Q&A: Kim Taylor-Smith, deputy leader of Kensington & Chelsea Council, on supporting Grenfell survivors and building a new housing strategy

Q&A: Kim Taylor-Smith, deputy leader of Kensington & Chelsea Council, on supporting Grenfell survivors and building a new housing strategy

From an army background, Kim Taylor-Smith ran a successful business converting old factories into business centres. He sold it in 2006 and moved to Chelsea, where he became involved in the “not for profit” sector. He was elected to the council at a by-election in 2015. The Grenfell Tower fire happened a year later. When Elizabeth Campbell became the new council leader in July 2017, she asked him to be her deputy and take responsibility for Grenfell recovery and borough housing policy. We met at the council’s Town Hall in Hornton Street, W8.

Question: You were given your current job in July last year. What have your priorities been?

Answer: The first part of last year was really buying the homes – individual homes for people who had lost theirs through Grenfell. There’s been a lot of criticism about how slow it’s been, but it’s been very complicated. As of today, we’ve got, I think, 134 people who’ve moved in, 60 people who’ve got a house to move into but are not yet in a position to, and then we’ve got a handful of people who have yet to make a decision.

So what we’re talking about now is really setting out where we as a council are going with regard to housing and recognising that we are a unique borough in terms of the issues that we have – in terms of housing density, the massive difference between rich, poor, high value properties and housing and sites. But the biggest challenge we’ve got is 2,200 people on our waiting lists when we have a housing stock of 9,500. Our average waiting time is years – six, seven, eight years – and that’s the massive thing we need to address.

Somebody said we were the richest borough in Europe. Well, we weren’t. I think we were number seven or something in the league table of London boroughs in terms of reserves. And now we’re now at the bottom, not surprisingly. How do we address all those things with such restricted finance? And, also, how do we address the quality of our existing housing stock, which we’ve taken back from the TMO [Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation]? The answer to that is that we’ve got to think a little bit outside of the box, and we’ve got to apply ourselves in different ways. We’ve got to go and put pressure on, or work with, third parties in order to do it. And that’s really what this is all about – why I’m doing this.

Q: You came into this from pretty much nowhere really, didn’t you?

A: Oh, I was a backbencher. The irony was I’d become a councillor to see if I could make things change and made absolutely nothing change for 18 months – I used to turn up and put my hand up. And then I became deputy leader, in charge of housing. I found myself in a position where I could genuinely make change.

Q: You say you’ve had criticism, but of course in the immediate aftermath of the fire there was a huge amount of criticism of the previous administration. How much of that do you think was deserved?

A: Everybody asks me this question and, unfortunately, I give the same answer. I studiously say, listen, I don’t want to get into a blame game about the past. We inherited everything, warts and all, from the TMO on 1 March. And I look at the quality of the stock, the condition of the stock, the way that things were being recorded and people were being treated and I thought, Oh my God – how did we get to this? But I am studiously avoiding criticising people from the past.

Q: Can you say in a general way whether you think the biggest problem lay within the TMO or within the council?

A: Well, it depends which bit we’re talking about. Let’s just put it into context. Before Grenfell, we had the best schools in the country. We had the best quality services – the only one to get an Ofsted excellent. We had the best adult social care. We were benchmarked and adjudged by our peers to be the best run of all the London councils. That’s a fact. You had bins emptied twice a week, you had clean streets and repaired streets – we don’t have potholes. It’s the reason we have 2,200 people queuing to get housed in what I believe is the most wonderful borough, because it’s a lovely place to live.

If you take it from that side, absolutely everyone thinks we’re brilliant. When I Iook at the housing management side, interestingly, it is the big element of council responsibility that was subcontracted [to the TMO]. The problem with the subcontracting is principally, for me, a remoteness from your customer. I come from a service business. People talk about the culture of the council. Well, the culture of the council, where is was wrong, is that we are a service business, we are there to support our residents, and we didn’t do that with our housing people – they were a nuisance and an irritation. The anger that I get now, and the anger of Grenfell, is a reflection of that.

When I first came in, Barry Quirk, the new chief executive, talked of silos. The silo of family services was really good and so on, but when I started, as I had to do with Grenfell, to cut across services, I found I had to go up through the structure and then down all the time, and that was a nightmare. The experience that we’ve had from Grenfell that can be applied more widely – not just for us, but I think nationally – is the integration of care support with housing management. We had to do that with Grenfell, because you were talking about very highly traumatised people. You couldn’t just have a housing officer going round and saying, “I want to talk to you about your tiles,” you had to have care support there as well.

