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28.09.17

Kensington and Chelsea council ends contract with TMO

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has decided to terminate its contract with the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) – the body responsible for the Grenfell Tower building.

At a council meeting last night, the authority voted unanimously to end the arrangement, following accusations that it had failed to carry out its duty and safeguard residents living in the tower block.

Since the unspeakable tragedy in June, TMO was found to have broken its duty of care by ignoring complaints, failing to carry out repairs and, crucially, installing flammable cladding to the side of the building.

During the meeting, deputy council leader Kim Taylor Smith said the TMO “no longer has the trust of residents,” adding that the council was “drawing the contract to a close in an organised fashion.”

“We are listening to residents and consulting on how they want their homes and neighbourhoods to be managed in the future,” he explained.

Leader of the council Elizabeth Campbell also added that the authority was “doing the best we can” as she batted off criticism from Labour councillors that the organisation needed to be doing more to make changes after the disaster.

One resident in attendance, Lobna Aghzafi, even accused the council of leaving a bottle of expired milk in a relief package intended for victims of the fire, which allegedly has made a child ill.

Following the incident at Grenfell, the DCLG has taken action to force landlords and housing associations across the country to carry out checks on similar cladding on buildings to protect residents from future fires.

A number of landlords have also had to borrow money to make adjustments to properties, though according to research this week, only 10% of social landlords have actually been in contact with tenants to discuss fire safety measures.

Developers avoided building affordable homes with ‘legal loophole’

Research from housing charity Shelter published today has also found that 700 promised social homes in Kensington and Chelsea were not built due to a “legal loophole” that was exploited by housing developers.

Shelter argued that homes were not built due to a loophole called “viability assessment.” This is when a developer wins planning permission by saying that it will build a certain number of affordable homes, before going back to the council to say they can’t build these homes as it would reduce their profit margin, using a “secret viability assessment” to support their argument.

In Kensington and Chelsea, this was used to reduce the number of affordable homes to 15%, some way below the council’s policy target of 50%.

If this loophole had not been exploited, Shelter said more than enough homes would have been available to rehouse victims of the fire.

“At a time when we desperately need more affordable homes, big developers are allowed to prioritise their profits by building luxury housing while backtracking on their promises to build a fair share of affordable homes,” Shelter CEO Polly Neate explained.

“The government must make sure we treat affordable housing commitments as cast iron pledges, rather than optional extras, and act now to close the loophole that allows developers to wriggle out of building the affordable homes this country urgently needs.”

Top Image: Ik Aldama, DPA, PA Images

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