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.

Residents shut out of Leadership Meeting again: A meeting with Council inclusivity strategy on the agenda

We’re not making this up, and since yesterday was the 14th, we are not exactly in the mood for a joke. Unfortunately, the RBKC Leadership seem to think that residents are a joke however. They are still excluding residents from participating in Leadership meetings – we are not allowed to ask questions, give feedback or insight or raise points; all RBKC residents can do is watch on YouTube while the Cabinet, tonight at 6:30pm. go though the Council’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, talk about how to be more inclusive to us and how they supposedly recognise the diversity of the borough while excluding us at the same time.

Since they are going to be discussing diversity – let’s have a brief glimpse of how diverse the RBKC Leadership Team is, shall we?

Perhaps hearing from others in our multicultural diverse borough would be helpful? Most sensible people would think so, but this is RBKC we are talking about …

Instead residents will likely get fobbed off with nice little words, tonight’s Dizzy Lizzy PR show, probably more and more surveys (and perhaps they should consider that relying on surveys a lot of time can exclude quite a few residents) and no chance of speaking directly to those in charge.

By the way, RBKC failed to publicise this meeting, so perhaps they don’t want residents to watch either.

A resident from Norland Ward said: : “They keep saying they are moving forward and making progress when their actions are more moving backwards. It’s all talk ” Well quite. One step further back and it will be the RBKC Cabinet meetings behind closed doors just like back in the bad old days of Nick Paget-Brown and “Jailhouse Rock” Feilding-Mellen.

RBKC Leader Elizabeth “Dizzy Lizzy” Campbell served as a Cabinet member in those days and she seems to want to go back there by shutting residents out.

This sort of conduct shows contempt for our residents and certainly isn’t equal, diverse or inclusive

Link to the meeting and full agenda and papers here:

https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/committees/Meetings/tabid/73/ctl/ViewMeetingPublic/mid/669/Meeting/8370/Committee/1593/SelectedTab/Documents/Default.aspx

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

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

First of all, we will share a bit of good news over this community safety survey we reported on last week.
Today, our blog has heard from Emma Will, RBKC Lead Member for Community Safety, Culture amd Leisure, who has been in contact with the consultants responsible, and the survey is now asking for residents’ postcodes and the deadline is now the 2nd of May – link here:

https://consult.rbkc.gov.uk/communities/community-safety-survey/

We thank Cllr Will for her good communication again and hope she has a good sense of humour about our title picture (It’s a very old unused Photoshop of ours, but is still relevant to this post)

The company behind that community safety survey (and the mistake with asking people about community safety and crime in their area but failing to ask where they live! ) are a firm called Socialbakers. They are marketing consulants whose clients include global brands such as Samsung, National Geographic, Walmart and Heineken.
Bizarre then, that RBKC should hire them to put a council community safety survey to our local residents??! Perhaps that error was just a minor consequence of what happens ls if you hire the wrong people for the job? (Or maybe the persons responsible had been drinking too many Heinekens??!!)

We’re sure that Socialbakers have a strong reputation for advertising and marketing tools – but really why that is needed for a little council survey about community safety begs the question, what on earth are RBKC Communications thinking? And it also begs the question, just how much are these exercises costing us?

Shamefully, THINK ‘s Editor never heard any more from RBKC regarding our Freedom of Information requests, so if we bothered to put in some further requests for costings of just how much exactly our council Comms teams spends on such exercises, we know we wouldn’t get a response.

As said before, there are so many surveys shared at once sometimes it can get confusing, and then there is when RBKC seemed to be reluctant to share the independent Centre for Governance and Scrutiny survey as mentioned in our blog post here:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2021/03/23/not-another-survey-but-cagey-rbkc-really-dont-want-you-to-take-part-in-this-iscrutiny-one/

RBKC’s Head of Communications Nick Price-Thompson did reply to us on Twitter by the way, and showed that the council had in fact shared it – right on the same day as our blog post was widely shared. Coincidence or what? We’ll come back to coincidences laterā€¦

Next month, our blog will be four years old, and while we might not exactly be in a celebratory mood, some of us did go through the archives of our old unused pictures at the weekend – and today’s title picture is an old one of these. Before a few pedants write to us and point out that Will Pascall is no longer in the RBKC Cabinet, there is actually a good reason for including the picture him here (and it’s no fault of his) . Because Cllr Pascall is Chair of the RBKC Environment Select Committee, and some have wondered why there never seem to be any of these council surveys on local environmental issues? We have no answer to this, but no doubt someone at the council will probably tell us they don’t want to bombard people with any more surveys – but they’re doing that anyway.

Some surveys can be useful, that is useful if they are not asking “leading ” (or misleading) questions, some surveys on the environment could indeed be helpful in certain cases. Surveys on planting trees in different parts of the borough for example, would be helpful so the council could plan to go about this with support and suggestions from the neighbourhoods who have been long asking for them.

