Grenfell campaigners launched an attack on the Chancellor for handing Kensington and Chelsea Council “regeneration” cash in his Budget.
The Tory-led west London local authority has been widely condemned for its response to the fatal June inferno, but Philip Hammond allocated it £28m in his Budget to support the bereft community.
The money was for mental health services, a new green space and, controversially, “regeneration support”.
Justice 4 Grenfell called it “alarming” the authority was handed any sum for renovation after it sanctioned cheap, flammable cladding for Grenfell Tower which allowed the deadly blaze to spread rapidly and claim the lives of 71 people.
J4G also claimed survivors and relatives were not consulted and that the cash “pales into insignificance” in comparison to the needs of those affected.
Moyra Samuels, from J4G, said: “Suggesting that some of this small sum of money will be used on regeneration is alarming given the borough’s history of regeneration projects and its impact on the local community,” she said.
“However, if the monies are to be used to refurbish the much-neglected Lancaster West estate, this will provide the residents with some comfort that they may now begin to live in safe and decent homes.”
The cladding for Grenfell Tower was the cheaper of two options and saved the authority £293,000 on a £8.6m regeneration project.
A specialist taskforce was sent in Kensington and Chelsea council to take over its housing, regeneration, community engagement and governance in the immediate aftermath of the fire, but, with many councillors and officers remaining in post, deep mistrust of the authority remained.
However, we are dismayed that these funds will be managed by the council and the community have little confidence in their financial decisions to date.Yvette Williams, Justice 4 Grenfell
Yvette Williams, from the campaign group, added: “Justice 4 Grenfell welcomes any initiative to support survivors, the bereaved, and the local community. However, we are dismayed that these funds will be managed by the council and the community have little confidence in their financial decisions to date.
“As yet there has been no community consultation on how the money will be spent. We also call for funding for local schools who have had to address the trauma experienced by schoolchildren around the tower.
“There is also an urgent need for funding to address fire safety concerns for other residents in social housing in the borough, particularly those in homes managed by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation.”
Hammond told the Commons on Wednesday that government “must ensure that nothing like [Grenfell] happens ever again”, but also drew criticism for failing to allocate specific cash for fire safety upgrades across the UK.
He said it was for individual councils to find the money, but underlined that any authority who did not have the money should approach central government for help.
“As I have said before, we will not let financial constraints get in the way of essential safety work,” he said.
Two thirds of the families who lost their home in the blaze are still living in hotels, and it is thought many will remain there at Christmas.
Hammond told MPs: ”(..) I want to touch on the aftermath of the appalling events at Grenfell Tower.
“We have provided financial support for the victims of this terrible tragedy. And today I can announce we will provide Kensington and Chelsea Council with a further £28m for mental health services, regeneration support for the surrounding areas and to provide a new community space for Grenfell United community group.
“This tragedy should never have happened, and we must ensure that nothing like it ever happens again.”
A judge-led public inquiry into the fire, chaired by Sir Martin Moore-Bick, opened on September 14.
HuffPost UK has approached Kensington and Chelsea for a comment.