Grenfell Recovery, The Curve and the “impossible heart”

Yesterday evening there was a meeting of the “Grenfell Community Assembly” ,  in which the topic discussed was “Emotional health and wellbeing” 

Some of us,, still feeling raw after watching Wednesday night’s programme – Grenfell,The Untold Story – and also because of  last weekend’s events with the Government briefing the press and obviously trying to push for demolition  of Grenfell Tower , didn’t quite feel up to going. We have to say it is tone deaf to say the least, given the   topic, for RBKC to not postpone   and to just expect residents to feel up to attending  , but  sadly, that is  typical “business as usual” behaviour from them. We  did hear that other residents were going so we hope that RBKC were listening.

We do feel that  because with RBKC’s poor track record in North Kensington ,  failures to learn from past mistakes and their preference to make  their own decisions, regardless of what others are telling them and what ought to be staring them right in the face – namely  this community and its social value  – our hopes for this  council  to listen may  probably  be in vain.

We also did hear that RBKC had changed the venue last minute  from The Harrow Club to The Curve.

RBKC are currently holding a consultation about The Curve and its future. The lease on the building runs out next  June  (around the time of the 5th Anniversary of the Grenfell Tower  fire) and they are asking residents to have their say about services (which will no longer be provided in the building ) here:

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

To us, this looks like  RBKC  have already made the decision to not renew the lease  and this  “consultation” is merely a formality.

We have written before about our concerns about The Curve and what RBKC has been doing wrong before, but we have also spoken to some former Governors of The  Curve  and one of them had this to say to us:

“The strange thing was, when I applied  and was interviewed , it all seemed to be very serious, the panel seemed to be very serious,  and the other Governors were serious. We were called Governors, but in reality we didn’t govern anything. We had no power at all. It was the ultimate tickbox job and we were reduced to discussing really obvious things  like staffing issues, constantly having to chase up on like things that are happening there that really shouldn’t be happening, members of staff who shouldn’t be employed –  totally unprofessional things going on, and  that’s what the meetings were about a lot of time.”

Our source told us about times when they had meetings where a member of the Grenfell Taskforce was present (who just sat there and did nothing  apparently)  and the agenda  had been set aside.

Regarding how appropriate a building The Curve is  for centre for traumatised members of our community, here are  some personal notes from our Editor’s diary made in 2017 and 2018:

“Whoever considered a large building that was intended to be used as a hub  for  small firms sharing workspace, right on the LBHF border, to be an appropriate centre for traumatised residents?   “C” (friend and resident) says it’s because RBKC wants us out of the way – not seen and not heard”

‘That place is an assault on the senses;  radios,  stereos and televisions blaring  out.  Feel shaken by going there. Was approached several times by professionals  who wanted to take my details – refused. Saw a  lot of  people there who aren’t from  here  who were using it for the wi fi  and to charge their phones and computers. Normally they’ll be in Starbucks or Caffe Nero and only ordering a token latte when staff  eventually notice they’ve been  sitting there on their laptop for  3 hours”

“Came to the party there and signed in as “THINK  blog”  and for this , I was  then  constantly followed around by security to the point of it being comedic – they stopped short  of  following me to the toilet. Their farcical security efforts  at least did give  others a laugh though “

And this: “Went to The Curve and signed in as THINK  again – then was immediately refused entry and told “no journalists” . Despite  “S” and “A” (more friends and residents) telling them that I was a local resident. Sat just outside there instead. What is the point in this? ”

Our former Governor source also said this : “The place was just the worst possible place you could design for traumatised people. The layout, the level of noise, Sometimes  they’d be different  classes going on only separated by a plastic room divider  Really not professional”

As we know RBKC will likely answer these points by saying there was a shortage of available buildings, we do have to point our that they rented The Curve (they never bought it) paying an exorbitant level of rent at the same time they followed through with  the plans   made by   disgraced RBKC  former Deputy Leader & Cabinet   Rock Feilding-Mellen  and equally disgraceful former suit   Richard “The Bogeyman” Egan,  of   leasing the former Westway Information Centre on Ladbroke Grove, a centrally located and  much more suitable  location for  a centre for the North Kensington community (as that is, more or less,  what it was before) to Notting Hill Prep School and Pret A Manger.

When one of us approached Jailhouse Rock’s successor, Kim Taylor- Smith about this after a meeting of the then  Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee at Kensington Town Hall  in 2017 ,  and giving our views that the Westway Information Centre should have been retained by the council as a community hub and was a far more appropriate venue than The Curve , he seemed to think this was some sort of  a laughing matter.

Seriously – our funny photoshopped pictures  and  nicknames aside –  we do  have to point out to  Kim Taylor- Smith that  Grenfell,  disaster, trauma and the suffering of our commuunity is no laughing matter and neither  is the utter incompetence  of the council’s handling of this.