So we’re not opposed to surveys – our blog does share them from time to time – the issues we have are with the way some of these are put to residents, the fact that there are so many and they are not always shared or publicised, why it requires spending XXX amount of money on consultants to do this and importantly, that surveys are used as a tool to gauge residents’ opiniom. and not to form it.

And then there are focus groups. Or “Citizens Panels” .
Residents are supposed to be randomly selected to go on these panels But we don’t think that’s quite true. Look at this:

That text message was received by our Editor – you guessed it – the same day that Scrutiny survey post was widely shared – yet another of these crazy coincidences!

One thing that nobody can ever claim to be a coincidence, is the fact someone at RBKC has clearly breached the Data Protection Act by sharing phone contact details for our Editor. She does not readily hand out her number to others, so how suits got this cannot be easily explained away. It makes us wonder how many other residents have been subject to suits and officers freely sharing their contact details and possibly other data about without permission and does throw up some very serious questions regarding a whole host of other matters.

So, our Editor will not be joining any of the Residents Panels as she for obvious good reason, feels she cannot trust RBKC with her personal information. Plus it is not in the best interests of our blog to be slapped with a gagging order; so however interesting finding out about them could be, our Editor is giving it a miss and would urge other residents to do so too.

Whatever PR show RBKC may want to put on, it certainly is not a “good look” for our council if some still appear to be less than above board with the way they work and communicate (or not) with us. Many of us in North Kensington still cannot see much evidence of this supposed culture change at RBKC we were promised after Grenfell .

While there are some councillors who are good communicators, it appears that Mr Price-Thompson (salary Ā£170K) and his team are failing on the basics of communication and perhaps ought to read their job titles back again and have a good rethink, or else resign and save the people of Kensington and Chelsea a whole lot of money and bother.

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? šŸ¤¦ā€ā™‚ļøšŸ¤¦šŸ»ā€ā™€ļø

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

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/

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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?  

Cromwell Road gets much-needed break as developers withdraw controversial Holiday Inn Forum redevelopment scheme

THINK are very pleased to hear that developers Queensgate and Rockwell have withdrawn their controversial (to say the least) plans to redevelop what is currently the Holday Inn Forum Hotel into a huge hotel and conference centre.

This “South Kensington saga” had been running for a few years, with the developers trying to push their plans through, despite the opposition of the vast majority of local residents, nearly all the residemts groups, local conservation societies, RBKC, most councillors on all sides, renowned architects, environmental campaigners, heritage experts, former Kensington MP ļ¹°Emma ļ¹°Dent ļ¹°Coad, present Kensington MP Felicity Buchan – oh – and us

Complete unity in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is a complete rarity – but this deeply unpopular scheme, which would have brought years and years on disturbance, pollution (in one of the most polluted areas of the country), blighted heritage sites, ruined both the skyline and streetscape and would have completely ruined the character of the area; managed to bring local representatives – Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, alongside residents who both live locally to the hotel and those who live elsewhere in the borough; all together united against.

Here are a few of our old posts for further background on the matter:

Some good news for South Kensington residents – Holiday Inn Forum redevelopment plans rejected

Saga of the Mayor of London and the “Tower of Mordor”

After our last post (and a timeline of what has happened features on this)

Stop The Towers at Cromwell Road, plus RBKC Planning Committee takes a break from the norm

Deputy Mayor of London Jules Pipe ruled in favour. Both he and London Mayor Sadiq Khan have been completely tone deaf to residents and their decisions have flown in the face of this community and area we say shame on them.

We thought all was lost, but residents and local representatives fought on , and thanks to the efforts of the Stop the Towers campaigners, the local residents associations – especially ACGRA (Ashburn and Courtfield Gardens Residents Association), the Kensington Society, the local Courtfield councillors Greg Hammond, Janet Evans and Quentin Marshall, Johnny Thalassites, RBKC Lead member for Planning, Place and the Environment, as well as Kensington MP Felicity Buchan , the scheme was called in by Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick .

On Sunday, THINKers finally heard the fantastic news that Queensgate had decided to “check out” and withdrawn their application. We almost thought this was too good to be true but no – here is the letter.

We are so pleased for the residents and we thank everyone who foughr hard over this. We thank all the objectors, the Kensington Society, the former and present MPs Emma Dent Coad and Felicity Buchan , the council – particularly the local Courtfield councillors and Johnny Thalassites – other councillors who objected including Sina Lari and Linda Wade, and most of all, we thank ACGRA and the Stop The Towers campaigners.

We hope now that any prospective developers who are checking out the site, do think of the community and area first – and remember that the residents and local representatives will have their eyes firmly on what happens next

For now at least, the local community around Cromwell Road can have a much-needed break, content that their hard work fighting this has paid off and that the area is at least finally rid of what would have been a complete monstrosity and never ending nightmare for the South Kensington area and people

We say this ought to be a message for any potential developers to think, listen, look and learn. Please think carefully and listen to locals and also do look carefully at the area first. Please learn from what has happened here and never ever underestimate the power of communities.

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…..