RBKC Suits have “Personal Data Sharing Picnic” as serious concerns over residents’ privacy are raised

It’s been a nice sunny Spring weekend outside, and some locals will have been out enjoying the weather and possibly a picnic in the park as lockdown rules ease (though we still have to keep to a “rule of 6”).

Some things are meant to be shared around and others are most definitely not, but THINKers are not sure that some RBKC suits including the ones featured in our picture enjoying a picnic today (left to right, Dan Hawthorn – Executive Director of Housing and Social Investment , Stavroulla Kokkinou – Head of Neighbourhood Management , Amy How – Participation Officer, and Iago Griffith – Head of Resident Engagement and Partnership ) necessarily understand or respect this.

Because if they did, the “Community/Residents/Social Engagement/Investment team would not be inthe act of accessing the personal data of RBKC tenants and leaseholders as well as many other residents without their knowledge or consent.

The pictures below are of emails received in our BLOG INBOX – not the THINKer’s personal email – contacting her about the Grenfell Legacy Fund. Furthermore, they are not addressed to the blog, but were addressed to one of us personally, so personally in fact they were addressed to a long-discarded birth name she never goes by or ever uses!

To “return the favour” of unwanted information sharing and to “rain on their picnic” we’ll just mention that the emails were sent by Iago Griffith and Amy How.

(By the way, the THINKer would like to give her views on the Grenfell Legacy Fund but she cannot engage with suits who clearly breach her privacy or attend anything which appears to condone RBKC behaving in such a way so she will be passing on her views via other residents attending instead.)

And here again from this post,

Consultants, marketing firms, surveys and Citizens Panels: A right Royal Borough recipe for trouble?

is a text message one of us received about joining their residents panels Funny that, especially when she definitely didn’t consent to receiving text messages from the council or for anyone passing her phone number around like food shared at a picnic..

The outrageous answer to the question of where did they get the information, appears to be that all suits and officers anywhere at RBKC can freely access via a database residents’ personal information ( most of which the residents would have only given to housing officers or offiers from other drpartments ) and pass this around – without any of us ever agreeing to this.

Well, no wonder some Grenfell-affected residents do not want to use some services at The Curve if that means a whole load of other council suits will have access to their personal and medical data without permission – very likely also including sensitive personal information and be able to pass this around without a second thought.

But however uncomfortable or violated this sort of thing may leave some residents feeling, we have learned that this is just a very small tip of a very large iceberg….

The council are proposing extra conditions to the tenancy agreements that could also expose tenants and leaseholders to data theft, will likely see RBKC and the Police exchanging information about residemts – some of which could be unnessary (unless it involves investigation of alleged crime committed by the residents while living at the property, or committed towards the council, councillors or other council workers) and also sees RBKC setting terms such as what sort of flooring residents can choose for their home (seriously!) and is all likely to cause unnecessary situations and conflict between tenants and contractors and obviously between residents and the council.

There is a survey on the proposed changes open until Sunday the 2nd of May and we have published the proposed tenancy changes and links at the bottom of this post . We very strongly recommend that affected residents read both the proposed changes and this blog post in full BEFORE RESPONDING.

After suggestions from another concerned resident, THINK decided to have a good look on the RBKC website to see to what information our council collects about residents and deems suitable to hold or share – It makes for some very interesting and worrying reading and not just for people living in council housing:

“We may collect personal data about you which covers basic details such as name, address, telephone number, and date of birth. We also collect some sensitive information also known as special category data, such as health data, ethnicity or religious beliefs – but only where it is needed to provide a service, fulfil a legal obligation and/or for monitoring equality of both for customers and employees. We will always explain to you why and how this information will be used. We will always demonstrate to you what our lawful basis is for processing this type of information and where appropriate seek your consent”. 

As described above we collect and process information about you, so that we can carry out our public task functions as a Local Authority and to deliver public services. This includes but is not limited to:

  • administering the assessment and collection of taxes and other revenue including benefits and grants
  • the provision of social services and education
  • the provision of all commercial services including the administration and enforcement of parking regulations and restrictions 
  • the provision of all non-commercial activities including refuse collections from residential properties 
  • local and national fraud initiatives and data matching under these initiatives
  • to prevent and detect fraud or crime and prosecution offenders including the use of CCTV
  • licensing and regulatory activities
  • providing leisure and cultural services 
  • carrying out health and public awareness campaigns 
  • managing our property
  • maintaining our own accounts and records
  • supporting and managing our employees
  • promoting the services we provide
  • marketing our local tourism
  • carrying out surveys
  • undertaking research (including research relating to health) 
  • internal financial support and corporate functions
  • managing archived records for historical and research reasons
  • corporate administration and all activities we are required to carry out as a data controller and public authority 

We collect and process the following categories of personal information:

  • Personal and family details
  • Lifestyle and social circumstances
  • Goods and services
  • Financial details
  • Employment and education details
  • Housing needs
  • Visual images, personal appearance and behaviour
  • Licenses or permits held
  • Student and pupil records
  • Business activities
  • Case file information

In some circumstances we also collect and process special categories and conviction data. This type of personal information includes:

  • Racial or ethnic origin
  • Political opinions
  • Religious or philosophical beliefs
  • Trade union membership
  • Genetic data, biometric data for the purpose of uniquely identifying a person
  • Data concerning health
  • Data concerning a personā€™s sex life or sexual orientation

Conviction Data

This type of personal data covers criminal allegations, proceedings or convictions and security measures.  For the council this is likely to be collected where the focus is on:  specific employment requirements; fraud investigations; safeguarding issues; equality initiatives; or the vital interests of the data subject or other individuals

No consent form provided anywhere. Not looking like such a “nice friendly little picnic gathering” now, is it?

Quite why RBKC thinks it is appropriate have , store and share information on residents’ sex lives (?!) and why they seem to exist in a timewarp from the 1970s or 1980s or something to record details of trade union membership of residents just leaves us with more questions than answers.

Certainly unless residents are not working or applying to be working for the council in certain positions or there aren’t any possible safeguarding issues , we strongly question why RBKC needs to do extensive background checks possibly on all of us . Also it doesn’t say how they gather information on “lifestyle and social circumstances” . The website does not go further into this. As for collecting information such as ” visial images, people’s perosnal appearance and behaviour” unless they have legimate grounds such as investigation of crime by a resident or unless particular residents have gone about threatening the council, we do not see why they should hold or share this information ; especially on seemingly harmless grounds such as taking part in a meeting or a survey.

In fact, as some of us recall seeing former RBKC Director of Communications Michael Clarke going around Kensington Town Hall with a camera and taking photos of members of the public – again without their consent – who were not protesting or speaking but were only sitting in the back of the Council Chamber and the Public Gallery listening to a Full Council Meeting a few years back , we think it appears rather sinister. They really do appear to be in the act of behaving more like a Police state than a local authority.

As for some people who may go around saying “if you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to fear”, perhaps they should read those details back again and then ask themselves if they would feel comfortable over the council wanting to holding and sharing so much private information about them without a strong reason to?

They might also wish to hear from a few residents with serious personal concerns:

One resident who contacted us has made it very clear that he does not want anyone other than housing officers at RBKC to have , his personal details and certainly does not want these to be freely shared :”I am HIV Positive. I do not share this information with my work colleagues or indeed many members of my family and friends. It is personal health infomation, strictly meant to be shared between myself, the NHS , the DWP and Housing and should remain so. I did not and never would consent to this information being shared with other council departments and really strongly object to this being passed on to council officers who are concerned with resident engagement and even worse, with outside bodies, which by surveys, would include the many various consultants they use, Why should my being a tenant or simply living in the borough permit them to invade the privacy of law abiding citizens? “

As for the proposed tenancy changes meaning more information exchanged with the Police, we initially thought this was them getting tough with crime and antisocial behaviour in their properties and we initially welcomed this, but this in our view should only apply to when there are allegations or ongoing investigations of crime committed in or on RBKC homes, other council-owned properties or against people working for the council or if or the residents are applying for a certain job with the council which requires a DBS check – and nowhere else.

Another resident had this to say to us: ” Does this mean that residents like me who have past criminal convictions and have served our time long ago will have these records logged by all council staff? Does this mean I will be harassed by people from the council over something I did wrong 20 years ago? I’ve served my time and learnt my lessons and have never committed a criminal act in my property but they’re likely to forever treat me as a criminal?”

