permanent homes.”

Papers revealed in late August Kensington & Chelsea “set aside £40m, initially from council reserves, in order to secure a supply of available permanent accommodation at social housing rents from registered providers to enable rehousing of households affected by the Grenfell fire”. 

To do this it was necessary “to delegate to the chief executive, in consultation with the s151 officer (director of finance) and the director of housing, authorisation to negotiate and enter into a compensation agreement of up to £5m per scheme or development to a total value of £40m”.

Another £20m was set aside from reserves, likely to be spent in 2017-18, to “authorise the director of property and director of finance in in conjunction with the (acting) director of housing to acquire properties on the open market for the purpose of providing residential accommodation”.

The papers also reveal the council has approved a £600,000 resettlement package, entering into contracts with John Lewis for Business and Focus on Furnishings to “supply a range of products and services to assist residents to resettle into new homes”.

Meanwhile, a lease has been taken out on premises for a community assistance centre called The Curve. The council also awarded a £180,000 grant to the Carnival Village Trust to act as a “positive community hub” to help rebuild trust with the community.

Businesses affected by the fire have also been given business rate relief and rent reductions. The council approved a £50,000 contribution to a business continuity fund.

A report repaired for the Tuesday meeting of Kensington & Chelsea’s audit and transparency committee said that “at this stage it is not possible to quantify the financial impact on the council of this tragic event before the inquiry and investigation are concluded”.

It added: “In light of the Grenfell tragedy, the council will be critically reviewing all earmarked reserve balances during 2017-18.”

A Grenfell recovery scrutiny committee has been set up by the council, and will meet for the first time next week. It will be chaired by Robert Thompson (Lab). Cllr Campbell said the committee would contain “the most experienced and knowledgeable councillors”.

She added: “Its role will be to review, to question and to scrutinise the council, and the way we are trying to help survivors and the local community.

“We are being given additional advice and support by the independent taskforce. I personally have found the advice of the chair of the taskforce, Jane Scott, to be invaluable.”

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