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Update on Grenfell Response and Building Safety

Volume 783: debated on Tuesday 5 September 2017


My Lords, with the permission of the House, I would like to repeat the Statement that was made by the Secretary of State in the House of Commons today.

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the latest progress following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower 12 weeks ago. Over the summer the Prime Minister, the Housing Minister, the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service and I have been meeting with the people of north Kensington to make sure that their concerns are being listened to and, more importantly, acted upon. As a result, the Grenfell recovery task force has been appointed and started work. The process of removing control of properties from the tenant management organisation has begun; the remit of the public inquiry has been set; a temporary school has been built; and work is underway on the scaffolding that will surround the tower.

I pay particular tribute to the incredible team recovering and identifying the remains of those who died. They are doing an exceptionally difficult job in the most trying of circumstances. So far, they have identified 57 victims, hopefully bringing some measure of comfort to their loved ones. Obviously we would all like to see this process completed as quickly as possible, but I am sure that honourable Members appreciate the need for both accuracy and dignity as well as speed.

My Statement today will focus on two areas in which the House has previously shown particular interest: rehousing of residents and our building safety programme. However, I will be happy to answer as many questions as I can, not just on those topics but as many areas as I can cover, and my door is always open to anyone who wants to discuss the issues in greater detail.

On rehousing, 150 homes were lost to the fire. A number of households have said that they would like to be rehoused separately. As a result, there are currently 196 households from Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk in need of a new home. Everyone who was ready to engage with the process was offered a temporary home within three weeks of the disaster. Sixty-one households have accepted an offer, and 29 have moved in. Some 153 households, including all but two of those which suffered a bereavement, have had a face-to-face meeting with the team responsible for offering a choice of permanent homes, and 164 households have used the online allocation system to look at what permanent accommodation is available, with 127 having expressed an interest in one or more properties. Viewings are continuing this week. So far, 10 households have accepted offers and two have moved in. Twenty- one households that accepted offers on temporary accommodation with housing associations have asked for their tenancies to be made permanent. This is entirely fair, and the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is working to make it happen.

The number of people who have moved into temporary or permanent homes continues to rise, but I know that the overall total is still low. One reason for the low take-up of temporary home offers is that some residents simply do not want to move twice and would prefer to stay where they are until a permanent home becomes available. Meanwhile, residents who have accepted an offer of a permanent home have been given the opportunity to make choices about furniture and so on before they move in. That obviously takes a little time too.

We are talking about peoples’ homes and lives here, and what matters to us is not ticking boxes but working at a pace that suits the needs and circumstances of individual residents. We do not want to rush anyone. That is why, at the request of residents, the council extended the expressions of interest period for permanent homes. I do not want to see anyone living in emergency accommodation for any longer than necessary, but nor do I want to see families forced to move or make snap decisions simply so that I have better numbers to report at the Dispatch Box.

I turn to testing and building safety. Of course, the issues raised by Grenfell extend well beyond Kensington. Across England there are 173 social housing buildings over 18 metres tall and clad with some form of aluminium composite material, or ACM. In late July, the Building Research Establishment began a series of large-scale fire safety tests on ACM cladding systems, comprising both the visible cladding and the internal insulation. The aim was to establish whether each system, when properly fitted, complied with the relevant Building Regulations guidance, BR 135. Three of the seven cladding systems tested were found to meet the criteria set out in BR 135. The other four fell short of what was required. The cladding systems that passed the test are in use on eight social housing towers. Systems that failed are in use on 165.

The owners of affected buildings have been given detailed advice drawn up by our independent expert advisory panel. This covers steps to ensure the safety of residents including, where necessary, removal of cladding. We have also been holding weekly update calls with local authorities, housing associations and other building owner groups. We have today published further advice that brings together all the results and the views of the expert panel on the implications for building owners. We will shortly be meeting local authorities and housing associations to discuss next steps. This will include the process by which we will ensure remedial work is carried out.

Since June we have made the BRE tests available to all private residential building owners. Although 89 buildings in England have had their cladding tested through those facilities, I continue to urge all private owners of similar blocks to submit samples for testing. I have also asked housing authorities to ensure that the same steps are taken for all private sector residential tower blocks in their areas, and to collect data so that we understand the scale of the issue and track remedial action.