Your most vulnerable people tend to be in social housing – the ones with the most complex needs – so the opportunity of having somebody who could access and commission cross-services and have that awareness was really important. I would go into flats on the Lancaster West estate, which is obviously a key area of activity for us, and you’d visit a little old lady who’s been living there since 1974 and she’s got the same kitchen as then with the door hanging off, and she’s not somebody who’s going to complain or turn up to a meeting and shout – those are the ones that are off the radar and who we need to be picking up and giving support to. And you can do that under a housing management umbrella. You can also start dealing with issues of anti-social behaviour. It’s all about wellbeing and neighbourhood. We’re looking at residents’ charters and how we might strengthen that. I think it’s a really important model for the future of social and council housing management.

Q: You’re calling it a two-way residents charter.

A: Yes. I think that’s come out of Grenfell. The other thing that has come out of Grenfell indirectly is the impact it’s had on our finances and how that will mean we have to work with other people, housing associations and developers in the main. And although there’s some criticism of them in the green paper, I’m not bashing them up. And from a developers’ perspective, although we might put a bit of pressure on them, we are open for business.

Q: In the green paper you describe your aspiration to deliver 300 new homes on council-owned land by 2022, subsidised by the development of 300 others for sale or rented on the open market. And you’re intending to do this yourself as a council. You talk about building your own capacity to do that. Are there any particular London boroughs or authorities elsewhere that you regard as models for how to do that effectively?

A: One of the things that followed Grenfell was that we received a lot of support and expertise from elsewhere. We have now got some very, very skilled and accomplished people from other boroughs: Maxine Holdsworth who does our housing allocation, ex-Islington, very experienced; Doug Golding, who is our director of housing and does our housing management now, again, ex-Islington. What I love about Doug is that he’s a real glass half full man, which is great for me because I tend to be a bit glass half empty. And everyone loves him, because he gives it to you warts and all. What those people bring is that wealth of knowledge and experience. They’ve been through lots of things and they have their own ideas. We are quite small, so it’s a really good place to incubate and test new ideas.

Q: You seem to be hoping that RBKC can emerge from this as a beacon for a local authority in a certain set of circumstances – high land values, high density and so on – can do housing well.

A: Well, we were a beacon for family services [formerly the brief of post-Grenfell council leader Elizabeth Campbell] and others. A lot of people were coming here for training and secondment to be shown how we did that. Why not with housing?

Q: There’s quite a lot of re-thinking about housing going on in general, isn’t there?

A: Yes, and if you can do it here, where you’ve got such massive issues of land value and density you can do it anywhere, in my opinion.

Q: A few years ago I did a walkabout with your predecessor Rock Feilding-Mellen and he talked about his regeneration plans.

A: Oh, my goodness me.

Q: What do you mean?

A: Well, regeneration – that’s a word I put a pound in my swear box for now.

Q: Well, it’s become a dirty word. But Rock’s argument was that historically Kensington & Chelsea has had a tremendous mix of people, for a variety of reasons. It’s dead posh – we all know that and it’s been like that forever – but it’s also been a place where artists and other creative people live and, although some would say in a rather paternalistic way, it’s been mindful of housing its poorer residents. Rock’s argument was that that mix is good and because housing has become so very expensive it’s difficult to maintain that mix because people earning 20 grand a year who will never qualify for social rented housing have no choice but to move out because they can’t afford anything locally. His argument included redeveloping estates, in order to create a different kind of mix and a different spread of tenure choices. In other words, to achieve that you were going to have to knock some stuff down first. Are you saying you would like the same sort of outcome as Rock wanted but to get there in a different way?

A: It is different in parts. I think I need to elaborate on that. Immediately after Grenfell, one of the first things we did was stop all estate regeneration – I just said, listen, stop. There was a massive, massive fear about regeneration in the borough. I walked round the Silchester estate last week, which is a good example. We’ve got issues there – concrete tower blocks, bits falling off, the whole lot. It needs a lot of money spending on it. That was going to be subject to a big regeneration. I have stood up in council and said no regeneration. I’ve been to residents associations and said no regeneration. I’ve written umpteen letters saying no regeneration, and people still think they’re going to get regeneration. There is that inherent fear.