Here is more from our source telling us about their experience as a Governor at The Curve: “There has to be some trust in order to take on a role, you are trusting that the, the other power is going to be some more sincere, so taking that on with a title of Governor Board of Governors. And then, bit by bit we’ve realised the penny drops, we can’t actually do anything. So then we did one last throw of the dice, which was, we simply want to make a proposal for what this place is, what it does, and what the future looks like for The Curve. My idea was, it should become a community centre, A bit like the Tabernacle but for where you live. And that would involve the council buying the building, and investing in it long term. But then one of the other governors had this big idea about skills training for young people for industries of the future so in gaming, and sports industry, things like that.with definite avenues to employment. And that was also a good idea so we combine the two really, and part of it was like a living room feel, but it would be really well thought out, and you’d have it done appropriately for traumatised people, but the main thrust was that we make this a centre for serious training. We worked on this proposal for a long time, but then the meeting with (then RBKC RBKC Grenfell Executive) Robyn Fairman came about and she was just telling us what they (RBKC) were going to do. There was no collaboration. We might as well have been speaking another language.”

Our source also told us that watching Wednesday’s programme and seeing the Grenfell Tower residents speaking to the council reminded them of their time at The Curve: “We weren’t being listened to, we weren’t making decisions. RBKC , Robyn Fairman, Barry Quirk Kim Taylor-Smith and the Government taskforce were the ones making the decisions. It’s a very kind of colonial approach. They put a little body in there to control the locals, keep them quiet, Make it look like they’ve got a bit of power but not at all. On a personal note, it was one of the worst things I’ve ever been involved in probably the worst thing in terms of organisation and the way it was structured. We were traumatised people. That’s why we were doing it – because we wanted to help because we cared.”

They also pointed out that The Curve was supposed to have 12 Governors and now there are only two and as far as they know, no world leading experts on trauma were ever brought in to advise the council over The Curve and managing facilities for traumatised residents.

No doubt RBKC will say how much money they have spent on The Curve and Grenfell Recovery – but that’s just it – stage management.

Our blog has previously highlighted issues of confidentially in other posts and another resident who also works for Grenfell NHS said this to us “Your concerns about confidentiality are justified in some cases. I can’t tell, for example, a young mother who comes to The Curve, contacts myself and my colleagues, and who tells us they are having suicidal thoughts, that their records will not be shared around and they will not be getting visits from social services, the Police or housing officers. It leaves me feeling torn, you know we’re here to help but the thing that is patient confidentiality is not always being respected. The council does access people’s records if they go there – it’s no secret, and if the resident happens to be personally known to council officers , if they are tenants of RBKC , they will likely be flagged up elsewhere and they should not be surprised to find that the council will likely hold a lot more personal information about them then they probably should”

Indeed – concerns about confidentiality and people accessing confidential records has been a real barrier to some residents seeking help for their mental health. Our source here did say that information sharing is not an everyday occurrence and she always makes clients aware of confidentiality and information issues but not every professional did and she did say that some residents had previously signed consent forms without it being ensured they had full comprehension of what this meant.

When the Grenfell night service was running, it was confidential There was help from both NHS staff and local charities available and this was done properly – with people signing consent forms and being aware of what they meant. But RBKC did not approve of this and even demanded that one of the charities invoolved hand over details of their service users. Understandably, having concerns about the sensitivity of their work, their existing services users and well as not putting off others from seeking their help, they refused. It wasn’t too long after this when RBKC pulled the plug on the nigbt service.

One of us is a former user of the night service – it was safe, confidential and very helpful and the only concerns we ever had about it were over the lack of promotion of this valuable service by RBKC and tthat it should have been moved to more suitable secular premises.

So our council, that never promoted this service, which made unreasonable demands on a highly respected long established charity, which never bothered to act on the suggestions that ourselves and many other users of the service made, simply axed it – citing lack of uptake.

RBKC has previously tried to justify their their data sharing by saying they need to monitor and measure service use – fair point- but they completely ignored the sensible suggestions made by several residents to set up focus groups made of consenting residents of different ages and backgrounds in order to do this.

Perhaps if they had, they wouldn’t have completely forgotten about older people in their initial Grenfell Recovery plans.

The level of council incompetence over Grenfell Recovery and the handling of our traumatised community is truly staggering so we’ll remind people of this post of ours again:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2021/03/27/the-long-road-to-grenfell-recovery-and-the-people-left-behind/

And mention RBKC basic communication errors of not communicating with bereaved residents in their respective languages and also the fact that it took them over a year to put together the “Together For Grenfell ” umbrella, in which they only included three of the organisations provided to them by Kensington and Chelsea Social Council on this list:

And of course, if RBKC was truly serious about Grenfell Recovery, then they wouldn’t have scrapped the Council Committee that was supposed to be scrutinising it.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and our thoughts are with everyone affected It is beyond appalling that we have to tell our council that one of the last sightings of a resident who took their own life, was of them turning up at The Curve to seek help around 8pm to find it closed. This was after the night service was axed.