Both of these are fair points and not points which seem to be really addressed on thhis supposed “Fair Processing Notice” :

https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/footer-links/data-protection/fair-processing-notice

The political views of some residents are not exactly a secret but if anyone wants to know why and what possible motivations RBKC may have for storing this information, we’ll just point out that a couple of North Kensington social housing residents who are definitely not politically on the same side as those in charge of RBKC were not treated fairly as they tried to join in the most recent Zoom consultation meeting on the proposed tenancy changes – which affect them – and were shut out and blocked by the council from taking part.

Here is the link for tenants and leaseholders to participate (or rather to ridiculously grovel and ask to participate) – in tomorrow’s meeting – Tuesday the 27th of April between 5pm and 7pm – and let’s hear how many residents are blocked for simply taking part then. It also just happens to exactly “coincide” with the Grenfell Legacy Fund event so they can conveniently ensure that a number of North Kensington residents are busy elsewhere: HM-NeighbourhoodBusinessSupport@rbkc.gov.uk

By the way, the proposed tenancy changes also appear to permit RBKC to break into residents properties purely on information from contractors without legal action first , so we’ll just remind RBKC that some of their contractors do have an unfortunate habit of booking appointments without checking with residents first, of making computer errors and booking several wrong or duplicate or consecutive appointments for the same thing all at once, and of also of not turning up to appointments that residents have already booked.

No doubt RBKC, having already labelled several council housing residents rather unfavourably already, will just go ahead and break into peoples’ homes regardless, and seeing as how nuch personal information they want on residents, it wouldn’t seem so far fetched if they came along with cameras, went through peoples’ belongings and brought the Police along with them too.

What will they do next? Ask for people’s DNA and fingerprints? That may sound crazy to some, but this is obviously the direction in which RBKC are heading. Is it too much to ask for residents ‘privacy to be respected and to be treated like civilised human beings?

Obviously so, because by going in such an oppressive Police State direction, RBKC have already decided that they think some residents are a bunch of worthless, lazy, stupid, workshy, disruptive criminals and bums who deserve to be persecuted, or harassed because they happen to be poor, or otherwise are disregarded and prevented from consultations and council commmunity activities because they happen of a different political persuasion to the council leadership. These seem to be the prime motivations behind their recent data gathering and privacy invasion exercises, If they expect reasonable behaviour from us, surely that works both ways?

Invading residents’ privacy and sharing personal data unneccesarily isn’t exactly what most decent civilised people would consider to be reasonable behaviour.

After all, if all this data gathering was a supposed harmless exercise – they wouldn’t be after information which is frankly none of their business; if it were meant to help end discrimination or exclusion rather than exacerbate it – that section of the council website would be shared widely by RBKC and it would be translated into other languages so everyone could understand; the council would give fuller and more reasonable explanations; and they would offer residents easy ways in which to opt out of some of this – and importantly, they would have had the decency to discuss this in full and publicly with residents in the first place.

The tenancy agreements changes survey closes at 11:59pm on Sunday the 2nd of May and the link (for those who are happy for the council and their consultants to breach their privacy and go around sharing their personal data about) is here:

https://consult.rbkc.gov.uk/communities/ta_consultation/

A lot of us have never seen a copy of this supposed “Tenants Handbook” that RBKC keeps referring us to and never ever bothers to send out by the way.

The proposed tenancy changes in full (on which not all tenants and leaseholders have been fully and fairly consulted on), are below

Kingspan insulation products used for building of new North Kensington special needs school

THINKers are shocked, disgusted and horrified to learn that insulation made by Kingspan (makers of the Kooltherm K15 flammable insulation on Grenfell Tower, who were revealed at the Grenfell Inquiry to have missold the material and to have lied about their fire safety tests) is being used in the construction of a new school in North Kensington.

This shocking picture is of Kingspan materials piled outside Barlby Primary School, North Kensington, intended for use in the construction of the new Queensmill Kensington school – the first special needs school in RBKC.

Here is how upset residents responded on Twitter – along with a response from Kim Taylor-Smith, RBKC Deputy Leader and Lead Member for Grenfell Housing and Social Investment and a statement from the council:

Many of us in North Kensington, already feeling let down and that this local authority does not care one bit about residents in social housing and a whole community devastated by the needless and preventable loss of 72 innocent lives in the Grenfell fire diaster – also now feel that the council do not care about our children, schools and families.

While a response from RBKC and an investigation is welcome, it appears they have not committed to halting the construction of the school, made any sort of commitment to the public that they will cease to use products made by companies like Kingspan or that they will cease to use the services of certain contractors – in this case Mace – who still buy and use Kingspan products.

RBKC is usually more concerned with their image and putting on PR spin than they are with how they REALLY behave towards residents, so perhaps they may care to remember that they are also seeking legal action against companies who sold (or rather missold) flammable materials for use on Grenfell Tower – including Kingspan if the Inquiry finds against them. So some at our council who would usually show an insensitive or an indifferent attutude towards Grenfell, North Kensington, the poor and the vulnerable, are on this at least, sittng up and paying attention.

Kim Taylor-Smith is a successful property developer (far more so than his predecessor) and some would have thought that he might have checked what building materials were used in council constructions, but we do accept that Cllr Taylor-Smith is extremely busy and cannot necessarily keep an close eye on everything. However, we would think that he would have delegated to someone to oversee the building and contractors and to do so responsibly – as Ana’s Tweet says – ” do your due diligence” . Clearly whichever council suit /suits who were supposed to be overseeing this have some questions to answer.

Here is what the Leader of the RBKC Opposition Labour Group, Pat Mason has had to say: “I feel more rage now with this news than I did when I listened to those truly dreadful weeks of evidence at the public inquiry from companies who supplied or installed cladding and insulation on the outside of the tower-and these included Kingspan-that led Sir Martin Moore-Bick in Phase 1 to declare that the exterior cladding fuelled the fire and was a breach of building regulations

Why has the Council not ordered that all contractors and suppliers of materials who have appeared at the Grenfell Inquiry should not be considered for any work until the Inquiry has concluded and its recommendations are clear?”

Cllr Mason also called for the materials to be removed, for an investigation, he has questioned who authorised this, if there is any use of other products named at the Grenfell Inquiry , inquired as how many other developments in the borough are using material from companies named (and shamed) at the Grenfell Inquiry, and he has also written to the Health and Safety Executive.

This appears to be yet another case of RBKC negligence, and yet again, we are asking for information and answers. How could have just let this “slip through the net”? How many other of our developments have used or are still using Kingspan products? What other projects in RBKC are Mace contracted to work on? How many other of the firms that knowingly supplied combustible materials used on Grenfell Tower have been involved with other builds or refurbishments?

THINK demands answers to our questions from RBKC. and we are emailing this blog post to the RBKC Cabinet, as well as the RBKC Overview and Scrutiny Committee .

The council is proposing new changes to tenancy agreements (coming up in our blog) which put even more rules, conditions, standards and responsibilities upon residents and are mostly about what they expect from us. But what residents are getting on the receiving end from RBKC is very defintely not what is called for or needed – or indeed right or proper.

What we have received from RBKC is more of the same old culture of negligence, arrogance, lots of nice little words and statements that never go anywhere, Council Scrutiny vastly reduced and residents and their concerns (especially in the north of the borough) being constantly ignored, disrespected and disregarded. When the council have said they have changed, all this appears to mean is they have post-Grenfell, increased their PR machine (by over 400%) and are now wasting xxxx amounts of money on various advisors and consultants to supposedly make themselves look better all the while they forget who they are supposed to be serving here.

The lives of North Kensington locals along with others in the borough – largely the poor, the vulnerable, and others in social housing – are being put at risk by RBKC’s “who cares” attitude. It speaks volumes – and basically says that as far as the council is concerned, it’s back to Kensington Town Hall “business as usual” – with absolutely no lessons learned from Grenfell at all.

The caring community hub shunned and disrespected by our council

This is The SPACE . It is a much- valued and loved community-led hub, based at 214 Freston Road, North Kensington which has provided help, support and activities for residents in North Kensington and beyond for nearly the past four years.

The SPACE, and the local resident volunteers working there and the work they do are valued highly by many residents in and around our community and far beyond but sadly RBKC doesn’t appear to appreciate or value this outstanding community hub very highly.

Because there is no other conclusion we can draw from what is happening. As we mentioned in this blog post, https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2021/03/27/the-long-road-to-grenfell-recovery-and-the-people-left-behind/ The SPACE is running out of actual space. Their wonderful Baby Bank initiative has provided donations to support parents all over the borough – from North Kensington to Chelsea. Generous and kind others in the community have made donations of cots, toys, clothes, supplies etc. and now they are in need of storage space so they can keep this intiative up and running.

