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Grenfell Tower survivors to have rent and bills covered until summer 2019

Just 26 households had moved into permanent accommodation at the end of last month, while 72 offers have been accepted.

Survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire will not have to pay rent or utility bills until summer 2019 in a bid to remove “unintended disincentives” thought to be making some residents reluctant to leave hotel accommodation.

Under current arrangements, former residents of Grenfell Tower and Walk will have their rent, utility bills and council tax suspended for 12 months from when they first move into temporary or permanent accommodation.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) believes this has created “unintended disincentives” for people to move out of hotels as some residents see the rent-free period as wasted on temporary homes.

The council leadership team voted to extend this period until June 2019 “irrespective of the accommodation occupied” at a meeting on Monday.

At the end of October, 140 households, including 208 adults and 57 children, were in emergency accommodation, mainly hotels.

Just 26 households had moved into permanent accommodation at the end of last month, while 72 offers have been accepted.

The council has secured more than 300 properties for Grenfell survivors, spending £235 million on the Grenfell recovery response, and is hoping every household that wants to move out of hotels will be able to do so by Christmas.

The report, by RBKC director of finance Chris Buss, said the current arrangement “effectively creates a financial cliff edge, which the tenants can avoid by remaining in their emergency accommodation”.

“If this disincentive were removed, it is considered that most people currently residing in hotel accommodation would accept a move to more suitable (temporary or permanent) accommodation.”

Council leader Elizabeth Campbell said at the meeting: “We hope that this will minimise the disincentive for people to move out of hotels because of having an end date to the amount of time.”

Deputy leader Kim Taylor-Smith said the council had spoken with a number of former residents and that the proposal was “generally welcomed”.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is currently footing the bill for around 189 hotel rooms, which cost on average £200 per night.

It has also committed to covering the cost of the rent for a 12-month period, while the local authority will pay utility bills and waive council tax.

The council hopes the DCLG will front the cost of the additional six months which would take the rent-free period to June 2019.

It estimates that around £1.7 million will be saved overall if most residents leave hotels by Christmas.

The leadership team also agreed to match the £431,504.79 raised for survivors of the fire from the Game4Grenfell charity football game.

The council formally agreed to use its reserves to pay the sum, which is intended to meet the “ongoing additional emotional and wellbeing needs of the community over future generations”.

It is yet to be decided how the funds will be distributed.

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