Much more recently, we have heard reports that another resident took their own life at an underground station, many residents have suffered from breakdowns, and other residents suffering were just told to”call 999″. We cannot stress how unacceptable all of this is.

This community is a friendly close-knit one, with many highly skilled residents who are keen to help others out. Our council doesn’t seem to value community-led recovery very much, even when people have made it clear that they are much more comfortable using these services than ones run by the council.

The SPACE, one such positive valuable and helpful resident led community hub, is still in need of storage space for their baby bank initiative.

If the council really did want to move Grenfell Recovery in a more resident-led direction they have a funny way of showing it..

One resident spoke to us about the “Grenfell Community Leadership Programme” and did say they found it helpful, but did question where this would go “because if some of us are doing this trainng , we do wonder what are we going to get at the end of it? Starved of resources and made to bid for the scraps of funding against other community groups? ”

We hope that RBKC and the Government do read this post carefully and especially do take note of what other residents have said. They might be coming from different perspectives on this , but it all amounts to the same thing- that RBKC “Grenfell Recovery” is failing the Grenfell community.

So we will end with some key points our picture is of an “impossible heart”, the impossible being an optical illusion that actually is a lot more possible than it appears

– POINT 1 : TRUST –

It is clear, for very obvious reasons and their poor track record in North Kensington that RBKC is not very trusted among residents here. That should not be an excuse for cutting and removing vital services. The “top down ” “box ticking ” approach to Grenfell Recovery is a shambles .

Trust has to be earned, and it certainly isn’t earned with that approach, by ignoring resident- led initiatives and by deciding they know this community better than the people who live here.

Trust works both ways, and its clear that RBKC does not trust committed residents with either funds or decision making very much. This needs to change.

– POINT 2: RESPECT –

Respect, just like trust has to be earned, and the council has treated residents including those who spoke to us, with zero respect. There is a lot of “talking down ” to people and groups and ignoring others going on – there has been from the beginning and it still goes on now.

Just sitting down at the table with others, treating them like equal human beings and accepting that people who live and/or work in North Kensington will know considerably more about this community, its residents and what works and doesn’t, than suits based at Hornton Street would have been a start.

– POINT 3 : UNDERSTANDING –

Nobody expects others who have never suffered first hand trauma of Grenfell and have not lost their home, members of their family, friends, neighbours to have an innate understanding of what this is, but residents, including the people who spoke to us and indeed ourselves, do at least hope to be listened to. RBKC are certainly NOT “‘Putting Communities first” .

Understanding is also about not getting caught in tunnel vision or black/white thinking, but looking at and exploring the possibilities carefully and examining what is working and what isn’t.

Which brings us to the final point –

THE WHOLE PICTURE

Our “impossible heart” Grenfell optical illusion picture also alludes to the fact that RBKC ‘s approach to the process is stage managed as in “pour money into The Curve and say you are spending this on Grenfell Recovery” and “have fake “consultations when you have made the decisions already” – creating the illusion they are genuinely listening to us.

It’s not impossible to find possible ways forward.

Impossible figures like this heart, only appear impossible – the solution is there, right in front of you – the answer is in how you see it, perspective, and sadly this is how they are getting it all wrong. They have the wrong perspective. . Some at our council, especially Elizabeth Campbell and Kim Taylor-Smith, have accused members of this community of “playing politics”, but by labelling and portraying residents who are communicating with the council and trying to find positive ways forward as “rebels” “activists” and “troublemakers” they are doing just that.

It’s time this was all viewed from a different perspective, and our blog believes that Grenfell Recovery will not work here while RBKC is in charge of it. It’s time to send Commissioners in.

.

The Government and Grenfell Tower: Memories, memorials, dishonesty and disrespect

72 innocent members of our community needlessly lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire disaster on June the 14th 2017.

Survivors, relatives, friends and members of our community  living nearby will forever be devastated and traumatised by the events of that morning,  the loss of their relatives, friends and neighbours,  and also by the fact that still, more than four years after, nobody has been brought to justice..

Sadly we do have to keep reminding certain parties – because why then, is the Government publicly  briefing newspapers about demolition of the Grenfell Tower site instead of having  discussion in full over this with bereaved,  survivors and local residents of our  North Kensington community?

See this from The Times:

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/grenfell-tower-to-be-torn-down-amid-safety-fears-wrb7mfxsn

This was put out at 6pm yesterday, AFTER the Grenfell Memorial Commission had held discussions with the community about the site and BSRs were not notified before this article was released – beyond disgraceful.