RBKC have been fully aware of the situation for some considerable time – and yet they sat on their hands and did nothing to help, despite numerous emails plus some residents posting about the situation on social media.

But when the council finally responded to the SPACE about this in January this year, incredibly, the only temporary space RBKC offered to the volunteers was a kitchen based on the Grenfell Tower site. No we are not making this up – we have seen the emails – and yes, very understandably, the resident volunteers (many of whom live in the immediate Grenfell community) refused.

Nearly three months on, and RBKC also have told the volunteers they they do not have any extra space to provide to them, but we know that’s not true; this council owns several spaces including empty storage units, empty office spaces and empty retail spaces. We cannot understand why the council would not even bother to consider letting The SPACE have use of one of their unused properties for now – the commercial properties RBKC usually lets out – due to Covid-19 and the recession – are not exactly in huge demand right now.

So now the volunteers are still being left in limbo by the council, while their space runs out – what a disgrace.

We’ll just remind RBKC of just a few things that The SPACE have provided to our communities over the time they have been running; help and support for Grenfell-affected residents, benefits, jobs and housing advice, various activities and classes (including yoga, dance, relaxation and art), they have run popular community events, organised food donation deliveries for the vulnerable and those self isolating during the Covid -19 lockdown , and of course, this Baby Bank, which provides donations to many families facing economic hardship including those who are on Universal Credit, those who have lost their jobs or businesses, those who are living in temporary accommodation and those who are living in refuges.

RBKC does like to go on about how much they have supposedly changed, but it’s hard to see this when they snub, disrespect and insult hard working community volunteers who are going out of their way to help so many people here.

Some of us have wondered if RBKC is deliberately shunning community volunteer efforts, so they can run their own “rival’ initatives, do PR exercises and then go amd take the credit for other people’s hard work. This might not be as so far fetched as it sounds because when in the aftermath of Grenfell, RBKC failed to publicise activities provided at The SPACE and instead ran “rival” activities at The Curve and some Council officers even went around wrongly saying The SPACE was closing

So where is the consideration from RBKC? Where is the compassion? Where is the humanity? Where is this supposed culture change that RBKC Leader Elizabeth “Dizzy Lizzy” Campbell promised North Kensington residents after Grenfell?

Well, unless by “culture change at the council” Cllr Campbell was referring to a pot of yoghurt past its sell by date sitting in Kensington Town Hall somewhere, we’re still asking these questions and it is beyond frustrating when we’re not getting answers – and dedicated community providers of help and support to residents in North Kensington and all around the borough are being treated like this.

Nahid Ashby, one of the Co-Founders of The SPACE, had this to say to us:”It really makes me wonder if the Councilā€™s historic culture of contempt, superiority and secrecy has changed, despite the fact that they keep hooting they have learned lessons and made improvements to the way they work with, treat and involve residents.The only improvement I see is a very superficial one at best and a box ticking exercise at worst! Deep down itā€™s the same horse, only with a different saddle on! and Itā€™s not just bureaucracy . itā€™s about what I dubbed TRT! (Trust, Respect and Transparency). At the end of the day, in the eyes of the corporate monster, we are still stupid, low income social tenants and the only training they provide to their new recruits is to treat us as such! “

This blog stands with The SPACE and all the kind good community volunteers who put in so much work there – they have a space in our heart and also in the hearts of many local residents from North Kensington to Chelsea.

Not everyone in the RBKC Leadership fold appears to be completely heartless and devoid of compassion however. Here, below, are some Tweets and ours was “liked” by Cem Kemahli, Lead Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health and Josh Rendall, Lead Member for Family and Children’s Services and at least there has been at least something of an encouraging response from Josh Rendall :

We’ll see what happens and hope they are truly listening this time. We also call for the RBKC Overview and Scrutiny Committee to look into this plus scrutinise what has the council done – or not done- to support community-led initiatives. As Samia’s Tweet says, other housing providers (such as Peabody and Notting Hill Genesis) seem to get the value of the Baby Bank and support that The SPACE provide, so why can’t our council?

RBKC does talk and talk of community empowerment but it’s hard to believe this when talk is all that this appears to be. Actions do indeed speak louder than words and without actually doing very much to support community-led hubs and groups – the very people who stand for community empowerment – so they can carry on supporting residents in need, it means nothing.

If RBKC really is committed to change, they really ought to now work with The SPACE to find new extra storage premises so the Baby Bank can continue to operate, and to start to make an effort to inprove community relations by at least listening to the volunteers, taking their feedback on board and treating them with decency and respect. It’s about time RBKC stopped working against these dedicated and caring North Kensington residents and started working with them positively and constructively and supported them to carry on supporting our communities instead.

SPACE Founders Nahid Ashby and Samia Badani at the Iftar 4 All event (which they organised) in 2018

Grenfell, RBKC, KCTMO, our housing and a man with some information

Today, Module 3 of the Grenfell Inquiry hasĀ  begun and our thoughts have been with allĀ the survivors , the bereaved and affected residents in our North Kensington community.

. The Inquiry today heard opening statements from legal representatives of BSRs, as well as legal representatives from RBKC and from KCTMO. The video and the papers are at this link https://www.grenfelltowerinquiry.org.uk/hearings/module-3-opening-statements-29-march-2021

Our blog has uncovered one man  who may have sone information to share with the Inquiry as well as information to share with others at the present RBKC Housing team. Meet John Parsons AKA  the mysterious “John P” as featured in our previous blog post about some RBKC suits here

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2021/01/23/the-intriguing-and-infuriating-case-of-the-rbkc-housing-invisible-suits/

.

Most of us – including some senior RBKC councillors – have never heard of John Parsons. He has been here for 20 years, starting at KCTMO as a Landscape Surveyor, working his way up to Property Systems Analyst before becoming Technical Services Manager at the discredited KCTMO, and then at RBKC Housing, where he still remains today.

Just in case anyone is still in the dark as to what Mr Parsons’ responsibilities were and still are, , we found this from the KCTMO Link magazine, back in September 2016 here:

That’s right, Mr Parsons was and is repsonsible for logging, keeping and managing data on all RBKC and former TMO housing stock and has been so for at least the past TEN YEARS.

So we hope that Mr Parsons is called to the Grenfell Inquiry in this module to share what information he may have about the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower and the acrions  and inactions of both RBKC and KCTMO during that time. 

So far, the only mention of  evidence from Mr Parsons at the Grenfell Inquiry  we have found have  been these emails from Phase 1: 

So many questions  go through our minds , especially because it appears from what we have heard so far at the Grenfell Inquiry  that there  wasn’t a particularly “sophisticated ” location mapping system in place  when the KCTMO was responsible for the management of Grenfell Tower. 

We do have to state that our blog is obviously aware that the  responsibility for logging conditions of properties and refurbishments falls on the shoulders of more than just one person.

However we have noticed even inĀ  thatĀ  little KCTMO Link article that a coupleĀ  ofĀ  things Mr Parsons says there aren’tĀ  true . For example there were no regular electrical checks onĀ  most of the KCTMO propertiesĀ  they were managing at that time. In fact, RBKC only started having regular electrical checks on properties a couple of years ago . And residents havingĀ  Ā “new kitchens and bathrooms” is a lie too. Maybe someone was feeding Mr Parsons false information?Ā  Or maybe there was a whole chain of wrong information?

So with regards to Grenfell, we have so many questions……..

Ā Getting to the bottom of everything that happened at GrenfellĀ  of course,Ā  is the job of the Inquiry and not us,Ā  but we do have sone other questions that we want to put to Kim Taylor-Smith, RBKC Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Grenfell and Housing and RBKC Director of Housing Management Doug Goldring.Ā 

Back in December 2017,  at the first meeting of the Tenants Consultative Commitee since it was reinstated, Doug Goldring told residents that the council was going to  undertake an assessment of all their housing stock, and that RBKC was “only just finding out ” what conditions properties were in. So we want to know what Mr Parsons, the man whose job it was to record this, knew all this time ? 

The fact that  what Mr Goldring  said to residents was basically an admission by the council that KCTMO did  not do a terribly good job of recording the conditions of our housing stock really begs the question ,why Mr Goldring and Cllr Taylor-Smith kept  a man who by the looks of things had failed to record this properly, in his post?

