At least five Grenfell survivors who DIDN’T live in the tower are still being put up in hotels at taxpayer’s expense
- They are staying in hotels and other accommodation in and around Kensington
- The total cost now running to hundreds of thousands of pounds
- Claimed that they were visiting friends, partners or relatives at the tower
At least five people who never lived in Grenfell Tower are still being looked after at the taxpayer’s expense more than one year on from the tragedy.
They are staying in hotels and other accommodation in and around Kensington, west London, with the total cost now running to hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The people, who are not known to each other, said they were visiting friends, partners or relatives at the tower on the night of the fire on June 14 last year.
But they did not live there nor in the surrounding walkways. One, who has lived in a hotel for much of the past year, said he was ‘affected like everybody else’ despite not being a Grenfell resident.
The individuals applied to the Kensington council for help with housing, claiming they were unable to return to their homes because of what they had witnessed.
It is not known how many have already been provided with permanent flats or houses and how many remain on a waiting list for permanent accommodation.
The five belong to a wider group of around 30 people who were not official tenants but are also still being looked after by the council. However this wider group is made up of those who were unofficially living with partners, friends or relatives, or were sub-letting from named tenants. It also includes those who have said they were sleeping rough in communal areas of the tower.
The council has acknowledged that although they were not officially listed as living at Grenfell, they were still made homeless following the blaze. The Kensington council policy is that anybody who lost their home in the fire, in which 72 people died, will be looked after.
One student, who said he was visiting a friend on the night of the blaze, has argued that what he witnessed caused him such distress he cannot return to his home.
He did go back to his privately-rented shared flat in another part of London for a few weeks following the fire, but after contacting the council he was placed in a four-star hotel in west London.
He has been living in the hotel, with breakfast and dinner included, for much of the past 12 months at an estimated cost of more than £1,000-per-week. The student said he could not return to his original accommodation four miles from the tower because he is suffering from flashbacks and panic attacks.
‘I didn’t live there but I’m affected like everybody else,’ he said. ‘I went to the council support centre and told them how I am affected and asked whether they could pay the rent or get me a room. I said I needed urgent help. I need to be in a safe environment. They wouldn’t listen to anything because I came from a different borough. They kept pushing me away.’
Counselling sessions were provided by the council and a few weeks after the fire he was given a room in the hotel.
‘I couldn’t live in the room of the shared house,’ he added. ‘There were a lot of people in that house and I was getting paranoid – even about things such as them leaving the cooker on.
‘It’s hard to face fire, even gas. I was trapped in the tower for two hours and saw people dying. People were burning in front of my face.’ He was initially placed on the standard council housing waiting list but complained and is now being fast-tracked through the system.
The council has offered him permanent accommodation in a studio apartment, but the offer has not been accepted and he is holding out for a one-bedroom flat.
He said: ‘I don’t like being in the hotel. I need to be rehoused in a one-bedroom flat. The hotel is unsuitable.’
On the first anniversary of the fire, official figures revealed that a third of Grenfell survivors remained in hotels and emergency accommodation. However these figures did not include the estimated 30 people who were not officially registered as living in the Kensington tower.
At least £25million has been spent on emergency accommodation, with a further £235million set aside to secure permanent homes.
The original 138 households of the tower have been split into 203, with 198 of these accepting offers of permanent accommodation.
But only 135 of these have moved in, with many saying they have been waiting for refurbishment to be completed.
A spokesman for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said: ‘Our absolute priority has always been to help first – it is only right we do so when people are faced with such extreme trauma.
‘We will always err on the side of caution and assume all those who come to us for help are genuine.
‘Where we have doubts, they are investigated and cases of fraud have been, and will be, rooted out and dealt with’.
The first phase of the inquiry into the Grenfell disaster, which is focusing on how the fire started and the evacuation of residents, is scheduled to run until November.
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