On Lancaster West, where we’re looking at a modernisation programme, we’ve commissioned, with some support from central government, a piece of work to engage with local residents. It’s externally appointed, and that’s different from before because when we were doing it ourselves residents thought it [the findings] was a foregone conclusion. It all came down to displacement. If you can show somebody that there is a benefit to this disruption, then you will get their support. If you can’t, then you’re just going to be dead in the water.

So in answer to your question, I never use the word regeneration. I use the word improvement. A by-product of that might be some aspects of regeneration, but we gave a pledge – there was a council motion on this I think, one of the first that I did – which is that we wouldn’t do regenerations without a vote in favour of it by local residents, which is something the London Mayor has now brought in anyway. Curiously, on the flip side of that, I went to the Warwick Road residents association, which is for housing opposite the Tescos there – it’s amazing, because it’s got a garden up in the sky. I went there, delivered the news and said, “By the way there’s going to be no regeneration”, expecting everybody to go “Yay!” but they all went “Why not?” It was because they were predominantly leaseholders, and they were going to get paid out.

Q: Would they have got market value?

A: They would have got market plus. I think we were buying at 10% above.

Q: That’s interesting, because in my experience big opposition to estate regenerations tends to be led by leaseholders, because they think they’re going to get fleeced. Cressingham Gardens estate in Lambeth is a good example. Ironically, leaseholders are historically beneficiaries of Right to Buy.

A: One of the things that was in here [the green paper] but we’ve taken out was on right to buy because that is a really complex thing. Politically, you can understand it. Practically, it has an impact on all sorts of issues. It’s difficult.

Q: Getting back to Silchester, which I know a little bit about, you say that some of it is in pretty poor shape. What are you going to do about that if you’re not going to knock it down and start again?

A: Repair it. We inherited a stock condition survey done in 2010, so I looked at it thinking it would be our benchmark. As a result of that we put away £125m for repairs. But we also immediately commissioned an updated stock condition survey and a fire survey, for obvious reasons. We’ll get the result of the stock condition survey back in December. There will be a significant increase to that original estimate.

Silchester is one I took to the leadership team last week, purely as an indication, because of the immediate problems with the tower and the concrete. When I walked around it with a posse of people from the residents’ association there, saying why don’t we do something similar to what we are doing with Lancaster West – an overall improvement scheme, but one that might not happen for a while – what I found really interesting was that things like putting extra decks on the existing housing was something that residents were absolutely fine about, providing they felt that the money would be spent on improving the estate overall.

Q: Put simply, stick another layer of housing on top, sell it and put the money to good use on the estate?

A: Exactly. That’s what I said. This has got to be viable self-improvement. We also talked about the other thing I’ve put in the green paper, maybe instigating a local lettings policy for the estate to allow people to stay there. Now, that’s come out of me going to see WECH [Walterton and Elgin Community Homes], as one of the models.

Q: WECH, one of whose founders is Jonathan Rosenberg [a veteran of the campaign against Dame Shirley Porter who drove a campaign bus for Ken Livingstone during the 2000 London Mayor election campaign].

A: Yes, Jonathan Rosenberg. I went to see him and I thought it was really interesting as a different model of housing management. They have a 25% local letting policy, which allows them to allow people moving within the estate and facilitates it among neighbours.

Q: It’s interesting to find you and Jonathan on the same side.

A: Well, they’re calling me Comrade Kim now.

Q: Where are you going to build the 600 new homes?

A: They are identified sites. I haven’t given names to them, because we are going to consult on it. There’s an immediate lots that we’re going to look to do self-delivery on – four key sites which will give us 300 in total, split 50/50 and those we will get on with now.

Q: You’re in a nice location for deriving benefits from private sales, aren’t you, because everything here is so expensive?

A: Well, this is the argument. I’ve always been a big advocate of mixed tenure, on-site provision. It’s also very important to put it on the same site, though we recognise that it might be sensible in certain circumstances to take the money and use it elsewhere. And what we’re also saying is that if you’re going to do that through the planning process, do it in a transparent way. Tell us what you’re book cost is, publish the viability statement for everybody to see so that we can work on an open book basis. Then we all know where we stand.

Q: How much help has Sadiq Khan been to you as a new Tory administration, post-Grenfell?