At a fairly recent meeting of the RBKC Housing and Communities Committee, Cllr Robert Freeman asked Mr Goldring to guarantee that the council would not return to the “bad old days of the TMO” – because not all residents- including us- are convinced that our council has moved forwards; we think their decision to retain the services ofĀ  Mr Parsons is rather questionable – retaining the setivices of a senior KCTMO employee who appears to have serious questions to answer about Grenfell Tower as well as questions to answer with regards to what he did or did not know or report about conditions of neglected housing stock hardly demonstrates a break from the troubled past…

We really hope to get answers on this and  are deeply disturbed by the lack of openness from our council As far as we know Mr Parsons has not been before the Housing Committee once

So we will see what happens and wait for answers, as well as ask Kim Taylor-Smith and Doug Goldring and others at RBKC to give the reassurance that the housing management under  RBKC is different to that of KCTMO , to be more open with us and provide  answers to our questions.

Our community lost 72 innocent people in Grenfell Tower and we deserve to know the truth, as well as to know that RBKC is not managing (or mismanaging) our homes the same way the KCTMO did. Some proposed new changes to RBKC tenancy agreements (coming soon on this blog ) seem to do a lot of  finger pointing at residents and throwing responsibilities on to them , but many of us feel that the council ought  to get its own house in order first

The long road to Grenfell Recovery, the lack of proper Scrutiny and the people left behind

This is Sheila Durr, she used to be Director for Communities and People at RBKC and was supposed to be the Humanitarian Lead for the Grenfell Recovery here. .

We say ā€œsupposed toā€ because Ms Durr was quite possibly one of the most useless suits ever to serve at RBKC ,and is “best” remembered for her role in the axing of a much-needed  and missed night service for traumatised members of our community: standing there and doing nothing while a fight between traumatised residents  broke out at The Curve, and for completely ignoring emails from  numerous concerned residents, including us .

Do-Nothing Durr left Hornton Street in October 2019, after 2 years , in which many residents in our local community were largely ignored, she spent nearly a year as a Senior Consultant at Surrey County Council before heading up north to Bury Council, where worryingly for residents there, she has been the Executive Director for Children and Young People for the past 5 months.Residents under her duty there have our  sympathies.

Back at a meeting of the (sadly since scrapped by our council in 2019) RBKC Grenfell Recovery Scrutiny Committee, Sheila Durr had mentioned ā€œTogether For Grenfellā€ which nobody in the room bar the suits ā€“ had heard of! One of us asked which groups were involved in this organisation and for an explanation of exactly what it is and Ms Durr responded by saying that it was a consortium of local organisations such as Al Manaar, Al Hasaniya and Midaye.

To  more recent times , and RBKC was having a consultation NEARLY FOUR YEARS AFTER GRENFELL about adult health and emotional wellbeing support services in the community. Here is what RBKC said in their consultation blurb: 

Since the Grenfell tragedy, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has commissioned a range of community based emotional health and wellbeing support services in North Kensington from the voluntary sector for adults. These have included those under the ā€˜Together for Grenfellā€™ umbrella of providers offering 1:1 and group counselling and wellbeing support for adults.
1:1 and group counselling and wellbeing support for adults.
The aims of the Together for Grenfell project is to support isolated community members whose emotional health and well-being had been affected by the Grenfell tragedy, targeting community members who did not feel comfortable or able to access mainstream services. The offer is personalised and built around the assessed needs of the local population and individuals. As a result, the key elements of the offer include:
  • culturally appropriate services delivered in languages spoken by the community 
  • collaboration and partnership with local partners to integrate culturally appropriate services into the mainstream health offer 
  • support delivered in community settings familiar to local residents, at flexible times that suit them 
We are now two years into the Councilā€™s five-year Grenfell Recovery Strategy and we are interested in understanding peopleā€™s views on these services, broader services accessed and planning additional services. This consultation is seeking insight from those who live, work and learn in the borough on how we can:
This consultation is seeking insight from those who live, work and learn in the borough on how we can:
  • Best deliver the new arrangements under the Together for Grenfell umbrella
  • Deliver new initiatives for adults in the community until 2024, which create opportunities for local people to lead their own support, developing and enhancing existing models of support that help people build resilience through social support networks.developing and enhancing existing models of support that help people build resilience through social support networks.
screenshot_20210327-171532

We are left wondeting why was the ā€œTogether For Grenfellā€ umbrella so small? Above  is a list of community organisations from Kensington and Chelsea Social Council listed in  a report from 2019  ā€“ and note that only a tiny handful of them have been included.

Only 3 of these organisations were included in the Together For Grenfell network in fact, and we really want to know why. Perhaps ā€œDo Nothingā€ Durr was engrosssed in a riveting game of tiddlywinks at her Hornton Street desk?

The  abolition of the  Grenfell Recovery  Scrutiny  Committee in 2019 left  a big hole in the scrutinisation of the councilā€™s ā€œeffortsā€, so many issues as well as individuals and groups  affected unfortunately do not get a look in

The supposed next best thing residents  get is the RBKC Overview and Scrutiny Committee.  The section  of the meeting of that earlier this month was supposed to be about scrutinising the dedicated service for the  survivors and the bereaved.  

But Chair  of the Overview amd Scrutiny Committee Cllr Marie-Therese Rossi insisted at the start of the meeting  that she was making it clear it was about about the dedicated service for the survivors and bereaved, but then added ā€œthe wider comnunityā€. 

Well, there is no actual dedicated service for the affected local community who are not classified as survivors or bereaved. We hate to repeat ourselves but we are sick and tired of the misleading ā€œwider comnunityā€ label becaise it appears to have been attached to residents all over RBKC and it ought to-be clearer that residemts of the immediate North Kensington community are obviously suffering from a far more severe level of grief and trauma than residents who live at the other end of the borough  We are disappointed that some councillors appear to be confused about this. Anyway  it was down to Anne Cyron, RBKC Lead Member for Comnunities for clarification and to  be more exacting  and she  did  state that the meeting was specifically about the dedicated service for the survivors and the bereaved.

Several residents and representatives were present at the online meeting, including Kimia from Grenfell Next of Kin and Natasha and Bellal fron Grenfell  United.  It was clear from the meeting that RBKC had failed to contact  a number of bereaved residents and involve then in the service .Kimia gave several examples of this. Some of the bereaved speaking at the meeting said they had not been involved. Perhaps this situation could have been avoided if RBKC had widened their ā€œumbrellaā€ to include the full list of community organisations that KCSC provided a few years ago?   The Grenfell United representatives invited bereaved residents to come along to the Steering Group and get involved. It was obvious that language barriers and communication barriers have prevented some from getting the help and support they needed. 

As for the dedicated service, we do have to say that the feedback we have received from  the survivors and the bereaved on the dedicated service has been largely  very positive, with some praising the efforts of Callum Wilson,  the Director of the service . So not all ā€œbad newsā€ here and we think it is now up to RBKC to broaden their “umbrella” and we hope that we do not see or hear any more instances of people being or feeling  that they are being left out.

But what about scrutinisation of other Grenfell Recovery efforts? Well, there isnā€™t  really much of that  and it doesnā€™t look like there will be any soon. Anne Cyron said that that other services and community provisions will be scrutinised ā€œat a later dateā€ but did not say when ā€“ so that likely means never in most cases, and as  for affected younger people, which Cllr  Cyron did briefly mention, that will probably get shoehorned  into the next meeting of the RBKC Family Services Committee. As for the parents and other family members  of  affected children, who knows? 

The councilā€™s abandonment of  our affected comnunity has led to people suffering in silence and some affected residents like us,  feeling trapped back in some of the worst stages of PTSD  . Sadly , it has also led to unpleasant scenes, and arguments in the community  with some affected people wrongly pointing the finger at other affected people. The fact is, it is RBKC who are to blame for this; and certainly NOT any of  the survivors  or the bereaved who have already been through enough already. They should be and always will be the priority we hope,  and there should be no point of contention about this. The point of contention we have with RBKCā€™s approach, is that they have ended up COMPLETELY forgetting about the  affected North Kensington community, trying to fob us off with insubstantial nonsense, and have even been pitting affected residents against others, and community organisations  against others 

Another point  we have to mention is that the council were  heartless and inconsiderate enough to not include older people in their initial. Recovery strategy.  Do they not think older residents exist? Labour Notting Dale councillor Judith Blakeman has constantly  reminded the council of their failure to include and consider older residents  but has been met with very little in the way of response except  for RBKC to seemingly  expect voluntary organistions to pick up the pieces

Other forgotten about affected  residents incude those  who do not live on large  council estates, (including residents in housing co-ops or housing associations, residents in private owned or rented accommnoation and residents who live in temporary accommdoation). 