Natasha Elcock, Chair of Grenfell United, said this to LBC yesterday : “Part of the process was the bereaved and survivors and the local community would be at the heart of the decision making process around the future of the Tower, and today, less than 10 of the bereaved or survivors have been consulted on the process. So as you can imagine, this evening, there is a lot of shock, amongst the community around. It almost feels like the decision had been made”

Here is  just some of what Karim Mussilhy from Grenfell United had to to say to  Andrew Castle on LBC: “We all having these discussions publicly about something that’s so sacred to us where our families died and some of the remains still remain. And this is happening, publicly, and we even haven’t had the opportunity to have these conversations”

Andrew Castle responded to Karim by saying  “to be honest, the decision hasn’t been made yet has it? “

Well we’d say  it is plainly obvious by the way Government officials are briefing the press and calling this a “fait accompli” , the way in which they have approached this by  deliberately bypassing the  bereaved, survivors and the local community, as well as local North Kensington  councillors – all of whom have not seen the latest report from the structural engineers – that they have already made the decisions and they have gone about  doing so in just about the most cruel, callous, insensitive and disrespectful way possible. 

Karim pointed out that the structural engineers were appointed by the Government, that they have never met with them, yet people are expected to take their reports at face value. He also said ” It’s like going to a doctor to get a second opinion. We’ve spoken to structural engineers that have told us, if that tower, if people want that tower to stay up – the tower can stay up” .

Only a few days ago Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Goverment visited this constituency and met with Kensington MP Felicity Buchan and Leader of RBKC Elizabeth Campbell.  The purpose of his  constituency visit? A PR  photo op. He did not go to North Kensington or mention anything about Grenfell Tower at all.

This insult to the bereaved, survivors and the North Kensington community just shows that Jenrick and his Government wish to sweep Grenfell under the carpet as soon as possible,   to erase it from  memory, to evade justice   to  forget about our  affected community and to go ahead with “business as usual”.

Our blog has this to say  to Robert Jenrick:

No demolition without fair and full consultation.  And by this, we mean discussions with the  bereaved,  the survivors and the North Kensington community; rather than discussions with the media.

Your officials say the building is structurally not safe, but it’s hard for people to trust you here;  not just because of what happened in 2017, but the failure of this Government to address the building safety issues properly and the many various ways in which you and your Government colleagues have continually failed people affected.

The writers of this blog are affected residents ourselves, so we will not be discussing too much in this blog as to what we think or feel should be happening or not to to the site here , but we will say that we strongly agree with Grenfell United representatives about the need for a second opinion on how safe or not it is for Grenfell Tower to remain in place – this is the site of peoples’ loss after all.

Survivors, bereaved and this community MUST be respected;  so should the processes of the Grenfell Inquiry and justice  be respected   and so should the memories of those who are no longer with us.

The only public media statement you should be offering right now is an apology for your disgraceful conduct over this. We also demand that  if demolition is such a matter of urgency and this is a matter of public safety,  that you come to North Kensington and hold a meeting with the bereaved, survivors the  Memorial Commission, local councillors and North Kensington residents and that you share IN FULL – your reports from structural engineers and that you allow people here to question you on this.

The fact that you haven’t bothered to and seem to prefer putting on PR shows and briefing the media instead seems to indicate to people here that you and your colleagues have your own motives behind this and possibly something to hide. Shame on you. “

THINK will leave the final words here with Grenfell United:

https://www.independent.co.uk/tv/news/grenfell-tower-demolition-mussilhy-lbc-v39dd2835

Will Notting Hill Carnival return to our streets next year? Locals fear for its future

(“Carnival Councillors 2021” L to R – Cllr Portia Thaxter, Cllr Emma Dent Coad, Cllr Mo Bakhtiar, Cllr Judith Blakeman, Cllr Julie Mills & Cllr Ian Henderson)

Unfortunately , due to Covid-19 there was no Notting Hill Carnival again this year. However a few ticketed events did go ahead, including Panorama, the national steel pan competition, held at Emslie Horniman’s Pleasance Park in North Kensington last weekend. Our congratulations to Mangrove, who came first, and also Ebony who took second place, and The Metronomes who took third place.

Carnival was badly missed by many locals and visitors alike  this year, and while the need for people to keep safe is understood, quite a lot of people  had written to us about  missing Carnival and  their fears for the future of the event.

Because some of the events were held elsewhere, this caused quite a stir  We have to say that our inbox had plenty of emails from locals who were upset (particularly about events in Holland Park and Chelsea) and some expressing concerns about the future of Notting Hill Carnival becoming a paid ticketed event.

Here are just a few excerpts from emails we had from residents upset that there was a paid ticketed Carvival event at Holland Park held with Holland Park Opera: “What the —- does Holland Park Opera have to do with Carnival, its roots and black culture?” “Why isn’t there anything around Ladbroke Grove?” “Don’t forget about Holland Park Opera getting all that money from RBKC – was this an RBKC decision? ”

So THINK will clarify things a bit – it was not an RBKC  decision – it was a decision made by the  Notting Hill Carnival organisers for the event not to go ahead due to  Covid-19. This paid event, as we understand it, was organised largely because the Carnival organisers are desperately short of funds and there was an expectation that some sort of Carnival-related event should go ahead.