Inspections carried out since the fire have also highlighted other safety issues related to building design. For example, structural engineers studying Southwark’s Ledbury estate said that strengthening work may be needed on blocks constructed using the concrete panel system that, in 1968, failed with devastating effect at Ronan Point. They also raised concerns about cracks that appeared cosmetic but could compromise fire safety compartmentation. We have been in contact with Southwark Council and the engineers to discuss the issues, and have engaged the Standing Committee on Structural Safety to advise on their implications. Meanwhile, all local authorities that own similar buildings have been advised to review their designs and check whether any strengthening work was properly carried out.

Separately, the British Board of Agrément has told us that, based on its investigations following incidents in Glasgow, some cladding systems may be designed and installed in such a way that they could fail in strong winds. We are not aware of any injuries caused by this kind of failure. However, we are taking advice from the expert panel and have written to building control bodies to draw their attention to the issues raised.

The wider issues of competence and certification will also be fed into Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building safety, the terms of reference for which were announced last week. Finally, I have also established an industry response group, which will help the sectors required to improve building safety to co-ordinate their efforts.

For all the work being done, nothing can match the strength and determination shown by the people of north Kensington. We saw it in their initial response; we have seen it in the dignity and courage shown by survivors; we saw it in the deeply moving scenes at this year’s Notting Hill Carnival. For me, the biggest sign that the people of Kensington will not be beaten was the amazing results achieved by local children in their GCSEs and A-levels. I am thinking particularly of a remarkable young woman named Inês Alves. Just 16 years old, her family lost their home in the fire, but she still received a string of top grades. That included an A in chemistry, despite Inês sitting the examination just hours after fleeing the burning tower. Inês is due to start her A-levels this month. I wish her all the best. Her achievements should be an inspiration to us all. If a teenage schoolgirl who has suffered unimaginable trauma can do something so incredible, we in this House have no excuse for failing to do everything possible to support the victims of Grenfell and to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again. I hope that all honourable Members will join me in doing just that.”

My Lords, I make my usual declarations in your Lordships’ House as an elected councillor and a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, for repeating the Statement made by his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in the other place earlier today, and for circulating the update for Members of your Lordships’ House during the Recess.

It is nearly three months since the awful, tragic events on 14 June 2017 at Grenfell Tower. The whole nation was shocked by this terrible fire, and we support the efforts to get to the bottom of what happened, to hold those responsible to account and to do what is needed to make sure that it does not happen again. I pay tribute to the emergency services—the fire brigade, the police, the ambulance service and the NHS. The whole range of public sector workers from local and national government working on the ground also deserve our thanks for the work they have done and continue to do, as do the voluntary sector, the faith communities, the volunteers and the local community, who stepped in when the initial response from Kensington and Chelsea Council was found woefully inadequate and not fit for purpose.

I thank each and every one of them but, as I have said, there is not one group of heroes and another group of public sector workers who have in the past been attacked unfairly. If we look back at some of the comments made by the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, when he was Mayor of London, in respect of firefighters, the only words to describe them are “deeply regrettable” and “shameful”, and the time for an apology has surely come.

On rehousing, as addressed in the Statement, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, that while the number of people moving into new homes continues to rise, the total is still rising only slowly. I accept that we need to allow residents to make decisions in their own time; we are talking about people’s homes and lives, and people who have been traumatised and lost loved ones. I recall over the recess seeing a number of television news reports that contained interviews with former residents of Grenfell Tower, who are not always happy with how they have been treated in the allocation process. Can the Minister give an absolute assurance and undertaking that no one will be forced to accept a property that they do not deem suitable and that no one is in any way limited in the number of offers that they will be allowed to consider for permanent accommodation?