And, if the language and communication barriers are  still an issue with the bereaved, this is  likely to be an even bigger situation in our community . 

The council just tell affected  people to go to The Curve but quite a lot of people here find the environment there  far too official or clinical ā€“ something we ourselves feel and others have said they would feel like they would be taking time and resources away from survivors and the bereaved if they did engage with services at The Curve. The council itself admitted back in 2019 that number of residents were not comfortable with it- but they have failed to provide any alternatives for the community specifically and that has  ended up being left to residents

 And this brings us back to that night service again. It was staffed by some NHS professionals as well as staff from local charities Hestia and Blenheim. It was informal, confidential, and people didnā€™t have counselling or NHS services forced upon them ā€“  but you knew they were there if you wanted to access them .This is a blog with a huge local following so we will not be retraumatising residents by describing what night terrors are, but many other traumatised residents in the community will know exactly what we mean. That night service provided a safe and confidential space to go for residents experiencing these ā€“ sometimes all someone wants is a safe space, a chat and a cup of tea ā€“ but apparently for CNWL , West London CCG and RBKC that was too much. Rather than funding this properly, advertising it and  moving it to a more appropriate secular setting, CNWL, West London CCG and  RBKC scrapped it, with  Sheila Durr and former Grenfell Chief Executive  Robyn Fairman ā€“ another former  suit we donā€™t miss ā€“  putting the boot in on behalf of the council – they didn’t back this and clearly they didn’t think that caring for traumatised residents was a priority – we reported them repeatedly   trying to axe the service three years ago https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/08/05/rbkc-does-u-turn-after-trying-to-axe-grenfell-night-service-for-traumatised-north-kensington-residents-again/

The council, after claiming the night service was poorly attended even though they failed to advertise it, or move to a more suitableĀ  setting, didn’t seem to care and itĀ  was replaced by a NHS telephone line instead. which we have never used and certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable with ever using. Same goes for many others. And while an in-person service like the much-missed night service due to Lockdown restrictions and Covid would not at the present timeĀ  be able toĀ  function , when restrictions are lifted there will be an increasing need for such services as self isolation hasĀ  Ā taken a toll on the mental wellbeing of many in our community tooĀ  This needs to be looked at again .Ā 

Other help in the community has come from many of our community groups, many of which are not always properly  or fairly supported by the council..In recent times of Covid and lockdown , The SPACE, based at Freston Road, North Kensington has been getting help out to residents (a larger number of our residents than ever before due to Covid and the financial crisis require their help) . Due to  a recent outpouring of donations from kind  other residents all around  the borough, staff at The SPACE have informed us that theu  are now running out of actual space to store their donated goods . So we also call on the council to support them and provide then with extra facilities.  This is a valued and popular community-led hub and they deserve to be better supported by the council. 

RBKC like  to say they have always supported The SPACE but their actions have not always matched up to this. Back in pre-Covid times, RBKC even put on ā€œrivalā€ events, at The Curve  imitating the program of activities provided at The SPACE. 

As for other community groups, there are many outstanding local community groups and voluntary organisations and groups in the locality,Ā  we will just briefly mention just aĀ  tinyĀ  handful of them ā€“ LCAT (Latimer Community Art Therapy) at Henry Dickens Comnunity Centre , Kids On The Green,Ā  and Solidarity SportsĀ .

RBKCā€™s response has been to pit some ofĀ  them against other groups which they did in the ā€œGrenfell Projects Fundā€ last year, in a tacky game show format, where they had to make a ā€œpitchā€ much like TV show Dragonā€™s Den, and the few residents who got in, voted on their favourites using the same keypads from TV game show ā€œWho Wants To be a Millionaireā€Ā  and the successful organisations who received the most votes, receiving theĀ  funding. We did not attend, as even though we are friends and supporters of many of the successsful organisations who took part, we feltĀ  and still do feel that this format was inappropriate and tasteless.

At THINK, we strongly feel that ourĀ  valued community organisations and groupsĀ  should not be treated like game show contestants; residents should not be competing against each other, affected members of our community shouldnā€™t have to jump up and down or go on social media in order to get RBKC to acknowledge that we exist.. The council has failed us over Grenfell Recovery and by not restoring Scrutiny , they are still failing us , and until we get a decent appropriate and fair level of Scrutiny, the successful (and the less successful ) Grenfell Recovery effortsĀ  are analysed, with community feedback, they will further fail us and no lessons will ever be learned.. This requiresĀ  is some in depth level ofĀ  inclusive discussion about what is working and what is not working.

Unfortunately, as long as supposed Grenfell Scrutiny is  scattered among various council committees and  the general picture of how our community as a whole is affected and what is missing or needed gets properly looked at as a whole, the road to recovery for some will feel  more like a road to nowhere. That is why we are calling for the Grenfell Recovery Scrutiny Committee to be reinstated and we invite our local readers to join us by completing and sharing this independent Centre for Governance and Scrutiny survey (it only takes a couple of minutes to complete)

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/S9HZ2JG

If RBKC really wants to demonstrate change, they must first learn to listen to our local residents and respond to our concerns; (by the way, these are not  purely personal concerns of the writers of this blog- we spoke to a number of residents, including some community representatives, some survivors, some of the bereaved, some of those in other community or voluntary groups as well as some health professsionals  ā€“ and sadly the same concerns and issues about people being left behind, about people feeling their voices are not heard, about the lack of Grenfell Scrutiny and about feeling that there was a lack of a dedicated community services for traumatised residents kept coming back).

Change doesnā€™t happen overnight and it will take years for our comnunity to recover from the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, but surely  after everything North Kensington residents have been through, this community  at  the very least deserves far  better than to be treated as an afterthought?  

Not another survey! (But cagey RBKC REALLY don’t want you to take part in this Scrutiny one)

RBKC often appears to really love surveys – we get them all the time,Ā  sometimes until we’re sick to the back teeth of them and get “survey fatigue”, and wonder why we’re bothering. Usually these are surveys in the form ofĀ  consultations which tend to be structured so people’s answers have to fit into a certain category and that category being oneĀ  that is more geared towards the council’s preferred option.

This independent surveyĀ  landed on THINK’s desk recently and despite all the extra council PR, RBKC is very reluctant toĀ  publicise and share this survey from theĀ  CfGS (Centre for Governance and Scrutiny) with the publicĀ  for some reason.

There is not long to go,Ā  the deadline is in just over a week, on Wednesday the 31st of MarchĀ 

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/S9HZ2JG

Let’s have a good look at the likely reasons why RBKC seems to be reluctant for people to take part in this survey shall we?

After Grenfell, RBKC commissioned the CFGS (then known as the Centre for Policy and Scrutiny) and the Democratic SocietyĀ  to undertake research and make recommendations as to how RBKC couldĀ  betrer improveĀ  its governance.

Here were the main recomnendations:

  • Adopting 12 principles of good governance, developed from the conversations we had with residents, councillors, officers and partners;
  • Hold a Borough wide conversation to decide the strategic direction and governance arrangements for the council;
  • Establish a citizensā€™ assembly;
  • Create a ā€˜listening committeeā€™ for councillors to hear directly from residents;
  • Establish a commission to, involving residents and partners, to determine the future direction of council governance;
  • Take practical steps to engage with local government full practice;
  • Use the Annual Government Statement as the basis for an ongoing, wider conversation about how governance can be improved.

The full reports can be found here:

https://www.cfgs.org.uk/royal-borough-of-kensington-chelsea/

As for those residents’ surveys, onlyĀ  a small number of residents took part, but the negative findings are very interesting indeed.

So ifĀ  the findings of thisĀ  survey are made public , it won’t look terribly good for our councilĀ  if the responsesĀ  are the same or worse, which looks toĀ  be a possible reasonĀ  why they’re keeping quiet about it ….

