Grenfell: end of Kensington and Chelsea TMO should mark start of true resident consultation

by Dave Hill

News that the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) will disappear in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire was loudly cheered. But what sort of organisation should take its place?

The agenda for the TMO’s annual general meeting on Tuesday evening (17 October) invites residents to vote to serve notice that its management agreement with the council, covering all Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) housing stock, should come to an end as soon as its duties can be transferred to a replacement organisation. That transfer “can only take place after all residents have been consulted”, says an explanatory note.

The consultation could be extremely valuable, not only for RBKC tenants and leaseholders but for London as a whole.

Grenfell survivors and their neighbours have had plenty of housing activists and columnists presuming to speak for them, but only a handful have been heard from in public. Now comes an opportunity to find out how the majority of them and all the other council tenants and leaseholders in RBKC really feel about their homes and how they should be run.

There is, in principle, a range of options for the future. A curiosity of the Kensington and Chelsea TMO is that, unlike other TMOs, it has run the whole of the borough’s housing stock, whereas in other boroughs individual estates have their own TMOs. One RBKC Tory, unconnected with any decisions about the Grenfell Tower and its refurbishment, has put this down to a paternalistic Town Hall culture historically reluctant to devolve power.

Would residents prefer a smaller, more localised TMO model? Might they prefer the management of their homes to pass to one or more established housing associations? Might residents of some estates even seek to take ownership of the properties and form their own housing association to run it, along the lines of Walterton and Elgin in Westminster?

Some housing activists want the AGM motion rejected, claiming that the mechanism proposed for running the TMO down could result in any culpability on its part for the fire going unpunished. They find themselves in the novel situation of wanting the TMO saved, at least for now. However, RBKC councillors of more than one party seem to find such contentions arcane. They would sooner get on with getting shot of the TMO and  finding out what residents want.

What might that be? Here is an opportunity to find out, in proper depth and detail. Not only from those fire survivors with the desire and confidence to speak to the media but also from the many more who have not been heard from. Not just from people who lived in or live close to the tower, but all those on council-owned estates in the country’s wealthiest local authority area.

Too often, Londoners who live on council owned estates or in social housing of other kinds have opinions voiced on their behalf by others. There has never been a more important time for their true voices to be heard.

Photograph by Max Curwen-Bingley.

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