There was also some sort of Carnival event in Chelsea which some residents were also upset about and also saw some responses on Twitter. Here are just a couple of them…

 

The Chelsea event, as we understand it was part of the Kensington and Chelsea Arts Festival. We recognise the need for the Carnival organisers to raise funds, but we do share some of  the concerns expressed by locals that by having events in Holland Park and Chelsea rather than North Kensington, does seem to rather move away from the event’s roots around here and this also reminds people of the borough’s north- south social tensions,, which is partly why  some residents  were thinking of RBKC (yes, they’ve got a lot to answer for but not this!)

So we do hope that next year, the views of residents  who wish to see the Notting Hill  Carnival we know and love return to our streets are taken on board.  The Chelsea event was free and we cannot quite understand why this wasn’t held in North Kensington given this is the natural home of Carnival and why on earth someone took the decision to hold it there rather than here.

As for a few people upset about Panorama being a paid event, well that has been a paid event for some years now and we have no issue with that – Carnival funds have to come from somewhere, and also that people pay for concerts and shows all the time – but we do think that some tickets ought to be available to purchase in cash outside the venue as having it all booked via credit or debit card only does tend to exclude poorer residents.

Carnival  often draws mixed views from people who live here, with most, like us, who love it and wish to see Europe’s largest street party remain a free, fun, multicultural event here for many more years to come. But there are some others who do not like the crowds, noise and mess and find it difficult when the event comes to their doorsteps (there are usually plenty of arguments on our local Nextdoor about it every year).

Also some rather more exclusive people in or near our locality, have previously been in the act of smearing Notting Hill Carnival before and calling for it to be held in parks as some sort of corporate based paid ticketed event. So we do understand the concerns from locals who are longstanding Carnival goers regarding paid ticketed events and fearing that this is what Carnival will turn into.

The absence of Notting Hill Carvival this  year and last year, even to some residents who weren’t the biggest fans of it, has left the area feeling rather empty and depressed at August Bank Holiday. Most other local residents that we have spoken to, really do wish to see the event back on the streets of North Kensington next time.

As for funding, we urge those who like us, love Notting Hill Carnival and wish to see it back on our streets, to donate to the Carvival Village recovery fund here:

https://platform.nationalfundingscheme.org/NHC2020?charity=NHC2020#.YTJzYTPTXqt

Such a huge event obviously requires money and by donating or at least sharing the link to others who can donate, hopefully at least a lack of funding won’t be any obstacle to having Carnival back here where it belongs next time.

So we hope the organisers do get enough funding and also do listen to locals – after all, it’s the Notting Hill Carnival not the Chelsea Carnival or the Holland Park Carnival.

Whether the event will be back next year or not, will largely depend on Covid-19 and whether it is deemed safe to go ahead with such a large public gathering. Fingers crossed for its return next year…..

K & C “Summer of Love” but not much love from council for residents near Edenham site – LAST DAY for consultation responses

This Summer, our council has been promoting the “Kensington and Chelsea Summer of Love” there are a whole host of events – activities, exhibitions, shows, lots of stuff to do around the borough this Summer – check it out here:

https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/explore-kensington-and-chelsea/

But many North Kensington residents, especially those living around Trellick Tower and the surrounding Cheltenham Estate, are not exactly feeling very “loved” by our council right now.

This picture will help illustrate why…

And so will this article from Gill Kernick, with her excellent fellow North Kensington local blog the Grenfell Enquirer:

https://grenfellenquirer.blog/2021/08/14/rbkc-fail-to-learn/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

Today is the last day for people to respond to the Edenham site “consultation” . So do have your say (the deadline for responses is 11:59pm tonight) here :

https://consult.rbkc.gov.uk/communities/edenham-round-3

RBKC Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for Grenfell, Housing and Social Investment Kim Taylor-Smith and his colleagues are determined to push through over 100 flats, including two tower blocks, one 14 storeys high, right through the middle of the Cheltenham Estate which will also obscure views of Erno Goldfinger’s magnificent listed Trellick Tower and the Estate.

Residents have had no input in the selection of the architects, Haworth Tompkins – selected in 2014 by disgraced former RBKC Deputy Leader Rock Feilding-Mellen – plus what the council now proposes to build is far too high, too dense and too damaging to community infrastructure – the scale is also contradictory to the council’s own SPD in the fact that it is higher that 6 storeys and does not respect existing buildings on the site. Also, as we reported before, Haworth Tompkins insisted on segregating the social housing and private residents – poor floors ‘ in flats they are building elsewhere in Walthamstow. We say social segregation is not welcome – especially in our wonderful mixed community.

As Gill’s blog also says , both the architects Haworth Tompkins are not experienced in building high rises, and the fire safety issues of having two high rise buildings in such close proximity ought to be discussed.

