Housing

Council charges Grenfell residents cleaning fee for memorial to victims: 'Who would think this was fair?'

Kensington and Chelsea Council has apologised and refunded the money, which included £37 for hanging lanterns

Grenfell memorial

The memorial to the victims of Grenfell. Image: Matt Brown/Flickr

Residents living in the shadow of Grenfell Tower were billed by their council for cleaning a memorial to the fire which claimed at least 72 lives.

Kensington and Chelsea Council charged leaseholders on the Lancaster West estate a total of £618.09 for work around the 2022 anniversary of the fire, the Big Issue has learned, including hanging and removing lanterns, dismantling a stage and removing “excrement and other human debris” from a memorial.

The charges were only discovered after leaseholders requested to inspect their service charge invoices, and were then refunded in May 2024 when the residents complained to the council. Kensington and Chelsea Council apologised in a statement to the Big Issue.

“Who in their right mind would think it was fair and reasonable to charge even a penny to residents and leaseholders for this?” leaseholders wrote in a complaint to the council.

“That no one picked it up or thought it was wrong shows how little they’ve changed,” leaseholder David O’Connell told the Big Issue.

The largest charge, of £182.25, was detailed as: “Brush to remove litter, excrement and other human debris, mould, moss growth algae and lichen and power wash all surfaces of hard surfaces at a minimum pressure of 1,500 psi, but not to exceed 2,000 psi, load up and remove waste and debris.”

A picture accompanying the charge shows a memorial to the victims of the fire near the tower.

Proof of work accompanying the memorial cleaning charge. Image: Supplied/Kensington and Chelsea Council

Other charges include £37.46 for hanging up lanterns, £153.14 for removing lanterns and disconnecting electrics, and £129.40 for removing lanterns and dismantling a stage.

“We’re very sorry for the mistake that led to residents being charged for some works we do in the run up the Grenfell anniversary for the 22-23 financial year. As soon as we became aware of this we refunded the money to the leaseholders who had been wrongly charged,” a spokesperson for Kensington and Chelsea council told the Big Issue. 

“We have a new assurance step now for our service charge team to meet more frequently with the Lancaster West Neighbourhood Team to go through all transactions before leaseholders are billed, to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Pictures given to leaseholders as proof of the lantern hanging work. Image: Supplied/Kensington and Chelsea Council

Along with the anniversary work, leaseholders also discovered a total of £7,680 in wrongful service charges which have since been refunded. These include 18p for removing leaves from a temporary boiler, and £197 for purchasing a gazebo, table, chairs and easel.

As the seventh anniversary of the Grenfell fire is marked, residents on the Lancaster West estate are in the midst of an ongoing refurbishment of the estate. Intended to turn the estate into a “model 21st century social housing estate”, it has dragged on past its original completion date of 2020.

O’Connell said he and other residents had been told by council staff at a recent meeting that the budget for the refurbishment has ballooned from £120million to an estimated £248million. Kensington and Chelsea Council said it did not recognise these figures, but acknowledged inflation and high borrowing costs had driven up budgets.

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