I move on to the testing and safety of buildings. The information regarding the number of buildings and the forms of aluminium cladding that have failed the testing process is welcome in understanding the seriousness of the problem and how widespread it is. There was nothing in the Statement about the funding of costs for remedial safety works, and I hope the noble Lord can update us when he responds, as the potential cost of this essential safety work could run into millions and millions of pounds, and local authorities will find themselves in extreme difficulties if the Government do not provide funding assistance. The noble Lord also highlighted other safety works and made specific reference to the Ledbury estate in Southwark, a place with which I am very familiar. Can the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, give us further information on timescales for these urgent investigations to be carried out? Equally, it is disturbing to learn that some cladding systems could fail in strong winds. There is the potential for serious injury or loss of life if cladding fails in strong winds and strikes people and property. With the two new revelations today, I hope the noble Lord will agree to keep the House informed of the urgent action that the department is taking, as failure of either the structure or the cladding could have devastating consequences, and the department is fully aware of those serious problems.

Can the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, also tell the House what work is being done to highlight other buildings that could have similar problems with construction or cladding, such as private housing or offices? Although it was not in the Statement, it would be helpful if the Minister could address, in his response or by letter, what the present position is in respect of the distribution of funds to residents that have been raised through public donation or directly from the Government. Again, I recall seeing news reports in the summer where concern was expressed about the time taken to release funds to those in need.

In conclusion, I join the Minister in paying tribute to the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire and the people of north Kensington, as well as the excellent exam results by Inês Alves and the other children in the area, which are an inspiration to us all.

My Lords, I remind the House that I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association, and thank the Minister for his update now and during the recess. As the Statement says, there is no excuse for failing to do everything possible to support the victims of Grenfell and ensure that such a tragedy never happens again.

First, I address the issue of supporting the victims. The Statement says that 196 households are in need of a home, 10 households have accepted offers of permanent accommodation and two have moved in. That implies that 194 households have not moved into permanent accommodation. What exercise has the department done on how long it will take to rehouse all those 196 households in need of rehousing in permanent accommodation?

I noticed one sentence in the Statement in which the Minister said that,

“127 have expressed an interest in one or more properties”.

What that does not tell you is how many properties there are to be allocated. It is very important now that those facts are clarified. How many properties has Kensington and Chelsea got for permanent accommodation, and how many are forecast to become available over the next 12 months? It would help to know that.

The context was laid fairly starkly during the recess when we were told that Kensington and Chelsea borough has 1,652 unoccupied properties in the private sector. The Government will have to look at ways in which they can give local authorities greater powers over empty dwelling management orders, because that figure of 1,652, when many residents of Kensington and Chelsea are homeless, seems to me unacceptable. Should we not have increased council tax surcharges on empty homes of at least 200%, or conceivably 300%, and a requirement for all local authorities to have an empty homes management policy for homes that have been empty for more than one year?

I welcome the establishment of the independent review of building regulations. It reflects concerns that have been expressed on a number of occasions in this Chamber and the concerns of many social housing tenants in high-rise blocks. Some of those who have been part of current testing, and others in blocks not part of current testing, are concerned about why their high-rise blocks do not have sprinklers. That issue needs to be addressed, and I am very glad that the independent review of building regulations has been established.

The judge leading the public inquiry, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, has clarified one issue about whether he wishes to look at social housing policy. He suggested to the Prime Minister that he could not do that because he wanted to focus clearly on the issues that have now been defined around the fire itself, what led to it and the response in the aftermath. The Prime Minister’s letter to Sir Martin on 15 August indicates that the Government will carry out a review of social housing policy. I do not think I have misunderstood what is being said, but it would help enormously if the Minister could say a bit more about what is planned. At some point—presumably this autumn—the Government have to come back with a response to the White Paper, which will presumably reflect the Prime Minister’s promise.

I have two other brief questions. First, on the timing of each of the inquiries, we have a public inquiry, an independent review of building regulations, the police investigation and the Government’s response to the White Paper. I am not clear how those four different strands are being brought together to avoid different inquiries cutting across each other unnecessarily, and to ensure that the urgent outcomes needed, particularly in relation to this catastrophic failure of building control, are being delivered. Anything that the Minister can say about how that is to be brought together would be helpful.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, asked about money. I agree with him, because the Government need to be very clear, very soon, about what they will fund and what they think local authorities will fund. At the end of July it was reported that 82 blocks had used the combination of materials that we are talking about, of which 47 are owned or maintained by local authorities. By implication, 35 are not owned by local authorities—some of them in the private sector, some of them NHS buildings and some of them schools. The issue of who is footing the Bill for essential works really needs to be clarified at an early stage.

