Council leader vows to do 'whatever it takes' for Grenfell Tower blaze survivors

The leader of the council at the heart of the Grenfell Tower pledged to do "whatever it takes" to support survivors, 100 days on from the fire.

Elizabeth Campbell, who took over from Nicholas Paget Brown following the fire, said she was hoping to have everyone made homeless by the fire into permanent homes by the one-year anniversary of the blaze if not sooner.

She said Kensington and Chelsea council (RBKC) was looking at buying dozens of extra properties to ensure residents had choice over where they will live, and that any housing decision taken by the council would be made in consultation with residents.

Just five families from the tower and Grenfell Walk have moved into permanent accommodation, with more than 150 still in hotels and dozens further in temporary homes.

Ms Campbell promised her team was working around the clock to support former residents and that the number was so small "because we are having to do things in a considered and considerate way".

She said: "I understand today will be a very difficult day, because of memories of what's happened, lost fathers, mothers, children, it's really not easy, and my responsibility as leader of this council is to do absolutely everything we can to make things better.

"And that's getting accommodation, that's doing wrap around care, that's ensuring their children get to go to school.

"Whatever it takes, we will do."

Elizabeth Campbell

Councils across London have sent RBKC their very best people to give advice and expertise in the coming months, she said, adding: "We are determined to get this right."

She went on: "The Prime Minister she wants everyone in homes within a year, but we certainly hope to have people in permanent homes more quickly.

"As I said, we've got 117 (home), by the end of the month we will have purchased another 100, but also...we appreciate you need to give people a choice so we are looking at buying about 300 properties for about 200 people so we can get people out of hotels and into permanent accommodation."

Responding to concerns that the housing allocation process involved residents bidding against each other, she repeated her earlier promise survivors would only be offered a property they could have.

Bereaved survivors who lost family members would be prioritised, with injured people, those with children with special needs or caring responsibilities next, with Ms Campbell adding: "It's terribly important to be fair."

She said: "I know that's tricky because it's slowing down the process, but it's a balance.

"What we didn't want to do ... was be sort of quick and have people bidding against each other.

"No, we're going slowly, fairly, transparently, one stage at a time."

Asked if she felt the initial housing assessments about what kind of places people needed were thorough enough, she said: "I think they are very thorough now and most of the housing officers know families really well."

Ms Campbell also explained the rationale behind the council's initial screening process as it emerged eight people are being investigated by police over allegations they fraudulently attempted to benefit from the blaze.

She said: "I would say that on the whole what we were trying to do ... was work speedily, offer people things and then if we thought it wasn't quite right, we would be gathering evidence in order to give to the police to prosecute.

"I don't think we wanted to err too much on the side of the caution because you might then say to somebody 'oh no, you can't have this money' and it's better to say, 'okay, you have it', and then if we have concerns we'll track it, we'll make evidence and will give the case to police.

"It's a balance because we are holding taxpayers' money and we are responsible for that, but on the other hand we know that survivors and victims need the help quickly," she added.


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