Grenfell fire: Rebuilding trust in council to ‘take a generation’

Media captionPolice footage shows investigators entering the smoke-blackened staircases

Survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire will “take a generation” to trust Kensington and Chelsea Council again, according to its new leader.

Elizabeth Campbell said “words and apologies” would not be enough, and the authority needed to take action.

But she would not give detail about how much money the council, which has £274m in reserves, would spend on buying houses to rehome survivors.

At least 80 people are believed to be dead after the blaze on 14 June.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the Conservative councillor said: “I was at the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre last week and this man stood up and said ‘my family died in that fire, how are we ever going to trust you again?’

“I said, I think it is going to take a very long time. It is going to take a generation and over the next months and years we have to give you reasons to trust us again.

“That won’t just be words, that won’t just be apologies, it has got to be actions.”

Ms Campbell also revealed she had never been inside a high-rise block in the borough despite working with vulnerable families in North Kensington.

But she said she had experience “with people on the ground” after heading up family and children’s services for the council.

Grenfell community four weeks on

By Frankie McCamley, BBC News

It is four weeks on, but people are still coming to terms with what has happened, and there is also a huge distrust with the council.

There is a new council leader stepping in next week, but there is a real sense that people do not believe what the council are saying and they don’t think that they are moving quickly enough.

The community is coming together, trying to work out what has happened here, why it has happened here… there are so many questions.

But they want to stand together in unity to bring some light on what is a very dark situation.

Kensington and Chelsea Council is known to be one of London’s wealthiest boroughs with reserves of £274m. It has pledged to use some of that to build new council houses.

Ms Campbell said they were also “looking at buying” private properties for a faster fix to rehouse Grenfell survivors, but she would not reveal how much they were willing to spend.

“We live in an overcrowded London borough,” she said. “We have got to find homes in the area where they live.

“We are looking at buying, but I can’t give you pounds, shilling and pence of exactly how much of our reserves.”

Media captionNew leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council tells Today she had never been in a tower block before

Pilgrim Tucker, of the Grenfell Action Group, said the biggest issue for survivors right now was finding a permanent place to live, with only 14 out of 158 families rehomed since the blaze.

However, she said the new leader could make a real difference, although it would take some “quite big, dramatic steps”.

“We have a massive shortage of social housing stock [which means] it is going to be almost impossible to rehouse these people anywhere near their community, which has been so important to them for decades.

“She needs to take this opportunity to actually purchase housing stock and make that available for people in housing need.”

Grenfell resident Miguel Alves said: “We had a lovely home and now we are stuck in four walls in a hotel.

“It is not a sense of family. We feel lost in the crisis,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“I have wonderful kids… I want to close the past and I want to go to the next chapter. I am very lucky to be alive and I have to think that way, as it is easier for us to have hope.”

Disaster recovery

It is exactly four weeks since fire engulfed the 24-storey building in west London.

A vigil will take place later to mark the anniversary as emergency services continue their work.

Sergeant Alistair Hutching, who is co-ordinating the recovery operation at Grenfell Tower, told BBC’s Today programme that volunteer officers were scouring every flat on their hands and knees sieving through debris in an attempt to identify victims.

“We have never had a disaster of this scale in the UK, so we don’t know exactly [how long it will take], but our timescale at the moment for clearance of this whole block is four months,” he said.

“I feel passionately about getting those people back to their loved ones. I understand how frustrating it is for people outside of this environment to sit there and wait, saying ‘why can’t I have my family back, surely it’s easy?’

“It’s not. But we are trying our very best to get them their loved ones back. All I can say is, please be patient. We are doing our utmost for you and we are working as hard as we can.”

Grenfell fire: Rebuilding trust in council to ‘take a generation’

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