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Grenfell evacuees still being charged rent after inferno

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 1/07/2017 Patrick Sawer, Senior Reporter and Nicola Harley

At least one of those evacuated from their homes after the Grenfell Tower disaster has been charged rent on their flat since a devastating fire swept through the block, killing at least 80 people, it emerged today.

But a senior Kensington councillor appeared to play down the incident, saying on Saturday that the council had done many “good things” to help residents deal with the tragedy.

The woman checked her bank account earlier this week only to find rent had been deducted for the flat next to the 24-storey tower from where she was evacuated, along with hundreds of others in the surrounding buildings, when fire engulfed it on June 14.

It is not known how many other Grenfell evacuees have also had rent deducted for their burnt out homes, but there is still widespread anger among the north Kensington community over the council’s slow and inept response to the tragedy.

Yvette Williams, of the Justice4Grenfell campaign group, said that since the fire two weeks ago things had not improved for the survivors and families who had lost loved ones.

She added: “I had someone come to me yesterday saying they'd just got their bank card and things back, and seen that their rent has been deducted."

Sue Caro, of Justice4Grenfell, told The Telegraph: "It was an evacuee from another tower who was being charged. I don't know how many but I would imagine all the people who have been evacuated are still being charged. Anyone who has a direct debit set up on their accounts will still be getting their rent taken by TMO who are responsible.

"I have heard the same complaint a few days ago from someone else. There have been concerns that if people stop paying rent they will lose their tenancy because of the way things have happened before and the council's attitude to social housing. This is just another area of stress people do not need at this time. The council are just performing appallingly."

When confronted with the rent incident on Radio 4’s Today programme Conservative councillor Catherine Faulks said: “Oh come on, that’s a tiny thing — I mean it’s not a tiny thing for them it’s a huge thing and it’s very upsetting.

"But the council are in the process of trying to house 400 people. They’ve got people in hotels, they’ve got a social worker for every single family who is triaging them into a wraparound service.

"I’m very sorry to hear that’s happened, but that person to whom that has happened will have one person connection they can go to to sort it out."

Ms Faulks pointed out the council had reopened schools around the stricken tower block in two days and arranged to provide counselling for children.

And she blamed the media for presenting a negative image of the council’s response to the fire.

“The media storm has been one of the most challenging things for the council to get on top of and do its job,” said Mrs Faulks.

Kensington council leader resigns after Grenfell Tower fire 02:14

The report of yet another blunder by officials in the aftermath of the blaze came after the leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council Nicholas Paget-Brown and his deputy announced they were stepping down in the face of widespread criticism of their response to the disaster.

Mrs Williams added that it was the community itself rather than council officials which took action in the immediate aftermath of the fire to help those who fled Grenfell Tower and found themselves without a home, food or clothing.

“The people in North Kensington ran the borough on June 14,” she said.

A Kensington and Chelsea council spokesman said: "We are very sorry if this has happened and we are working to find out who has been affected so we can offer reassurance and an immediate refund.

"To the best of our knowledge the rent charges for Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk were stopped.

"But if anyone has had money inadvertently taken as part of a direct debit or standing order we will make arrangements to have it immediately refunded."

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