People have been diagnosed with Victorian ailments like rickets and TB in one of the wealthiest parts of London, a shocking new report on inequality has revealed.
The gap between rich and poor in health, housing, education and income in the Grenfell fire-hit borough of Kensington and Chelsea has been laid bare in the report, compiled by Labour’s Emma Dent Coad.
The Kensington MP has compiled the report in the wake of the fatal tower block blaze to unmask the yawning gap between rich and poor in the area.
The ‘After Grenfell’ report details how, in one of the country’s richest boroughs:
Dent Coad said: “In ‘the richest borough in the universe’ this situation is indefensible. If trickle-down (economics) worked, we would not have four food banks in K&C.”
She went on: “The entirely preventable atrocity at Grenfell Tower has revealed the extent of inequality in Kensington and Chelsea, and the years of poor political decision-making and financial mismanagement.”
In the report, she says: “I have often stated that Kensington and Chelsea, where I was born and bred, is a microcosm of everything that has gone wrong in our country in the past few years.
“The proximity of huge wealth attracted by an over-heated international property market unencumbered by taxes, alongside poverty so extreme that children and older people are suffering malnutrition is a scandal that brings shame on our society in 21st Century London.”
Dent Coad used the report to lay into Kensington and Chelsea Council for failing to provide social housing.
K&C became part of a “tri-borough” cost-cutting project with Hammersmith & Fulham and Westminster councils, sharing services and outsourcing work.
It initially saved the council money, and was praised by the then-Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, but many of the outsourcing contracts which ensued actually meant the project lost 10m.
The council has built just ten social homes since 1990 but spent £30m on loss-making Holland Opera Park and another £5m on releasing the council from the deal.
The council also opted not to pay the London Living Wage, £1m a year.
Dent Coad wants the legacy of the Grenfell Tower fire to be reducing inequality.
She said: “A refusal to invest in improving educational attainment and life chances, by cutting local services and youth provision, is a form of social determinism which we must resist at all costs.
“As in many urban areas where housing costs are high, overcrowding is rife. In some areas this is just 17%, whereas in Golborne ward 68% of children live in overcrowded homes.”
Low educational achievement ran parallel with low income and lack of employment opportunities, she said. While the borough average for A* to C GCSE grades is 72%, in some wards it was just 30%.
Dent Coad said a total of 376 (857 people) were made homelessness by the Grenfell Tower fire, in the building itself and the surrounding areas. Just a handful have been housed.
And young people living in temporary accommodation or overcrowded housing struggled to focus on their studies.
She said: “I have seen many cases in K&C where up to four children share a bedroom, even teenagers of opposite genders.
“No-one thrives in such a situation, and the embarrassment of how they live means that many young people will be reluctant to socialise at home with their friends, and will either stay at home isolated or head out to commune on the stairways and streets, which can lead to all kinds of challenges and problems.”
In K&C more than 6,000 homes are owned by companies registered in tax havens.
Dent Coad said these companies “do not contribute to our communities, support our shops, cafes and restaurants, or pay UK tax.”
She added: “K&C is in danger of becoming an elephant’s graveyard of overpriced, oversized and overseas-owned properties that no one lives in, while Kensington’s grafters and public sector workers are priced out of the area.”
Shadow Fire Minister Chris Williamson, who will launch the report with Dent Coad at Westminster today, said: “Kensington and Chelsea is a microcosm of society at large. It is a place where inequality has become a gross spectacle. Where childhood poverty, overcrowding and homelessness live check by jowl with opulent second homes, palatial apartments for the mega rich and vast outflows of rent to corporate landlords.
“The devastating Grenfell inferno is a tragedy derived from these unequal times.”