Created: Friday, 20 October 2017 10:42
Written by London FRFI
The Revolutionary Communist Group has been active in the streets of North Kensington ever since the Grenfell Tower fire occurred in June. We have been talking to local residents, relatives and survivors of the disaster, protesting against the Borough Council's shameful inaction and urging people to join their voices with ours in demanding real solutions for the survivors and justice for the dead. On 17 October we protested at the Annual General Meeting of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) to call out this organisation for its role in the great act of social murder that occurred in the property they managed.
At this meeting resident-members of the TMO were to vote on a number of resolutions to decide the future of the organisation. Understandably, KCTMO's tenants have lost all confidence in the TMO. In a joint statement on 10 October the Borough Council and TMO had urged resident-members to vote in favour of terminating the TMO's contract to manage its properties, and to hand total control of the organisation to the Council by making it the sole voter in the TMO, insisting that this was necessary for an 'orderly transition'. But concerned residents believed this could have given the Council the power to hand its housing stock over to private housing associations with little or no consultation. There were also doubts over whether the TMO could be properly held to account in the public inquiry should its contract be terminated.
At a time when they most need certainty over the future of their 10,000 homes, residents of KCTMO-managed properties were instead being asked to make a crucial decision at short notice even as the council withheld key information from them, such as the nature of its Modular Management Agreement with the TMO. A Freedom Of Information request by tenants to get this key document released was ignored. RBKC's contempt for the people of its own borough is obvious. A week after their initial recommendation, on the day of the AGM, the TMO and the council changed their mind and issued another statement recommending that residents vote to adjourn.
In the event, 87% of 276 resident-members who attended - many of whom had expressed confusion about the nature of the resolutions - voted for adjournment until they could properly deliberate and understand the consequences of a vote to terminate the TMO's contract and make the council the sole voter in the organisation. Melvyn Akins of Kensington Residents Alliance, interviewed by Grenfell Speaks after the meeting, urged: 'Keep adjourning until we're ready to vote.' Akins and another KCTMO resident, Samia Badani, suggested that a model of resident-led management must be adopted.
Emerging from the meeting, many were furious from learning that Robert Black, former CEO of KCTMO, was still on full salary in an advisory role. They took up the chant, 'Still paying the murderer!' There was consternation, as well, at the revelation that only a small number of board members of the TMO were actually residents in managed properties - three out of fifteen board members tentatively raised their hands when asked if they lived in KCTMO homes. Later in the meeting the chair claimed the number was actually eight out of fifteen - but why didn't board members admit this to begin with? Equally outrageous was that, just as with previous public meetings, local residents were subject to searches by security guards at the door to the town hall. As Akins described it, the atmosphere of distrust was similar to other public meetings since Grenfell - 'It's us and them'.
A number of news reporters were present, from the Daily Mail and Channel 4, and protestors from the Save Wornington College campaign made their voices heard, shouting 'Rotten borough out!' It is vital that vocal and visible protests continue outside TMO and council meetings, to show the world that we will not let those responsible off the hook. We believe firmly that only direct and radical action can move those in power to address the urgent needs of the working class, for safe, affordable and decent housing, instead of chasing profits until their greed has deadly consequences. Hold the guilty to account! No more Grenfells! End social cleansing now!
The next Kensington and Chelsea council meeting discussing the response to Grenfell is scheduled for Wednesday 25 October, 6.30pm. West London supporters of RCG will be there to protest and show the council that the world is watching.