Former housing chief: ‘Tenants in Camden were regarded by many as beneath contempt’
Chris Naylor says it would be his 'duty' to help council review of issues at Chalcots
06 July, 2017 — By Richard Osley
CAMDEN’S former housing chief has said he is ready and willing to give evidence to an investigation into what went wrong at the Chalcots estate.
Former Liberal Democrat councillor Chris Naylor said he would consider it his “duty” to take part. The PFI refurbishment of the blocks was negotiated by the Labour-run council until the party’s election defeat in 2006 when a Liberal Democrat and Conservative coalition took control of the Town Hall.
It was in charge when work was completed. Cllr Naylor, who did not stand for re-election in 2014, is understood to have concerns about how some aspects of the housing department operated in Camden and has previously given glimpses of what life was like at the Town Hall during his time there through his Twitter feed.
“In my Camden Housing Cab Mbr [cabinet member] days council tenants were regarded by many in the Housing Dept as beneath contempt, often treated that way too,” he said online recently. In the days after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, he tweeted: “Grenfell ghastly. Recall as new Camden Housing lead after 2 died finding no system of inspections. Found tower block well low on fire doors.”
Last night (Wednesday), he told the New Journal: “I sadly don’t live in Camden or even London any more and I very much feel this tower block safety crisis needs to be tackled cross-party to start with, so I’ve tried to stay out of it for now. I hope everyone agrees the absolute priority right now is residents’ wellbeing and safety. However, I would consider it my duty to contribute to an independent inquiry into the whole Chalcots story, from when the PFI scheme was first conceived to the present day. I do hope the new fire and safety inspections programme we set up in my day continues.”
Mr Naylor said he agreed with council leader Georgia Gould’s decision to evacuate the estate but added: “I know it must have been a hard call and very upsetting for many residents”.
The Town Hall has not yet said who it will call to provide information to its review of problems on the Chalcots estate and which officials and councillors will be asked to make clear what they know.
Many housing department staff have left the council since the Chalcots refurbishment was completed and could be asked to return to help.
Mr Naylor’s time as housing chief was marked by a tenant-led campaign to stop the council selling off homes considered too costly to repair. Critics said the properties should be brought back into use as council homes rather than sold to developers, many of whom went onto “flip” their new acquisitions for quick profit.