On the one hand we’ve got the official Grenfell Tower inquiry going on. Apparently fact discovery is aided by days and days of people explaining how devastated they are by what happened. Obviously, all entirely true but not a great aid to finding out what actually happened, is it? We’ve also an official report pointing out that it wasn’t the council cocking up. And then we’ve got this little snippet. Showing something of a black hole in our basic system of emergency response:
Two illegal immigrants who posed as victims of the Grenfell Tower fire were put up in hotels funded by the taxpayer for almost a year.
Elaine Douglas and Tommy Brooks, who are Jamaican, falsely claimed more than £100,000 in accommodation and pre-paid credit cards before staff at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea realised the flat they claimed to live in did not exist.
The pair, both 51, also tried to take advantage of a scheme allowing residents of the tower leave to remain in the country for at least five years in case fears over immigration status prevented victims coming forward.
Douglas was housed in the Radisson Blu in Kensington for 276 nights at a cost of just over £55,000 to the council, as well running up a room service bill of £267.
After complaining about the food in the hotel, she was given a pre-paid credit card, running up charges of more than £11,000. She was also handed a pre-paid Oyster card so she could travel for free.
Brooks also started off at the Radisson Blu before being moved to another hotel. He spent 243 nights in hotel accommodation, costing RBKC more than £49,000.
He racked up a room service bill of £276 and charges of £9,000 on a pre-paid credit card, and was also given an Oyster card.
In total, he claimed £58,396 in relief intended to help the victims of the fire, while Douglas claimed £67,123.
Part of this reflects very well upon the sort of society we are. There’s been a disaster – and no one, of any political persuasion, is going to argue that Grenfell Tower wasn’t a disaster. Better by far to simply offer aid with open arms than to try and create some filter requiring checking of eligibility. I hope you’d agree at least. Better that a few grifters and frauds get food and shelter than that some burnt out of their homes go hungry in the elements.
That is, vast and even naive generosity is the correct response in the immediate aftermath. No one would argue that only those legally in the UK, having paid NI, should be treated in A&E when a bomb goes off on the Tube. Even the suggestion that checks should be made would be – rightly – shouted down. But there does come a point when this is no longer so.
At some point, one to be argued about, the filters must be put in place and what aid is being given limited to those who are actually those we intend to aid. The grifters and fraudsters must be weeviled out. Quite apart from anything else the thought among the general populace that all that cash is being stolen will reduce the willingess to put up with that righteous naivety in the early moments after that next disaster.
276 nights is well beyond that limit, no?
Or, as is so often true, the actual problem we have with our system of governance is its inefficiency at stopping spending money.