Grenfell Tower: council costs exceed £6.3m in wake of blaze

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Hotel bills and expenses resulting from the Grenfell Tower fire have so far cost the council more than £6.3 million, new figures reveal.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) has paid out more than £4.2 million on emergency accommodation for hundreds of survivors since June 14, data obtained by the Press Association shows.

The majority of those left destitute by the deadly blaze remain in hotels 10 weeks later.

Emma Dent Coad, MP for the area, said a huge human and financial toll was being paid for the "small" savings made by RBKC during a recent refurbishment of Grenfell Tower.

Figures acquired under the Freedom of Information Act shows the council spent £4,259,172 on rooms in 49 hotels between the night of the fire and August 21.

Other costs include £98,730 on payments to survivors to cover their basic needs, £15,034 on travel and £415,084 on site work at the gutted tower.

RBKC said the Government had helped it to meet the financial demands of responding to the crisis.

Labour's Ms Dent Coad claimed the sum could have instead been used to buy houses for survivors.

With the price tag of the disaster's aftermath almost double the amount spent on Grenfell Tower's doomed cladding system, she urged the council to "rethink" its priorities.

She told the Press Association: "First off we have to say that the survivors and evacuees have had such a terrible time we shouldn't be counting the cost of that - that must be the first thing.

"But secondly, the council for many years has been involved in 'spend to save' exercises, which has always gone wrong. This looks more like 'save to spend'.

"The small amount that they saved on the cladding system, if indeed they did, has cost lives and so far nearly £7 million and it will cost a lot more.

"I think we need to rethink our priorities and put people first always.

"For £4 million, we could have bought people homes off the market, surely.

"It is, as usual, the council being reactive rather than proactive and wasting our money in the process."

At least 80 people died when the council-owned building was destroyed by the inferno, its spread thought to have been aided by recently-installed cladding.

It is understood around £3.5 million was spent on the Grenfell Tower cladding system, a figure which had allegedly been limited on cost grounds.

A cheaper material with a combustible core was elected over a fireproof version to make a saving of around £300,000, according to previous reports.

Overseen by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation and finished last year, the refit saw its first contractor Leadbitter sidelined in favour of Rydon after it struggled to keep the project within budget.

In a breakdown of costs since the tragedy, the council said it had used 35 individual apartments from five serviced apartment providers alongside the hotel rooms to house those displaced.

It also spent:

:: £1,463,619 on grants for community projects including mental health and emotional support, counselling and therapy, outreach work and activities and support for young people

:: £34,429 on staff to support those affected

:: £100,266 on other costs

This totalled £6,386,335 spent in the wake of the fire.

Council leader Elizabeth Campbell said on Wednesday a total of £30 million had been earmarked from the council's reserves for the rehousing process.

A further £76 million was later made available to buy homes from private social housing providers and the marketplace, as well as to help leaseholders secure new properties. 

More than 180 families remain in hotels or temporary accommodation, the latter of which is costing RBKC £1,000 per household per week, Ms Campbell said.

Nine families have now accepted offers of permanent housing.

Ms Campbell said at the time: "We've built up reserves. We built them up in case of emergencies, and this is an emergency.

"And we will spend that. And that's right that we should do it - these are our neighbours."