SeeĀ  thisĀ  brilliant insight from Urban Dandy for more:

https://urbandandylondon.com/2019/09/06/rbkcdemocracy/

Sadly the RBKC Leadership decided to fly in the face of this andĀ  abolished the Grenfell Recovery Scrutiny Committee in 2019.Ā  See our old blog posts about that from back thenĀ  (andĀ  the appalling way in which they went about itĀ  – including aĀ  “phantom” residents conferenceĀ  of only 15 people and telling outright lies regarding how many RAs they had spoken with) here:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2019/10/05/grenfell-scrutiny-and-the-summer-of-our-discontent-part-1-the-build-up-and-the-showdown/

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2019/10/16/grenfell-scrutiny-and-the-summer-of-our-discontent-part-2-grenfell-committee-gets-the-chop-as-dizzy-lizzy-and-rbkc-lose-their-heads-the-full-council-meeting/

As we feared, all matters related to Grenfell have been scatteredĀ  among various committees with fewer meetings taking place, orĀ  just completely scattered to the wind and forgotten about, so since then, many residents and Grenfell survivors, the bereaved and the North Kensington community have been very badly let down at best, or at worst, are treated as if they don’t exist

In fact, sinceĀ  the Grenfell Committee was abolished, there has been no proper Scrutiny of Grenfell Recovery in the North Kensington community at all.Ā Ā 

We know thatĀ  some in charge of RBKCĀ  – and PR-mad Leader Elizabeth “Dizzy Lizzy” Campbell in particular –Ā  seeĀ  some ofĀ  us in North Kensington as a nuisance or anĀ  inconvenience,. Well,Ā  we have to tell Dizzy Lizzy and coĀ  that our community would prefer not to have lost 72 innocent people in an entirely preventable disaster on our doorsteps andĀ  not be affected for the rest of our lives.

So we’re giving our feedback to tbis survey, and that is that we are deeply unhappyĀ  and disillusioned with the current state of council governance – who can blame us?

We are also giving feedback that,Ā  toĀ  help improve governance at RBKC andĀ  improve relations with residents and a way to help our community to recover would be to have more Committee meetings to cover issues in full to ensure we are getting the services we need and deserve,Ā  Ā and especially for the council to reinstate the Grenfell Scutiny Committee. We’llĀ  also addĀ  in aĀ  collection of our blog posts togetherĀ  with our responses for good measure.

THINK are publicising and sharing this survey and we encourage all our local readers to take part too.

Dizzy Lizzy wants to go back to “business as usual” ASAP andĀ  will not like us peeing on her “PR parade” one bit, but the council has been defecatingĀ  on North Kensington for decades. And just lookĀ  where that got us…..

Wringing the wrong numbers: A poor reception for Shaun Bailey

Conservative London Mayoral candiate, Shaun Bailey, is making a long overdue return to tbis blog today.

The Dame on From The Hornets Nest http://fromthehornetsnest.blogspot.com/?m=1 had this to say on him last December:

Over a sandwich lunch, the Dame endured an hour of Bailey talking incoherent rubbish. Not once did he ask a question. He behaved like a mobile phone salesman not the potential mayor of a super city. So we thought we would do the Photoshop honours….

Recently, THINKers received a copy of his election leaflet disguised as a magazine “London Life”

In this publication, Bailey seems very keen to play up his less privileged background in North Kensington …

Here’s what homes in the North Kensington street Shaun Bailey grew up in go for these days:

Rags to riches? But Bailey’s supposed answer to homelessness and the housing crisis in the capital was to ridiculously suggest encouraging London’s 62,670 homeless households (and that official figure doesn’t include “hidden homeless” – people “sofa surfing ” or living in overcrowded households) to apply for shared ownersbip!

No answers as to how cash strapped homeless bouseholds might somehow out of thin air, be able to get the Ā£5,000 deposit together or acknowledgment of the fact at all that unemployed people, those on lower incomes and some who work but do not always have the guaranteed regular level of regular income, wouldn’t be accepted in the first place.

Rightly, fellow Kensington blog The Steeple Times was very scathing about this, calling Bailey “Moron of the Moment”:

https://www.thesteepletimes.com/the-fog/shaun-bailey-homeless/

Here’s more from Shaun Bailey’s political leaflet-disguised-as-a-magazine, an interview with Karren Brady:

Still on housing, he talks about building more supposedly “affordable homes” . Well we have a few of what are deemed as these , built by Catalyst Housing on the regenerated former Wornington Green Estate (now Portobello Square) – another part of North Kensington where Bailey used to live – they start at Ā£600k and many are sitting empty, but hey, who cares, let’s just go and build some more! Like that’s going to solve the ptoblem….

Perhaps he could look into building more SOCIAL housing to help with the homelessness issue? Though it’s clear he isn’t even prepared to bother entertaining that thought and social housing is not mentioned ANYWHERE in this leaflet

Bailey does mention Sadiq Khan spending money on building homes to rent and that he will instead divert the cost for that into homes to buy – but who for?

Also, if Bailey doesn’t want to be “moron of the moment” he might just spare a thought for some of the Londoners who did buy into the dream of owning their own home under the shared ownership scheme, only for that dream to turn to dust, because of costs due to the cladding and fire safety scandal leaving them facing bankruptcy and homelessness (the Fire Safety Bill returns to the Commons today); but no, it appears Mr Bailey has absolutely nothing to say on this – he is merely aspiring to be Boris Johnson’s puppet at City Hall and is perfectly content to sit there while his “master” happily pulls the strings and sends hard-working people down the river…..

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/thousands-trapped-decade-london-cladding-scandal-b917899.html

As for crime prevention, for someone who has masses of experience as a youth worker , Bailey has previously made positive encouraging noises elsewhere about providing 62 new youth centres to help , but where is the money to do this actually going to come from? Who knows, he seems to have completely forgotten about that.

He also seems to have forgotten about this

http://fromthehornetsnest.blogspot.com/2020/02/bail-out-of-bailey.html?m=1

What little the magazine does say of his policies on crime is of him supposedly providing 8,000 more Police Officers. How? He just says he will cut bureaucracy such as offfice costs but fails to say anything more about that. He does mention that he will partly fund this with revenue gained from introducing corporate sponsorship of the tube lines and stations, but this also appears to be the only solution he offers to sort out the TfL financial crisis. Again, no costings, no further details.

As well corporate sponsorship of the tube being a much-loathed and vulgar idea in the eyes of many Londoners (“Coca- Cola Hill Gate Station” anyone? ), Bailey, despite the mentions of where he grew up, again forgets his roots and perhaps ought to be aware of the public outcry and upset around here that happened a few years ago when someone made the suggestion of changing the name of Latimer Road Station .

The outside of Latimer Road is currently about to be redecorated as part of a local arts project, but we guess since he hasn’t been here for years, Bailey doesn’t seem to know or care how offensive and upsetting it would be if green hearts and children’s artwork outside the nearest tube station to Grenfell, the site of our comnunity’s loss, were replaced by garish advertisement signs, billboards and disrespectful name changes. As it is, despite this leaflet/magazine being received right around the corner from Grenfell, there is no mention of Grenfell or any present day acknowledgment of his former community in it at all.

“You’re hired”? We wouldn’t hire Shaun Bailey to run a bath!

His wife Ellie Bailey isn’t standing of course, but obviously his party only just realised just how flimsy and daft Bailey’s supposed policies are, have given up and decided to desperately look for votes by going with the “nice guy” “family man” personality angle.

Just how “hugely passionate” about the environment is Shaun Bailey? His wife doesn’t say apart fron the obvious how bad London’s air is and neither does he. Nothing at all on a subject which many Londoners are genuinely ” passionate” about. .

As for Shaun Bailey in the classroom, it has been reported elsewhere that he was apparently described by a teacher as “gobby and dangerous” – make of that what you will….

Finally we get “9 Questions with Shaun Bailey” Disappointed THINKers saw no burning questions get put to Mr Bailey here, just silly small talk. We’re only surprised they didn’t ask him what his favourite biscuits were….

Also Ellie Bailey might want to send the makers of this leaflet/magazine back to school as they managed to get the year of the election wrong; it’s this year – the 6th of May in fact.

And no, we don’t think he will win.

We think that, with his constant gaffes like this recent one –https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/downing-street-refuses-to-say-stand-by-shaun-bailey-sarah-everard-comments-b923546.html which has appeared to alienate some of those on his own side, the absence of genuine policies and his lack of knowledge over most of the serious issues this city faces, that Shaun Bailey might struggle to scrape second place.

That phone sbop beckons……

Not all hearts and flowers in Earl’s Court as Delancey delivers unwanted “Valentine’s gift”

We wish our more romantic-minded readers a belated Happy Valentine’s Day.

The 14th of any month, for Grenfell reasons, is never a happy time for us and many others in the north of the borough. So we took some time out from our work, and our thoughts yesterday were with the 72 people who lost their lives in the fire, their friends and relatives, the survivors and all affected in our community. We will of course, be posting about some of the serious issues to do with Grenfell and cladding this week, but for now, this blog is heading south to Earl’s Court and an urgent planning matter:

Thanks to Delancey, residents in the south of the borough may also be feeling downhearted for other reasons right now too. Look at this:

Earl’s Court Ltd (Delancey) picture of the proposed block

The reason why, is because Delancey, have submitted plans for a big 9 storey block with office space and flats , none of which will be for social rent, in Old Brompton Road, on the site of the former Tournament Pub.

