Survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire were “deceived” over how long it would take to rehouse them, a charity head has said, as it emerged around 100 households will still be in hotels at Christmas.
Mark Simms, head of the Rugby Portobello Trust, which has been handing over grants to the local community, said a lack of honesty throughout the process had added to survivors’ stress.
He said promises they would be rehoused within three weeks were “ill-timed, ill-conceived and ill-judged”, while the response from volunteers within the void of inaction after the fire was “the one bit that didn’t fail”.
Prime Minister Theresa May initially said she hoped to rehouse everyone within three weeks, while Communities Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs the local council was aiming for a Christmas deadline, and its leader Elizabeth Campbell said she was “absolutely” hoping to have everyone in homes within a year.
Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKC) said it had been honest from the beginning that its only pledge had been to secure 300 homes by Christmas, and that every household had received an offer of accommodation.
Some 101 households, including 17 families with 34 children, remain in hotels, the local authority said.
While this figure may change slightly over the weekend, it is likely most will still be in emergency accommodation when Christmas morning dawns.
It will be a Christmas like no other for the already traumatised families, who have spent more than six months living out of hotel rooms after the June 14 blaze ravaged their homes.
Ahead of the festive period, which mental health professionals have warned may be particularly difficult, the council said 49 households had moved into new permanent homes, while 57 were in temporary accommodation.
Mr Simms said: “We knew finding 300 properties in Kensington and Chelsea was never going to be three weeks – it was never going to be three months. I think people were deceived.
“I genuinely don’t know how the pace could have been improved but the honesty could have been improved from day one.”
RBKC said it had made a “huge effort” to help families with young children find somewhere before Christmas, adding that 11 of the 17 had accepted offers of permanent or temporary accommodation.
There will be a festive dinner for around 200 people on Christmas Day at the Curve assistance centre.
A silent walk in west London marked six months since the disaster (Yui Mok/PA)
Council deputy leader Kim Taylor Smith said: “We are doing everything humanly possible to let every Grenfell survivor and their families know they have an opportunity of a home for Christmas.
“We’ve delivered the biggest house-purchasing programme of any local authority in recent history, committing £235 million to help secure 300 new properties.
“However it’s important to stress that we will continue to move at the pace of the individuals and families involved – no-one is being rushed into making decisions about where they are going to live.”
A RBKC spokesman added: “We have been honest and clear from the beginning, our only target has been to secure 300 homes by Christmas to give households as much choice as possible. We achieved that.
“The council knows it has a long way to go before it can hope to earn the trust of the families involved, but we are determined to do all that we can to help.”