Two years on from the Grenfell Tower tragedy, my priority is to ensure that everyone affected is receiving the support they need and deserve. The Independent Grenfell Recovery Taskforce continues to provide challenge and advice to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) in their response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy. I recently received their fourth report, which I am today depositing in the Library of the House and publishing in full at gov.uk, alongside my response.
The Taskforce have outlined the progress that the Council have made since their last report of November 2018. RBKC have published their Grenfell Recovery Strategy and committed £50 million over the next five years to develop services to support the recovery. The Recovery Strategy is also prioritised in the new Council Plan. The Taskforce report that the dedicated service for the bereaved and survivors is the successful result of the Council co-designing the service with its users. I welcome these significant steps forward.
On rehousing, the Taskforce have again offered reassurance to Ministers that the Council’s approach is appropriate and sensitive to the long-term needs of survivors. I am pleased that there has been further progress since I received the Taskforce’s report with two more families moving into permanent accommodation. However, as I said in my oral statement on 10 June I remain concerned that households are still in emergency accommodation, including one in a hotel.
The Taskforce have also welcomed the Council’s demonstrable appetite to modernise their governance procedures. They cite their implementation of recommendations by the Centre for Public Scrutiny, including establishing a programme of Listening Forums. The Taskforce have also identified the beginning of a culture change initiated by the Chief Executive and Leader of the Council.
The Taskforce have highlighted developments in the Council’s approach to community relationships and communications. RBKC have increased the number and means by which they engage with their residents including new meetings between the political leadership and some of those most affected by the tragedy. The Taskforce also report that they are seeing pockets of good practice pertaining to fostering good relationships with service users and the community.
Whilst the Taskforce have noted good progress in many areas they are also clear that the Council still faces significant challenges. The Taskforce have identified that the pace by which the recovery is being implemented is still too slow and that this needs to be addressed. The Taskforce have highlighted that strands of the Recovery Strategy remain in development, as well as the Community Programme and Economy Strategy. The Taskforce therefore remain concerned about the capacity and corporate capability of the Council to drive sustainable change. Although the rehousing programme is nearing completion the Taskforce state that the Council still faces substantial wider housing challenges. Whilst there is a programme to support and develop all councillors, the Taskforce have noticed occasions where member behaviour has caused them concern. There is a high degree of social capital that the Council are yet to fully tap into and the Taskforce call for an innovative approach to harness this enthusiasm. The Taskforce have also highlighted that the culture change has still not permeated all levels of the Council and silo working remains an issue.
The Taskforce has set the bar high for RBKC’s recovery. It is important there is ambition and pace in the Council’s recovery efforts over the next three to four months in responding to the Taskforce’s recommendations, including:
I am assured the Council have already set in train action to meet these recommendations. This includes a paper outlining their plans to implement organisational change at the Council by 2020.
I will review the process in September, by which point I hope the Council will have made sufficient further progress. I look forward to continuing to work with the Taskforce.