Despite getting hopes up by saying a few sweet nothings that they would listen to the community since they purchased the Earl’s Court site from Capco, Delancey now appear to be in the act of replacing an unpopular and unimaginative masterplan full of tower , blocks offices and luxury flats, with… ….yet more unpopular and unimaginative plans for tower blocks, offices and luxury flats.

The height of the building is out of scale and is inappropriate for the area, the area has plenty of expensive flats already and really needs more social housing, and residents fear that this will just be the beginning of Earl’s Court being filled with skyscrapers, making pollution worse (pollution levels in Earl’s Court are the highest in the UK at 3 times the WHO limit), the ruination of conservation areas and site and provision of little more than unaffordable flats and a few offices.

The planning application originally had a deadline for last Friday, but local Earl’s Court Lib Dem Cllr Linda “Wonderwoman” Wade did ask for the council to extend it, as did Amanda Frame, Chair of the Kensington Society

Our readers can see more about the Planning Application here:

https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/planning/searches/details.aspx?adv=0&simple=00272&simpleBatch=20&simSubmit=Search&id=PP/21/00272&cn=262171+DP9+100+Pall+Mall+London+&type=application&tab=tabs-planning-1#tabs-planning-5

But as people can see from our previous post, the RBKC website isn’t working properly , so if anyone wants to submit responses, they will have to keep their fingers crossed and send them here:

planning@rbkc.gov.uk

With this reference:
PP/21/00272

RBKC, this is beyond unacceptable and it is understandable that some residents are growing suspicious.

As for the rest of the Earl’s Court site, many are dreading what Delancey may have in store, but what THINK supports are the alternative plans from the Save Earl’s Court campaign fot a green replacement for the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre. provision of more open green space and for homes – especially new much-needed social housing – on the site. We believe the Save Earl’s Court alternative plans would help local businesses (and they have suffered badly since the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre was torn down and have taken an even bigger hit thanks to Covid-19) , recover and thrive as well as encourage new businesses there, provide much-needed social housing in our borough and provide green space – a real “heart” in the Earl’s Court community and would make the area a real destination again:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2017/08/03/think-special-post-from-earls-court-a-new-beginning/

But Delancey appear to have other ideas, and seem to be determined to fly in the face of what residents really want and need and what is actually best for the area. We’ve seen enough of arrogant and tone deaf developers flying in the face of surrounding communities, so it’s time someone got them to stop and have a rethink.

As for RBKC, we have yet to hear a reply from Cllr Johnny Thalassites, RBKC Cabinet Member for Planning, Place and the Environment as to why the website isn’t working properly and we very much hope that the issues are resolved and the deadline is extended.

Residents deserve far better than to be shut out of the Planning process and the Earl’s Court area deserves far better than to be left with a broken heart.šŸ’”

Covidiots, celebrities and our community

Pop singer Rita Ora (pictured above) grew up in North Kensington, so therefore some locals might have hoped she would haveĀ  at least some degree of consideration for our local community

But not so. Because back on November the 28th, Ms Ora decided to have her birthday party at Casa Cruz restaurant in Clarendon Road, North Kensington right in the middle of lockdown.

Last Thursday , a review of the RBKC Licensing Committee brought by the Police and Council Licensing Officers heard how that the breach was not in dispute by all parties. The point of dispute at the review hearing was regarding what action should be taken.

Chair of the Committee, Cllr Sof McVeigh explained that the options for actions the Licensing Committee could take, did not include fines, but were these:

Police had attended Casa Cruz after reports of people going in there though the back door and of loud music, could not gain entry tp tue premises but could see at least five partygoers and a man behind the bar through gaps in the window coverings. Council Licensing officers had tried and failed to gain entry to the property too.

When Police eventually got in contact with Scottie Bhattarai, the General Manager of the restaurant at the time, he admitted that Ms Ora had paid him Ā£5,000 to use the premises for her gathering, he admitted that he knew he was fully in breach of the Coronavirus regulations and had said he was there as a staff member facilitating the events. Both the CCTV footage of that night and the hard drive had also been wiped.

Nicholas Fallows, Director of Casa Cruz Holdings and Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS) had not apparently been aware of the incident until being contacted by the media. His legal representative said that Mr Bhattarai was no longer the General Manager at Casa Cruz and that the resaurant wiuld be prepared to work with Licensing. It was heard that before the hearing, the company had offered to improve and upgrade the CCTV system and Mr Bhatturai was barred from the premises.

Among the 44 supporters of Casa Cruz was Labour Cllr for Notting Dale Marwan Elnaghi acting as a local councillor and in his role as Chair of Nottingwood House RA, Cllr Elnaghi (who perhaps ought to have considered his role as Chairman pf the RBKC Adult Social Care and Health Committee – and the subject of public health in the local community before deciding speak up for the restauramt on this), had said that many of the residents in his block feel that the restaurant has added value to our neighbourhood” and that they’ve never had any complaints overall on the past five years regarding the operations of the business.

But it was admitted by the company ‘s legal representatives to the Committee under questioning, that Mr Bhattarai is still an employee of the restaurant holdings company and is currently working at Casa Cruz’s sister restaurant Isabel in Albemarle Street, Mayfair. Our look on Conpanies House shows that DPS of Casa Cruz Mr Fallows is listed as a director at both restaurants.

While we (and one of us lives very locally to Casa Cruz), do not have any other issue other than this with the restaurant, it is a serious breach, an endangerment of public health and while we do not support the revokation of their licence for this one incident , do hope the Committee and the Police do not simply give them a slap on the wrist over this and certainly there are questions to be asked about the holding company and their judgement if they still consider a senior employee responsible for such a breach to still be worthy of their employment.

In a statement on her Instagram account, Covidiot Ora later posted this:

Ms Ora, whose whose hit records have incuded “How We Do (Party) ” and “Anywhere”, had also previously broken Covid rules back in November aftet faliing to self isolate after a trip to Egypt. She is currently in mandatory quarantine in Australia.

But apologies from her don’t really cut it, especially when, despite being on the other side of the world, Ms Ora may be still in the act of endangering locals in North Kensington – a Covid hotspot – and sbowing our community even more disregard, as we have heard that only the other week, Police had to break up a videoshoot filming, made by people working for her, on the Walkways of the Lancaster West Estate, right by Grenfell.

Arrogant and ignorant celebrities with more money than sense who think they can blatantly ignore the rules and those who bend and break the rules for them are just as bad as the Covid tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist brigade in our opinion ; all are putting our health at risk and the death toll in the UK from Covid -19 is now at over 100,000.

The message to Holland Park resident Covidiot Rita Ora, who also had a number one record back in 2012 with “RIP”, is that the rules really ought to be clear to her; when she is here that means STAY AT HOME – and that goes for her entourage too.

The intriguing (and infuriating) case of the RBKC Housing “Secret Suits”

Some might be wondering whatever happened to our Editor’s FOI request back in April last year – as mentioned in this post last June:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2020/06/25/the-mystery-of-the-suits-in-the-dark/

A simple FOI request to our council that shouldn’t have been too much trouble.

But tbis basic level of transparency was evidently too much for RBKC as they completely ignored it!

So our Editor requested an internal review in July last year :

Guess what? No response, nothing, nada, zilch,, not a sausage.

RBKC obviously really do not want to tell residents who some senior officers – apart from Doug Goldring , Director of Housing Needs, and Dan Hawthorn, Executive Dorector for Housing and Social Investment – are for some reason…

So we did a bit of digging ourselves just with a few simple online searches….

The mysterious “Andrew L”, Head of Grenfell Housing Services who doesn’t want to reveal his surname, for some reason, now has a picture:

And here are a few other suits that others might be interested in ….

