UK

Reality Check: Is Grenfell Tower council outspending the government?

The Claim: Kensington and Chelsea Council says it will spend more on the rehousing and recovery operation for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire than the government has promised to spend on housing in one quarter (three months) in the whole of the UK.

Reality Check Verdict: The £235m that the council has set aside so far for Grenfell is less than the additional £250m allocated for affordable housing in England and Wales a quarter, so on these figures the council is wrong. The council predicts it will ultimately end up spending more on Grenfell but hasn't provided the figures. However the government is due to spend a total of £455m a quarter on affordable housing up to 2021.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea says it has set aside £235m so far on what it calls the Grenfell "recovery" operation.

This money includes:

  • Rehousing all 202 households who have been left homeless
  • Mental health support to any of the survivors who need it. Many of those who escaped the inferno will have complex long-term needs because of conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Educational psychologists for schools to help students whose lives have been thrown into chaos just as they were approaching critical exams
  • Transport to make sure that children dispersed to hotels around the capital can get to school on time

There's no doubt that all of this is going to cost a fortune - not least because the borough is one of the most expensive areas of the UK. But even taking into account the sky-high prices of west London land, the council's claim doesn't stack up.

So why did it get it wrong? It's not hard to understand why the council got into a muddle.

It all comes down to one of the biggest problems faced by anyone trying to get their head around government spending: knowing for sure when the cash is going to be spent.

The council told BBC Reality Check that it was comparing its spending with the government's Affordable Homes Programme.

This is the key scheme overseen by the Department for Communities and Local Government to funds new homes in the social sector.

The AHP was set up in 2010 and it runs until 2021. Up until the end of the summer, the Treasury had approved £7bn for the second five-year phase which we are now in. That works out at £350m a quarter. But that's not the figure to which the council is referring.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Grenfell Tower is situated amongst some of the most expensive housing in London.

Instead, it is referencing a new part of the affordable homes spending: an additional £2bn that the prime minister announced at October's Conservative Party Conference.

If that £2bn was spread over the five years to 2021, it would work out as £100m per quarter. That's lower than Kensington and Chelsea's Grenfell spending - so the council looks like it's right.

But in fact, that new money is an additional investment for only the final two years of the Affordable Homes Programme.

That works out at £250m per quarter. And that's more than the council has set aside so far for the Grenfell recovery bill. The council predicts it will ultimately end up spending more on Grenfell but hasn't provided the figures.

BBC Reality Check likes to challenge itself by discovering new and complicated ways to push figures further.

We lumped all £9bn of the government's current affordable homes spending together, without worrying too much about which particular year it applied to. When you spread that total over the five years of the programme, the projected quarterly average was £455m - still more than the council has set aside so far.

This article was amended on 24 October to reflect new information from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.


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