As the Statement tells us, 165 blocks have failed the test. I have not understood why the Government use a measure of 18 metres tall. The Statement says:

“Across England there are 173 social housing buildings that are over 18 metres tall and clad with some form of aluminium composite material”.

I want to challenge that 18 metres, because I do not understand why the figure is deemed important. We do not want a fire to break out at all, whatever the height of the building. A number of the NHS buildings and schools that have been talked about are not 18 metres high. Some clarity is needed on this issue.

My final point relates to the private sector, because I did not understand the wording of the Statement, which said:

“Since June, we have made the BRE tests available to all private residential building owners”.

It does not say whether that refers to high-rise blocks or any private residential building owner. The Statement tells us that,

“89 buildings in England have tested their cladding through those facilities”.

How many are there, how many have not been tested and is it only buildings over 18 metres or any kind of private sector accommodation? In that case, the same rules should apply in the public sector.

I echo the comments of the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, about the strength of the community in Grenfell, particularly the pupils in the school and all those who have been so seriously affected by what has happened. It is incumbent on all of us to do everything we can to help them as quickly as possible.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Kennedy and Lord Shipley, for their continued support for the general way forward. I am grateful for their thoughts and help on these issues, in the Chamber and elsewhere. It is absolutely right that we face them together. I recognise that there is an overlap in the points raised by the noble Lords. I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, said about the terrific work done by our emergency services, by the public sector, the faith sector, the voluntary sector and charities. Yesterday I met the organisation International Students House on another issue and found that it had given some money to a hardship fund for students who lived in the area. That is symptomatic of the public response across the board.

The noble Lord is right to say that we need to look forward. On housing, we are being guided by the principle of need, not speed. The allocation process may seem slow but I can confirm that nobody will be forced into accommodation which they deem unsuitable. It may be that it has been slow because we are determined to carry on with that approach. Both noble Lords raised the question of financial issues relating to remedial safety work. We have encouraged local authorities that face difficulties to come forward. I will write to noble Lords and correct these figures if they are wrong but I think that 27 have indicated some concern and six a concern that we are looking at very seriously.

Across the piece, over £14 million of public sector financial assistance has been committed to emergency payouts, help with housing, building safety and so on. That is in addition to any charitable donations. I am grateful for the point about ensuring that the charitable money is forthcoming, and I will take it away. Obviously, the Government do not interfere with the way in which charities operate but we are facilitating and encouraging a sensible approach: all the money should not come in one rush. I will cover that point in my letter.

Both noble Lords referred to the Ledbury estate in Southwark. Given the locality, I can understand the personal interest of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. This issue also affects the London Borough of Lewisham, as the noble Lord is probably aware. I will take this up in a circular letter to noble Lords, but I think there are 12 blocks which we have real concern about, most of which are in London. We are looking at another 30 which we are not so concerned about; they say they have done the strengthening work but we want to double-check that. The bulk of those are in the City of Westminster and are due to come down anyway. The expert advisory committee is also looking at this area of concern and at the issue of cladding coming off and the wind factor. This predates the dreadful Grenfell Tower episode and happened in Scotland, so there is a devolved element and we are working with Scotland to find out what we can. There is an obvious concern throughout the United Kingdom, so we are taking this forward at pace.

In relation to other public sector bodies, this affects education and health only, although that is serious enough. I double-checked that yesterday, but will pick it up in my letter. The cut-off point in the private sector is exactly the same at 18 metres. We have not made that obligatory but have written to local authorities encouraging them to check the numbers concerned in their areas. They have powers to enforce action and the Secretary of State has written to them on that issue in the last seven days.

The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, asked about the number of households that have been offered permanent accommodation. It is small but I remind noble Lords that the Statement said that 21 families who are in housing association accommodation on a temporary basis have asked for that to be made permanent, so that is an increase. The noble Lord raised the wider issue of empty dwellings, which was touched on in the White Paper. I know that this is of concern and the point was well made: I will cover it in my letter.