A: I slightly pause, only inasmuch as…um…we’ve applied for grants for new schemes and we’re getting support from that. So in terms of support to enable us to build and deliver more social homes, then yes, he’s been helpful. The only reason for my hesitation is – and I don’t suppose it was deliberately unhelpful – is that giving extra money to Sutton Trust when we had successfully turned down their planning application, which enabled them to run a different argument at appeal, which costs us a lot of money to fight…It’s now been taken in by the secretary of state, the level above the Mayor, who pulled it in. That wasn’t best helpful, but in fairness to him he’s supporting housing, so I suppose I can’t complain.

Q: How helpful has the government been to you?

A: Um, we continue to work closely with the government. I went to the party conference a couple of weeks ago. It was the first time I’ve ever been – I’ve always avoided them like the plague. We are continuing to work and talk with the government because, obviously, of the costs associated with Grenfell long term care and all those services, which we are running. The numbers are big. We are talking to the government about how we might get their support for some of that long-term care. There are specific things they’ve been helping us with. Lancaster West estate is a good example – they’ve come up with 50 per cent of the refurb costs.

Q: One wise person, talking about the political response to Grenfell more generally, before you were in your job, who has many dealings with Whitehall, observed to me that he could just see the government machinery pushing the responsibility on to the local authority, saying “it’s your problem” and setting ludicrous deadlines for you to rehouse everybody, which surely anybody working here must have known were completely mad. What do you think?

A: I’m not going to comment.

Q: [laughter…].

A: The only thing I would say is if you were doing my job and sitting down with the people I deal with, you would understand the complexity. People are always asking me to give a deadline, and the only way I can do that is by saying “on this day I’m going to kick such and such a person out of a hotel”. And I would never do that. There are no deadlines.

Q: I went to a Grenfell scrutiny committee meeting quite recently which addressed the issue of people with homes right next to the tower who moved out temporarily returning to them. There was some criticism of your approach. Can you explain the situation?

A: Our first priority was, of course, the people who lived in the tower and lost their homes. The survivors. They lost everything. That’s why we bought 307 homes, to give them a wide choice. Although there were originally 127 homes lost, in the end we had to find 204, because of multiple occupations. So we bought 307 altogether to give us 100 more than we needed, to offer some choice.

The boiler and the water services for the areas of the Lancaster West estate immediately next to the tower were located under the tower. So when the tower went, those people lost their water and heating. We allowed an evacuation of what are known locally as The Walkways. Of the 364 flats affected, 129 households chose to go into a hotel rather than stay where they were and wait for the water to be reconnected. You also had issues of trauma – people were in close proximity to what was going on. Two thirds of the people stayed. Those who went into hotels effectively got subsistence support – I think it was £300 a week per person, so it was quite a lot. But there were a lot of people who stayed in the Walkways and got nothing.

After 14 months, 50 of those original 129 who moved out have moved back. We’ve been doing up their flats and encouraging them to move back. The rest have not. They are now in private rental in the main, some in hotels, and receiving an allowance. That situation has created issues as far as the local community is concerned. We are trying to rebuild that community. We’ve had the school coming back. We’ve taken away the cordon around the tower to allow people to move [around the area more easily]. And the residents of the Walkways are saying to me, look, we’ve got 20 per cent of the flats here still empty. We need people to move back and have our community back again. I’m living at the end of a corridor and I’ve got no neighbours, the flats are empty and boarded up and I’m worried about vandalism. What are you going to do?

So I went to that scrutiny committee and said, listen, this is a policy that is costing us £300,000 a month. That’s the cost of running a library for a year, and I’m having to think to myself, am I going to cut a library to allow people from the Walkways to stay where they are?” People now have effectively got two properties – the empty one they left and the one they’re living in at the moment. What they now have to do is tell me which one they want to stay in, because they can’t have both. We’ve got a shortage and a waiting list. Some people are saying, I don’t want to come back until the tower’s come down. But I have to tell them, the tower isn’t going to come down for five years because it’s part of the inquiry. I accept 100 per cent that this is pressure – when I’m saying to someone, please make a decision, of course that’s pressure. But I have to take into account the whole community and make sure all of its people are given support. I’ve provided an independent adjudicator they can go to if they think I’m being unfair.

We’ve also given them maximum priority on the waiting list, so the 2,200 already on the list have now got these new people sitting on top of them who get the first pick of what’s around at the moment if they want to settle, though it might not necessarily be in the area. And I’m saying that if they want to settle somewhere else in the area, it might take years because there aren’t many properties available. But you can’t stay in private rental accommodation forever.