As for the discussions that did take place with residents, the input from local resident representative steering group CoMMET appears to have been totally disregarded by both RBKC and Haworth Tompkins. Have a look at this letter from them:

And here is Kim Taylor-Smith’s response:

Seriously, what’s the point in asking for residents’ views if you are not going to be bothered to take them on board? But it gets worse, as Cllr Taylor-Smith has gone about both on social media and at council meetings, portraying local residents as NIMBYs and trying to say that they are against having anything built on the site – what a liar!

This is what he said at a meeting of the RBKC Housing and Communities Select Committee back in May:”On our second consultation, 67% of the residents do not want it or  are not interested, they don’t want the development on that site, because they feel, I think the quote I’ve got here is like sardines. Now, my challenge is balancing the demand for the local resident who is obviously going to be impacted by that building, but also the necessity for us to provide housing for our homeless, and my personal challenge for me is to represent the voices of those people who are in temporary accommodation, also desperately needing a home because we’re not consulting with them when we’re going out onto consultation, and I think that’s a voice that very much needs to be heard. Do we listen to residents or do we listen to the homeless?”

Kim “Tailored-Sloth” might not be feeling the love for local North Kensington residents, but never mind, we’ve got a very special “gift” for him…

For ignoring the local community – and that’s a large majority opposed to what the council is proposing to build in on the Edenham site, for lying and putting a false narrative and spin on things, for having the nerve to call the locals objecting- mostly occupants of social housing – “privileged”and for ignoring the concerns that Gill Kernick, CoMMET and other residents have put to him, for misrepresenting what co-design means (no it doesn’t mean that residents have the final say but it does mean they have some input in this – instead of being ignored and disregarded) and also for having the outright nerve to portray himself as the “voice of the homeless” (!!), THINK proudly present Kim Taylor-Smith with a Piglet-Pie Award:

Not feeling the love

It’s his second one so his mantelpiece will need to be bigger than his ego. We know the residents, we’ve watched all the online meetings as well as all the steering group meetings – the community were keen to work productively and positively with the council over this – anyone simply reading the CoMMET letter or reading Gill’s blog can see that! We probably should also go and present KTS with a dictionary so he can look up what consultation and co-design actually mean.

We, just like other locals, are not against housing on the site, but we say these plans are wrong, the community should have a say and also that it’s time to ditch “Jailhouse” Rock’s choice of architects

And while Kim “Tailored-Sloth” takes a Summer holiday and retreats into his tree to escape upset residents on social media, we think he should spare a thought for people living in or around Trellick Tower and the Cheltenham Estate whose “habitats” are now under threat thanks to his forcing this monstrosity upon them . This Summer is most definitely not a “holiday” for many residents here who are suffering from RBKC’s failure to learn from Grenfell and change their ways We ask our readers to please join us and let Tailored-Sloth and his colleagues know that their behaviour over this , their planned act of cultural vandalism and their disgraceful attitude towards members of our North Kensington community is completely unacceptable.

So we ask our readers, wherever you live, to please also join us and sign and share this petition and let’s all tell RBKC that it is time to reconsider and go back to the drawing board.. North Kensington deserves better.

https://www.change.org/p/the-royal-borough-of-kensington-chelsea-save-trellick-tower-and-cheltenham-estate-from-cultural-vandals

We’re back to ranting and raving about RBKC exclusion of residents again…

When should council tenants and leaseholders be included or not included in the Tenants Consultative Committee? What about when the council’s work programme is discussed which includes works done to THEIR HOMES???

Apparently not, here is a response from Iago Griffith, RBKC Head of Resident Engagement and Partnerships to a North Kensington local councillor who raised this on a behalf of a constituent:

Residents of street properties and small blocks without resident associations and compacts do have the their meeting which is the HOMES meeting. This is open to all such residents and meets bi-monthly and discuss much of the same topics as those discussed at the TCC, and is always attended by Doug Goldring and senior officers, we are always keen to encourage further attendance at these meeting and have on several occasions written out to encourage attendance. We do always ensure where we can parity with the TCC, with the same agenda’s items being discussed, and attendance from Cllr Taylor-Smith, Doug Goldring and other senior officers.  “

“You raise the role of the HOMES representatives. Bruno DeFlorence and Gaenor Holland-Williams role is largely to represent HOMES on the TCC – to ensure synergy with that committee, rather than represent all street property residents per se, as all of these residents are invited to the HOMES meeting. Never the less I am aware both Bruno and Gaenor do at these meetings raise issues by other street property residents, and I agree with your point if they are to act as advocates there contact details need to be available and at certain points the HOMES group needs the opportunity to re-elect its representatives. This can be discussed when the group meets again in late September.”

“We are keen to build up the HOMES group and I would be only too happy to have an informal discussion with a constituent of yours who may have ideas on how to do this. Kind regards. Iago:

Well this response is something of a joke, because not only do the “HOMES” representatives live nowhere near the resident’s North Kensington home, the resident in question was part of the small group of residents who called to set it up in the first place, and it was intended to be part of the MAIN TCC GROUP and not some inferior little offshoot, as we said previously here:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2020/10/19/all-animals-are-equal-but-some-animals-are-still-more-equal-than-others-down-on-the-tcc-animal-farm/

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2021/02/11/rbkc-gives-residents-without-ras-the-back-alley-treatment/

But RBKC seems to view residents in smaller blocks and street properties as third class citizens who don’t deserve the same level of communication and respect as those in RAs.