The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, raised the question of the interplay of the different reviews. I thank him for welcoming the Hackitt review, which is due to produce an interim report this autumn and a final one next spring. They will obviously need to liaise in relation to the police inquiry. We are at arm’s length from that; it is a matter for the police and the Government will not—for understandable reasons—get directly involved. The inquiries are sensitive to making sure that toes are not trodden on and that matters dovetail. The public inquiry is having a preliminary meeting on 14 September, next week. Sir Martin Moore-Bick has said that he wants to come up with a preliminary report by Easter 2018. The 18 metres issue is contained in planning regulations concerned with fire evacuation timings. It is rather gruesome to think of it in those terms, but there has to be a cut-off point because the danger accelerates as one has higher and higher buildings. It is contained in legislation at the moment but the point is well made and there is no doubt that this will be looked at by both Dame Judith and the public inquiry.

If I have missed anything else I will pick it up in my letter. I thank noble Lords for their continued support.

My Lords, I draw the attention of the House to the fact that I was a Minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government from 2010 to 2012. I thank the Minister for the Statement and welcome the reviews which have been announced. I thank him for the way he has communicated with Members of this House about the terrible situation and what has to be done to deal with its aftermath.

I will pick up two or three specific points. The Minister mentioned that tests had been carried out on 89 privately owned buildings. He did not give a breakdown of the results of those tests in the same way that he did with the public sector buildings. Is he able to do that or undertake to provide noble Lords with them to give us some idea of the scope of the problem at a national level, not just in the public sector?

The primary reason that much of this cladding was put on was to improve the energy performance of these buildings; it was not simply decorative or cosmetic. That implies that where this insulation is being taken off for very understandable and proper safety reasons, residents around the country in buildings like these will be exposed to higher heating bills and less satisfactory living circumstances. We are coming very rapidly to the winter. It is not likely that replacements can be found for this winter. Again, I urge the Minister to consider how we can find a speedy replacement that is satisfactory and restores the thermal insulation value of the homes which have been stripped of this material. Linked to that is a question about the capacity of the industry to mount a major programme of stripping this material and to supply whatever is specified to replace it in time to reduce or mitigate the exposure of tenants and residents living in these blocks to the worsening conditions that they would otherwise suffer.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, very much indeed for that very constructive contribution. I should have made it clear that all of the 89 buildings have failed. If I did not do so, I apologise. I do not think that was stated in the Statement. The energy performance point raised by the noble Lord is fair and valid. Obviously, safety, quite rightly, has to have primacy. However, he is right that we want to honour our Paris climate change commitments. We want to make sure that these buildings are as energy efficient and green as possible. We will raise that concern with BEIS, which is the Ministry where climate change rests these days. However, I repeat that safety must have primacy.

My Lords, the Minister referred to a letter that he was sending to local authorities about their responsibilities with regard to the private sector. Can we see a copy of that letter, please?

My Lords, a minor correction: the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, is right that I referred to a letter but it was sent by the Secretary of State. However, I will endeavour to ensure that either the letter, or the relevant part of it, if it contains other sensitive matters, is circulated. I will seek to include that in the circular letter I am sending round.

My Lords, as a resident and former councillor in north Kensington, I join the Minister, my noble friend Lord Kennedy and the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, in paying tribute to the resilience and courage of the local community. My question relates to rehousing locally. Do residents have a right to be rehoused locally? What does local mean in this context, recognising that Grenfell Tower is fairly close to the north of the borough, so one should not look only at north Kensington? It is close to other boroughs and north of the Harrow road and clearly there are areas ripe for development north of the canal, so what does local rehousing mean in this context? Is it agreed that families with children in school seem to have a higher right than individuals who may be more mobile?

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, very much for his usual characteristic, constructive approach in seeking to address this as representatives across the board. On locality, we have said that we will rehouse affected families from Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk in either the borough of Kensington and Chelsea or in an adjoining borough, so we have widened the issue in the way he suggests. However, I come back to the point that families are able to say that a particular home is not suitable. They will no doubt want to take their children’s education into consideration. We have also sought to provide a means of concentrating on bereaved families as the first set of families we want to rehouse. However, we are obviously taking into account as many of the factors that the noble Lord raised as possible to make sure that we deal with needs as they arise.