Q: Going back to that meeting, one of your fellow Conservatives from this part of the world said to me that it’s almost as if local activists – I’m not talking about Grenfell survivors, these are different groups – are in a sense running the borough now. That is because the council has to be so extraordinarily careful what it does, not only about Grenfell or even housing in general. If it proposes or even thinks out loud about doing anything that those sorts of people don’t approve of, they are up in arms about it, they are on the phone to the Guardian or Channel 4 News, and you get a load of grief about it – it’s “social cleansing” and so on. Of course, this person was exaggerating for effect. But there’s something in it, isn’t there?  

A: Look, I’ll open that up into a wider comment. I think I would say to you that my experience in this job since I took it on in July [2017] is that I have seen the very, very best of people and the very, very worst. I think the very best people are those I deal with on a day-to-day basis – people who have lost everything and I’m trying to solve a problem for them or people who have been volunteering for the right reasons. They have been absolutely brilliant. The worst ones are those that use this for other advantages. That could be how it’s presented to the press or the manipulation of individuals who are very vulnerable. We’ve seen examples of fraud and everything else, and that I find absolutely disgusting. I think the most difficult aspect of my job, personally, is that I have to treat all those people the same, because I’m a councillor and that’s my job. Where we’ve got to now, is that in the early days after I got this job I used to be escorted out of those meetings by the police. I had people with injunctions against them because they were threatening to kill me. That doesn’t happen any more. The same people who turn up to the scrutiny committee to speak also turn up to the full council meetings to speak, but that’s democracy for you. Do they run the show? No, they don’t.

Q: Have found time to read the very long London Review of Books article about Grenfell?

A: My goodness me, that caused a lot of angst with people in North Kensington. I did read it, yes.

Q: I know some have taken issue with some of the facts in it, and so on. But I liked it that it approached the whole issue with an open mind, rather than simply joining in with the prevailing narrative. I liked it that it gave employees of the council an opportunity to respond to repeated accusations that they had been indifferent to what residents had been saying. We heard that some had spent many hours dealing with dozen upon dozen emails from the Grenfell Action Group, alleging this and claiming that and demanding the other. Do you think council employees who had had to deal with that were as responsive and helpful as they could have been to residents? “Residents were ignored” has become almost a cliché of Grenfell media coverage. Do you think they were ignored on a large scale?

A: Again, I’m not going to answer that. I don’t really want to go back and start a critique of what happened before I was even a councillor. As a general comment, I think this blanket council-doesn’t-care-and-doesn’t-do-anything is very hard. Some of the people, particularly those who are on frontline services, I just take my hat off to them. Our housing allocations team, council employees who are dealing directly with vulnerable people, day in, day out, offering people houses and showing them around, sometimes dealing with very angry, very traumatised people, my God, what a job they do. I call them spitfire pilots, on the basis that never was so much owed to so many by so few – the comment from Churchill. They have acclimatised, as I have done, to how people perceive you. It fits into a narrative. The reality, when people come in and you sit them down and they see what we’re doing is different.

Q: There have been adjustments to the political make-up of some of the council’s committees. Labour members have received a slightly bigger representation on some of them. How helpful have Labour councillors been in the post-Grenfell period?

A: Well, I’m going to take credit for this, because when I first took the job on I had two scrutiny committees – Grenfell and housing property scrutiny, which are my two lead responsibilities. I went and had a cup of tea with the Labour Group and said to them, listen it would be really helpful to me if, first of all, you chair these scrutiny committees, and secondly I would like to involve you in some of our policy discussions on the basis that we have Chatham House rules. North Kensington is where our Labour councillors are and it would have been absolutely foolish of me to think that we could carry a lot of what we’re trying to do without cross-party support. The green paper is very much aimed at getting that cross-party support. I found it very helpful, and I think from a residents’ point of view, having the Labour Group set the agenda and the questions on scrutiny is totally the right thing to do.

There are four places for nomination on the Grenfell scrutiny committee, not yet filled, and some people at the meeting were saying they want the whole of the scrutiny committee to be abandoned and for it all to be done by people from North Kensington and there should be no Tories on it, which rather misses the point of scrutiny. I think it’s very important to have Conservative councillors on the Grenfell scrutiny committee, because it’s important for them as Conservative councillors to have that exposure and to listen. And when it’s working well, the people who come in and sit and listen – and you still get the shouty ones coming and make the same speeches – do get an appreciation of how scrutiny works.