We hate to go on and on about it but why otherwise wouldn’t Iago Griffith and his fellow Resident Engagement officers just send links to the meetings to any tenant or leaseholder who is interested to join? There really isn’t any reasonable excuse for this.

But RBKC might want to shut these residents up and out of these meetings for other reasons too. The resident who contacted their local councillor was under threat of regeneration before Grenfell – these were the little North Kensington regenerations planned outside of the Silchester Estate that people did not even receive so much as a letter about. If this had gone ahead, they would have ended up being forced out of the borough on the quiet.

With RBKC returning back to “business as usual” it appears that the council doesn’t want these residents to make some noise, especially if it will alert others towards any posssible future regeneration plans that the council may have in store for us.

If anyone is thinking our warnings about regeneration are a little far-fetched, let’s not forget about what Dan Hawthorn (pictured second right, next to Mr Griffith) , RBKC Executive Director for Housing and Social Investment, was doing before he came to Hornton Street – he was in charge of housing at Haringey Council – and partly responsible for the controversial (and thankfully axed) HDV regeneration scheme there. While times have changed and Mr Hawthorn may have moved on since then, quite what the motivations were for RBKC to hire the man in charge of such a scheme for the housing top job here, does make us wonder…

Plus, let’s also not forget that RBKC Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Grenfell, Housing and Social Investment Kim Taylor-Smith did tell a meeting of the Housing and Communities Select Committee some time back, that he thought that the council should at some point go back and look again at regeneration of properties that are more costly for the council to maintain.

RBKC tenants and leaseholders of smaller blocks and street properties, you have been warned!

Kensington claws out for Thames Water on Tuesday

Meet Fat Cat Ian Marchant (pictured above). Mr Marchant is Chair of Thames Water and gets paid £325,000 for a two day week. Alright for some….

No doubt he has never had to undergo the ordeal of being knee deep in water and sewage in his home or business. His prize possessions will be secure and insured to the hilt, unlike many residents and businesses in and around our area (some of whom on top of their ordeal, are facing real hardship) after the flash floods two weeks ago.

Fat Cat Marchant has only been photoshopped by us in North Kensington, and we think he should pay our area a visit and talk to residents whose homes were badly flooded here. He certainly needs a reality check….

Perhaps he can be bothered to lift himself out of his cat basket to look at some of what our fellow Kensington bloggers at From The Hornets Nest have had to say about him and his company here?

http://fromthehornetsnest.blogspot.com/2021/07/is-chairman-of-thames-water-fit-and.html?m=1

http://fromthehornetsnest.blogspot.com/2021/07/thames-waters-400-million-profit.html?m=1

On Tuesday July the 27th at 6pm, there will be this online Q & A meeting called by Kensington MP Felicity Buchan, where affected residents can put their questions to Thames Water. There is still just a day left to RSVP to Felicity Buchan’s office felicity. buchan.mp@parliament.uk to register attendance and send questions in. We strongly recommend that any of our local readers who have been affected do go. RBKC will be there too:

It’s fair to say this blog isn’t usually full of praise for Felicity Buchan, but for organising this meeting, we say thank you and well done to her.

But no pats on the head for Fat Cat Marchant and his company, and disappointingly, affected residents and businesses with many questions about lack of maintenance, infrastructure , planning , future flood prevention given the climate crisis and why Thames Water, that rakes in £500 million profit, spends less than £20 million on cleaning and maintaining the capital’s sewers – won’t get to meet Fat Cat Marchant there (he is probably too busy dislodging his head from a bowl of cream ), or the other Thames Water big fat cats. So three stooges from the company will be there instead.

Today, with the constant rain, our thoughts have been for all affected by the floods and really hoping there won’t be a repeat of two weeks ago. We’re also wondering what it will take to get Thames Water to get their act together….

UPDATE: Residents who have any questions for Thames Water can go and speak to them on Friday July the 30th as they will be in the area. Representatives from Thames Water will be in Portobello Road, running a stall on pitch 51 outside Moneycorp in Portobello Road/Colville Terrace W11 from 10am to 4pm.

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 person’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 Council’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 it’s the same horse, only with a different saddle on! and It’s not just bureaucracy . it’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

Over 2,300 households on the RBKC housing waiting list: Why has this North Kensington house been left empty for years?

This is the “Park Keeper’s House” , just outside Avondale Park in North Kensington. There is no park keeper living there, or anyone else for that matter; the only “occupants” for several years have been pigeons.

