By Ross Fraser
In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire, many local residents expressed the view that the outsourcing of housing management and (in part) major works programmes to the KCTMO had contributed to the disaster. They also called for the TMO to be wound up.
Residents were clear, and continue to insist, that they want the council’s housing stock to be managed directly by the council. They believe that direct political control of the housing stock by elected councillors is preferable to any outsourcing arrangement.
Recently, LB Kensington & Chelsea has decided to terminate its management agreement with the KCTMO – which will mean that the TMO is going to be wound up.
However, LB Kensington & Chelsea is now urgently meeting housing associations to determine whether they would be willing to manage part or all of the management of the its housing stock.
This puts housing associations in a difficult position. They want to do as much as they can to help the victims of Grenfell and others who have also lost their homes as a result of the disaster. But they know – particularly as the public enquiry evolves – that organisations acting against the express wishes of local residents will not be welcome.
Which begs the question: why can’t Kensington & Chelsea recreate a housing department?
There is no shortage of support available. The highly experienced Barry Quirk is running the council and knows all about housing from his time as Chief Executive at LB Lewisham. The government has sent in a Task Force to advise the council – which includes the highly-respected Chris Wood who has been Director of Housing in three London boroughs. They could visit LB Wandsworth to see how an excellent housing department operates.
With council elections set for next year it might be wise for the council to work jointly with local residents – and in complete transparency – to explore a range of options in a measured manner. Decisions can be made post-election.
But common-sense still seems to be in short supply amongst the council leadership.