Q: You had a big new intake of Tory councillors in May, people with no local government experience, while some of your Labour people have been around for quite a long time. They are quite a varied group, but its leader Robert Atkinson, for example, strikes me as very able and level headed.

A: Yes. There’s some, and you’re not going to draw me on which ones, I find absolutely fine and others I find difficult. But, hey, you know, I’m sure they feel the same way about me!

Q: Going back to the green paper, you talk about resident-led housing management solutions. Can you say more about what you have in mind?

A: Yes, residents are being consulted on that at the moment and will be gone back to with the various ways it can be done. That process is going ahead, and people will then indicate where they would like to go.

Q: This is quite bold, isn’t it?

A: We could end up with no housing to manage! That’s a frightening thought. But I’m feeling quietly confident on this one. I get so many people coming up to me saying “Please don’t let this or that nutter take us on and manage us. We just want to stay with the council. We want you to just repair our homes.”

Q: Which “nutter” were you referring to there?

A: You’re not going to draw me on that! Some of the housing associations are really good and some you just think, “Oh my goodness me.” Some of them aren’t very democratic. I unashamedly want to demonstrate to residents that the council would be the best solution for them.

Q: In a draft of your green paper it said there are a “very small number amount of housing associations who have acted immorally, moving affordable units outside of inner London to places with lower land values”. Is that immoral or is it just dealing with reality? After all, if you can build 20 houses for people in Barking & Dagenham but only ten in Kensington & Chelsea with the same money, what is the right thing to do?

A: Well, I’m talking from the perspective of a Kensington & Chelsea councillor as opposed to that of the chief executive of a housing association. There are two ends to the telescope. The immoral bit for me is for a housing association to be gifted an estate which, was originally designated for affordable or social housing for key workers and to use that because of the land values of Kensington & Chelsea to gear up and then build twice as many homes in Liverpool. I think that is immoral. That estate was put there for a specific purpose.

Q: Going back to your 300 plus 300 new homes, what sort will the sub-market homes be?

A: Social rent.

Q: No intermediate at all?

A: Well I’ve got to be careful here, I might do a bit of mixing on it, it depends on where they are. It might be that instead of saying 50 per cent market and 50 social, you do 70 per cent affordable of which 35 is social and the rest is other types of affordable.

Q: But historically, Kensington and Chelsea has always had hasn’t percentages of social rent in its affordable split, hasn’t it?

A: The affordable mix should be more social, but we have to be careful on this, we have to be sure that the “affordable” for rent is truly affordable.

Q: Kensington Row, that very expensive Berkeley development at the end of Kensington High Street where some Grenfell survivors have been offered homes and about which so much garbage was written at the time. Peabody is running it. What’s the situation there now?

A: I’d like to say thank you to Peabody. They stepped up and did a deal with us whereby they could effectively buy the right to provide equivalent terms to renting at Grenfell. The big issue there was Right to Buy. That development had different service charge levels and no Right to Buy. We came to an arrangement whereby the terms for tenants would be equalised, so I am very grateful for that.

Q: You say you’ve cleared a backlog of 5,000 repairs in six months. How did you manage that?

A: By working bloody hard. We brought in a lot more people to do it and we had to change some of the contracts we inherited to get better ones in some cases.

Q: Doing repairs well is so important, isn’t it?

A: The relationship with our social housing tenants, particularly our most vulnerable, is a really important one, and I want to keep it.

Q: And you’ve done the irresponsible, socialist thing and gone through all your reserves?

A: Yes. In one year. £239 million. We bought all the properties in W10 and W11.

Q: Just houses or flats that were on the market locally and you bought them?

A: Yes. And that proved to be testing, because they are obviously properties that had been lived in by people and some are very lovely, but as a council landlord we had to do quite a lot of remedial work on fire and ensure that they met a gold standard from our point of view. There was quite a lot of retro work that we had to do, so it wasn’t just buying them and have people move in. I wish it was. But we lost three per cent of our housing stock on that night. That’s massive. Apply that proportion to Islington, which, unlike us, has a large housing stock, and you get 2,000 homes. Nightmare.

The green paper Kensington & Chelsea Homes – Our Challenge, Your Solutions can be read via here.


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