Despite over 2,300 households in RBKC waiting for a home, for some reason , this once-beautiful property has been left abandoned and in a shocking state for years. The property is also located in the Avondale Park Conservation Area – not that anyone has been “conserving” it:

Given that RBKC is looking to go ahead with several building programmes (some of them welcome, others not so much) in which new homes will be provided, we might have hoped the council would have looked at some of the properties they already own.

With some extensive refurbishment, and an obvious deep clean, this house could be restored to its former glory and would be ideal for either a small local housing co-operative or for a family.

We do wonder though, if RBKC does actually still own this property,, as some previous administrations at the council have been in the act of flogging off council assets, particularly in North Kensington.

So who does own it? Who is responsible? Our inquiries for some reason have fallen on deaf ears, and we think it is an absolute disgrace for anyone to let a property – when homes are badly needed here – fall into such a state. (We are also aware of the little planning “trick” that a few unscrupulous individuals use, of deliberately allowing properties to fall into a dilapidated state, in order that they can get around planning regulations in a conservation area. So, if their intention is to redevelop the property; they let it get into such a state where the property has to be pulled down, and then they are usually free to go ahead with whatever initial plans they had.)

If this house is privately owned, this blog urges RBKC to take action against the owners NOW, to save the building and to seek repossession. If the council happens to own the property, then we ask why has this been allowed to happen, and we ask the council to refurbish it, clean it up and put it back into use – as a home for social rent.

We really hope that RBKC does investigate unoccupied properties in our borough and look into seeing what can be done, but we’re not exactly convinced that they are doing this.

Perhaps, seeing as how keen RBKC are on PR and advertising, they could get an advertising campaign going aimed at getting private owners of long-term empty properties,who for whatever reason are unable to maintain them or put them into use, to sell these to the council ? Especially if it is made clear that there are thousands of people on our waiting list, including families with children, who need them?

We also hope that this blog post will get RBKC to take action and if this house is privately owned, that the owners are pressured to either sell up – preferably to the council – or to at least restore it back into use as a home and not knock it down.

If any of our readers know of other examples of completely empty properties in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea that nobody ever uses, please do get in touch with our Editor at tianorthken@gmail.com with details

This may just be one empty property, but it is a good place to start, and RBKC ought to at least start to take action over this, if they are really and truly serious about wanting to provide housing to those most in need as well as looking after the conservation areas in the borough.

Full of the joys of Spring? Botched useless council community safety survey leaves residents not feeling so chirpy

THINK wish our readers a very happy belated Easter. This was going to be time for us to have a short break and recharge our blogging batteries, but not so, since we saw this botched and useless RBKC community safety survey today. Have a look for yourselves here:

https://t.co/6dkJHOlJcO?amp=1

Where do we start with this one? Seriously, who put this survey together? A Colville Ward resident commented that it “looks as if it were put together by ten year olds”- we think that’s unfair on ten year olds…

By useless, we mean we do not see why RBKC is asking residents to rate how safe their neighbourhood is by day and night, but then completely failing to ask where the respondents live!

The survey fails to take account of specifics. For example, our Editor feels very safe in North Kensington at most times, also in Notting Dale Ward where she lives, and in Norland Ward, which is a minute over the road from her, but does NOT feel safe in her residential block and particular street which has had problems with ASB and hard drug dealing/use for years. There is little provision in the survey other than a box at the end for anyone to highlight such issues of concern, other matters or indeed, any positive feedback or suggestions – all pointless anyway without asking for a council ward or postcode.

The survey also asks residents to list their community safety priorities from a maximum of three. That shouldn’t be a problem , but when that survey could be completed by ANYONE ANYWHERE regardless – how reliable is it? 🤦‍♂️🤦🏻‍♀️

Residents however are asked for specifics on their ethnicity, religion, age and disability – and while it may be council policy to ask such questions , we thiink they should explain to people why, but again, there is no point in filling this in for the reasons above.

So whose “work” was this?

We like Emma Will, RBKC Lead Member for Community, Safety, Culture and Leisure – she is one of the most personable members of the RBKC Cabinet and a very good communicator – we definitely do not think this botched survey is her work!

Instead, we point our fingers at the RBKC Communications Team – surely this question came from them?





And our answer to that, by the way is we don’t want any more of our taxpayers’money wasted on PR tripe. Same goes for consultants – whoever it is wbo put this survey together ought to be getting their P45 by now if our council is really doing its job.

Instead we suggest big cuts to the RBKC Communications budget and that this money is instead spent on improving community safety -some good suggestions are getting more CCTV in crime and ASB hotspots and more provision of youth services.. As for getting suggestions, that survey could have been a good opportunity for RBKC do so but instead is vague at the very best, completely unreliable, and is therefore completely useless ; it is a complete waste of residents’ time and money

.Whoever heard of a council social media posting about a forthcoming council meeting helping to improve community safety and prevent crime anyway? Perhaps it’s time some in charge at RBKC asked themselves what their own priorities are, because it appears to us that they have got these very badly wrong if they think pointless PR exercises really help keep our communities safe