My Lords, in an otherwise comprehensive reply to the Front Benches, I did not detect—I am sorry if I missed it—a reply to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, about a broader review of social housing, to which the Prime Minister made reference in her July Statement. Can the Minister say more about that?

I thank the noble Lord. I think he is right: I missed it. It was in my notes to cover. I certainly can confirm that Sir Martin Moore-Bick did not seek to make that issue part of the inquiry for the very valid reason that it is only right as regards the tenants, the bereaved families and the people of the estate that we focus pretty much laser-like on the block. However, the Prime Minister has said that we will look at the position in relation to social housing and review it. The Housing Minister wants to look at that and will talk to organisations and tenants about it. As noble Lords can understand, at the moment he is under immense time and emotional pressure in dealing with this issue but it is very much in the in-tray. However, it is slightly separate from the specific issue of Grenfell Tower.

My Lords, I follow the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson. I do not want this point to be considered a complaint on my part about the correct approach taken by the Government that requests and demands in relation to housing should be satisfied, that people’s needs are understood and that there are very special needs in this circumstance. Are the Government or the local authority keeping data on the reasons for rejecting offers of housing, as I think that might feed into further consideration of demands and requirements for social housing? I was struck by the very localised views of a number of the displaced tenants who see their own community as very narrow. They do not want to go over the border to Westminster, even though geographically it is very close, as they feel that it is a very different community.

My second question is about the different issue of the inquiry. There is much strong feeling locally about the need for diversity among those who, as locals see it, are in charge of the inquiry. I heard Sir Martin Moore-Bick make the point very clearly and correctly that there was no panel at the point when he was accused of having a panel which was not representative. Can the noble Lord tell the House about any progress on the composition of the inquiry, perhaps on a panel or assessors to assist the chair?

I thank the noble Baroness for those two questions. I assume, although I do not know, that the royal borough is retaining data about the reasons for turning down offers. I will certainly raise that with it. That is a constructive suggestion; I am sure that records are being kept. As we know, some common reasons for refusing offers are that people want to move only once rather than twice and fear the trauma associated with moving. One can understand people wanting to take time over this but I will look at that issue because those comments are absolutely right. In relation to the public inquiry and the diversity issue, that is a matter for Sir Martin Moore-Bick, but certainly we are very open to assessors and would go so far as to encourage that. I do not want to steal any thunder from the public inquiry and indeed I do not know what he will have to say about that issue but I am sure that something will be said at the first preliminary meeting on 14 September, a week on Thursday.

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, I must declare an interest as a resident of the borough. I have a connection with the council in that my wife is a councillor and was a cabinet member with responsibility for schools at the time of this appalling fire. I welcome what the noble Lord said about rehousing and how immensely complex this process is. He rightly says that this should not be a question of simply getting numbers for the Dispatch Box but making sure that all individuals have their needs satisfactorily addressed. Those needs will be complex and very different. This process is going to be extremely expensive, of course. Perhaps my noble friend can tell the House whether the Government are assisting in any way and in what respect with the extremely significant cost of rehousing.

Secondly, can the Minister confirm that despite the unfortunate criticism of the appointment and the suitability of Sir Martin for discharging the duty, he has the full confidence of the Government? Those who are familiar with his work have every reason to believe that he will perform his job with extreme diligence and reach a satisfactory outcome.

I thank my noble friend, and will perhaps deal with the second question first because it has a more straightforward response. Sir Martin Moore-Bick has the total support of the Government. He is already tackling these issues at pace and we have every reason to suppose that he is the right man for the job. We look forward to the work that he is going to put in on this immensely challenging inquiry.

My noble friend referred to the complex process of rehousing and the costs. Much of this, such as hotel accommodation, will be picked up under the Bellwin formula. As I indicated, the Government are looking at specific requests made by local authorities in relation to the issue more widely. A lot of the cost for Kensington and Chelsea will be picked up by the Bellwin formula.

I think it is right to say a corner has been turned and progress is being made on what is a horrendous situation. I think people are now understandably looking to the future although, obviously, in very difficult circumstances.