Camden spends millions from its reserves on Chalcots evacuation

Residents during the evacuation in 2017

Chalcots' residents during the evacuation in 2017 - Credit: PA Images

The cost of evacuating and rehousing Chalcots residents will run into several millions, but it will come out of the council’s reserves and will not impact on frontline services, Camden has promised.

Thousands of residents were evacuated from their homes on Friday evening, after the fire brigade discovered shocking fire safety failures, including exposed gas pipes, inaccessible stairways and missing internal walls.

The fire brigade had organised the emergency inspection after the revelation that the buildings on the Chalcots Estate had similar flammable cladding to that used on the Grenfell Towers.

Councillor Theo Blackwell has said the cost of the operation will include accommodation, allowances and resourcing the rest centre, as well as uncollected rents and council tax payments and the cost of diverted staff resources and volunteers.

It will also cover repairs and remedial works to blocks on the Chalcots estate.

Cllr Blackwell said the costs will be funded through the council’s reserves and not affect budget plans.

Leader of Camden Council Georgia Gould said: “Many Camden Council staff are now working on the Chalcots Estate Operation. This means thousands of people, across a huge range of professions, trades and disciplines, working on a 24-hour shift system to get the job done as quickly as possible for our residents.

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“We have a large specialist team working on the estate and so far they’ve installed new fire boarding and upgraded entrance doors on the advice of the London Fire Brigade who are also working on site with us.

“We already have fire doors in all corridors and throughout the estates, but we have ordered new front doors for flats in case any residents need their door upgraded. We will also be working in stairwells and communal areas to make sure these areas are safe and re-insulating some pipes as well. It is our aim to complete this work within two to four weeks but I want to residents to know that everyone involved is working as hard as they possibly can to complete as quickly as possible.

“Whilst this work is ongoing we have been helping residents into hotels and other accommodation that suits their personal circumstances. We currently have over 360 people in hotels and we are constantly making new accommodation available.

“We are working hard with our most vulnerable residents to identify suitable accommodation. For our older residents we have found sheltered housing that will be suitable and we are in the process of moving people, making sure that the properties are furnished and comfortable. Overall so far we are making a 100 council homes available for temporary housing during this emergency situation. We are working hard to get more properties available for immediate occupation.

“We are keeping in regular contact with residents while we complete these works and I know how hugely disruptive and worrying this has been for them. My number one priority is to make sure the estate is safe so that residents can get back home. The Council is carrying out its biggest ever emergency operation, working around the clock to make sure this happens very soon.”

Camden confirmed there were 150 households who had remained in, or returned to their blocks, after the whole estate was evacuated.

Camden councillor Sian Berry said she is increasingly concerned for the safety of those returning.

“I’m really worried about the number of people that are coming back, that’s incredibly bad. For fire fighters, if anything happens, they are going to have to go back and get all those people out, putting them at risk.”

Camden estimates that the fire safety work on the inside and outside of the tower blocks will take two to four weeks.