“Kensington and Chelsea council made £129m from selling property in the years leading up to the Grenfell fire tragedy – money which we can show for the first time could have prevented cost-cutting on the tower’s renovation works.
An investigation by HuffPost UK, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the BBC Local Democracy Reporting Service can reveal the property deals overseen by senior officers and the council’s cabinet in the run up to the Grenfell disaster.
Evidence shows one of these deals was directly linked to the financing of the Grenfell Tower renovation and our investigation reveals that the council had far greater power over its funding of the works than it has previously admitted.
The council has previously claimed legal restrictions meant it could only use rental income from local authority housing to pay for renovation works. But this was not the case.
In fact, the council’s own documents show £6m of the Grenfell works was paid for with proceeds from the sale of council property – basement units in Elm Park Gardens in Chelsea.
The government has confirmed to us that councils are free to use money from the sale of property to fund improvements in housing stock.
This new information means the council had a far larger pot of money available to invest in its council housing than it has previously acknowledged – including on Grenfell Tower.
Our investigation also found the council had £37m in the bank, specifically from the sale of property, at the time when funding decisions over Grenfell were being taken.
But in 2014, cuts were made to the budget for building work by the tenant management organisation that was managing the project, including saving £300,000 by using cheaper, more combustible cladding.
The cladding was a key contributor to the speed with which the fire tore through the building on June 14, 2017, killing 72 people and leaving hundreds of families homeless.
The revelations have prompted fury over why spending on the Grenfell works was tight when the council had a significant income stream that could have been used to increase the budget. …”