Ruth George, Head of Housing Services:

Zulfiqar Mulak, Head of Housing Needs and Transformation:

Martin Greenway, Head of Housing Repairs:

Anna Benbow, Director of Social Investment and Property:

Interstingly, Ms Benbow was also previously Seconded Assistant Director of Housing Supply at RBKC and at the same time, has been Director of Operations at Capital Letters, which is funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and was established by 17 councils in London, which relieves homelessness by procuring and managing social housing from private landlords and letting agencies (all of which is outside our borough)

To be fair, Mr Mulak and Ms Benbow did appear on the most recent RBKC Management Structure chart we saw so they’re not exactly “hiding” but asise from those very familiar with RBKC, seasoned Committee-goers and information junkies (like ourselves) , most residents do not know who theu are and what they do.

https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/council-councillors-and-democracy/about-council/roles-and-responsibilities/council%E2%80%99s-management

Rob Shaw, Housing Strategy and Policy Manager

Mr Shaw may be familar to some as he has been at RBKC for just over 12 years and was previously Housing Options Manager in the bad old days when some were facing regeneration.

Our council keeps telling residents to go to their “Neighbourhood Officers” – but the thing is, they fail to provide any details at all and most residents don’t even know who these people are.

So, for residents, here is the top suit with responsibility for Neighbourhood Management:

Stavroulla Kokkinou, Head of Neighbourhood Management

Ms Kokkinou just going on her LinkedIn profile, doesn’t want people to know her last name. We can’t think why, other than that she does not want the finger pointed at her for being in charge of all the Neighbourhood Officers and Antisocial Behaviour Managers. (No, we’ve never met or even heard of an ASB Manager either – despite one of us, a tenant in North Kensington, having suffered from violence and harassment from a neighbour.)

Many other residents , especially in the north of the borough based at Kensal Road which has changed little since the KCTMO days,, are still being failed with regards to little or no action taken over ASB. Ms Kokkinou has been in her post since 2018.

As for providing information, we understand that Robin Yu, arguably the most well known of the council’s Information Officers, departed Hornton Street some time ago. In fact he was about the only suit in that department who communicated regularly with residents over FOI questions and inquiries. So who do we have to ask ?

The council website won’t even tell us who they are and some of councillors do not even know! We’ve had no response, so there is little point in is emailing ” FOI Officers Anonymous” here:

https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/contactsdirectory/az.aspx?searchletter=F&orgid=4432

But THINKers are not quitters and we found one:

Jessica Quinn, Information Governance and Housing Officer

Here’s how Ms Quinn describes her responsibilities on her LinkedIn profile:

For the past 9 years I have been dealing with the sole process of all things relating to Data Protection 1998, Freedom of Information 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and most recently The General Data Protection Regulations and Data Protection 2018, for the Environmental Health Department of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoy my work and looking for improvements in the way in which we can be more transparent with members of the public.

More transparent? She has been in her post for 10 YEARS – what a joke.

Many will have questions regarding RBKC and KCTMO information on housing and environmental issues, but we wouldn’t hold our breath for a response….

As for the former KCTMO, our council housing properties, projects, and technical information, perhaps this suit can answer some questions?

“John P” – Technical Systems Manager

Look at what he has been in charge of and how long he has been here and just think ; all the repairs not logged, all those missing housing records, all the KCTMO properties left in state of disrepair over many years – which most of us are paying the price of now – especially leaseholders now facing bills of up to a shocking Ā£30K for all the TMO”s mistakes amd negligence , all the void properties either left empty for years or let to tenants by the TMO & RBKC in absolutely appalling conditions, not to mention records on poor quality refurbishments and fire safety

No wonder “John P” doesn’t want the public to know his surname.

That’s if he hasn’t departed Hornton Street yet, that is. As it is, we do wonder if this guy might happen to have some useful information on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment to pass on to the Grenfell Inquiry?


THINK have not, apart from Ms Kokkinou, Ms Quinn and. ” John P” , singled the suits out for criticism here, but this blog and many of our social housing residents are still very much in the dark as to who mosr of them are and where their responsibilies lie .

Despite many steps forward; new suits and staff, proactive approaches and improvements to fire safety, more openness at meetings, the return of the Tenants Consultative Committee and more positive attitudes from councillors and suits, there is still a very long way to go .

We would rather the council, rather than all the constant PR which is of very little use, concentrated its social housing communications efforts on letting tenants and leaseholders know who is in charge of what,and who they can contact concerning the many various bousing issues. Most residents do not have the time or energy to sit through hours of council meetings to get relevant information and neither should they have to.

Many are left sending emails to their ward councillors or going to their surgeries when the councillors cannot always help, posting on social media , asking Kim Taylor -Smith about everything, or else banging their heads against a brick wall.

The few residents who know who their housing officers are can go to them, but many of these officers are already overloaded with work, and a few others (especially some of the ex-TMO ones in the north) seem to do little to nothing to help.

Some of us did suggest ages ago that RBKC allocates each resident and gives them contact details of , a housng team – and not put the entire load on one or two officers, when there are obviously others who can help – but tbis fell on deaf ears.

Residents have been failed and are still being failed, by the failure of this council to be open, direct and accountable to the public – and without making reforms to their communications regarding our social housing, RBKC will only be further failing others.

North Kensington, Grenfell, our blog, some people and some points

Yesterday the 14th of January 2021 was 3 years and 7 months since our 72 members of our community lost their lives in the fire at Grenfell Tower and our first thoughts were with the 72 and their loved ones, relatives and friends.

Yesterday was a difficult day for so many of us around here – the 14th always is. It’s even more distressing in lockdown without friends and family and not being around others in our community.

Here is an advance warning: We have a few points to say here. Not everyone may wish to hear or will be comfortable with what we have to say but here goes :

– A few seem to forget affected residents in the immediate area around Grenfell and how they are feeling – and astonishingly sometimes this doesn’t always come from some at the RBKC Leadership or the Government. We cannot help but find ourselves offended when some people tell us that they are doing this or that for Grenfell and this is what affected people think – whilst seeming to completely forget who we are and and where we live.

– The opinions expressed in this blog are not just those of one or two people, they are views that a large part of our community and nearby share. This is a community blog, not a personal one and the vast majority of the blog posts come from what others around us in the community think, feel and are interested in.

– Our posts are not of an offensive nature, are not intended to cause personal offence and we are not responsible for others taking offence at our blog posts .

– This is a topical local blog and not a puppet show. We do not take kindly to people who think they can pull the strings here. Our blog doesn’t go around kissing people’s backsides – sorry. Life would be probably personally easier for us if we did but our output would be lame and meaningless. Again, nothing we say here is truly meant to cause personal offence. If some politicians take great offence about our posts that is their problem – we say if they can’t handle a bit of criticism, then they shouldn’t be in politics in the first place . Also the points above, if we criticise some and/or their policies, then they ought to be aware that it is not just the blog’s opinion. If some people do not think we go far enough in some of our posts on the other hand , nobody is stopping them from writing blogs themselves.

– There is a troll sending comments and emails about some councillors some of which are racist and some of which are homophobic. This anonymous person posted some very hateful comments on a couple of our blog posts some time back and they were immediately removed. Our blog condemns these trolls and does not tolerate that sort of behaviour. Any further comments will also be removed. We suggest that if people are directly receiving abusive emails, that they contact the Police. What really also hurts is that sadly a few people seem to have got it into their heads the crazy notion that any of this comes from us.

– Some further unnacceptable behaviour we have seen in recent times has been some who email us – also anonymously – to needlessly lash out at RAs, other community groups, volunteers, and even some of the Grenfell survivors and the bereaved – yes we hate to say so but sometimes we receive a lot of this sort of thing and we received some unpleasant emails again this week. Not everyone can get along with each other and we suggest that if people have personal disputes with others, that they discuss with the people in question and not go around spreading rumours, and stop bothering us with this. These appear to be separate from the abusive comments and emails having a go at some of our councillors – but this is also unacceptable and the same person or persons have also been trying to fill our comments section with this bile – needless personal snipes at other North Kensington residents. This is also not welcome here. and the comments were also removed as soon as we saw them.

– Everyone is having a difficult time right now; this why we are not going to name some people who have issues with us on here. because under these circumstances people are going through bad times themselves and it wouldn’t be very fair or indeed very kind of us to do so. It’s not helpful and doesn’t achieve anything.

– It would he good if some would discuss things properly like grown- ups and not block, exclude, backstab and snipe and behave as if we are in a school playground.

– We didn’t want to write this post and we hope we never have to say all of this all over again in future posts, but some of the behaviour from some who ought to know better leaves us with no choice but to speak out and say enough is enough .

– Regardless, most of us in North Kensington, despite the odd disagreement, are on the same side, and it’s important to remember who the “enemies” really are; the people who want us to return to the bad old days where North Kensington, our issues and residents’ voices are ignored and pushed to the back again.

After all, most of us (trolls excepted) are and will always be, part of the North Kensington community together .

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