New Kensington council leader admits she had never been in a tower block before Grenfell fire

The new leader of Kensington council has admitted she had never visited a tower block before the Grenfell fire.

Conservative councillor Elizabeth Campbell, who takes up her post next week after the previous Tory leader was accused of being out of touch, also confessed it could take a ‘generation’ before residents will trust their council again.

She replaced Nicholas Paget-Brown, who stepped down in the face of anger from residents about the tragedy, in which at least 80 people were killed.

Ms Campbell told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday: ‘I haven’t been into the high-rise council blocks before, but I am certainly doing that now.’

Elizabeth Campbell said she hadn’t visited a tower block before the Grenfell fire (Picture: Reuters)

She added: ‘I totally reject the fact that just because I live in the south of the borough that I have no understanding of what’s going on in the north of the borough.

‘And I also totally reject the whole notion that because we have people in the borough who are wealthy and people who are not wealthy that the wealthy don’t care, they do care.’

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Ms Campbell said Kensington and Chelsea Council would use its financial reserves to build more council housing in the wake of the disaster.

‘I make this guarantee that we are going to be the first council in London who are going to build more council homes,’ she said.

Pressed on how much of the council’s reserves of £274 million would be used for new housing, Ms Campbell said: ‘We will definitely put stuff towards it because we have saved for emergency situations.

‘I actually make the commitment that we are going to build more council houses. We will put our reserves towards building council houses.

‘We will be asking the government to contribute to building more council houses.’

Ms Campbell said people could vote the Tories out next year if they were not happy with the response.

Residents are angry about how the tragedy has been handled (Picture: Reuters)

‘As for whether people on the ground think that they need a new council, and new council leaders, we have elections next May and they will be able to vote with their feet,’ she said.

‘And they will either think by next May that we have made a good start and that we are delivering things on the ground, or they can vote us out.’

Asked if the council was conducting its own probe into why concerns expressed before the fire by residents were not acted on, Ms Campbell said: ‘I am going to be waiting for the public inquiry to tell me exactly, to look at all the reams of documents to untangle the web of contracts and then to tell us where they think it went wrong.’