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Theresa May Rejects Corbyn's Call To Seize Luxury Homes To House Grenfell Families

'Private property' rights should not change, No.10 says.

19/06/2017 10:20 PM AEST | Updated 20/06/2017 12:28 AM AEST
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Theresa May has ruled out Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to seize empty properties of the wealthy to help those left homeless by the Grenfell Tower fire.

No.10 Downing Street said the Prime Minister did not agree with the Labour leader’s proposal to “requisition” homes owned by rich foreign investors.

A spokeswoman for the PM said: “We don’t support proposals to seize private property.

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Theresa May meets police near Grenfell Tower last week.

“Our focus is on re-housing people as quickly as possible in the borough or a neighbouring borough - and that still stands.”

The death toll from the fire stands at 79 and could rise further, police said on Monday, and scores of people are without a home.

Corbyn stepped up his demands this weekend, telling ITV’s Peston on Sunday programme that those affected by the blaze should be allowed to “occupy” the empty properties nearby.

 “Occupy, compulsory purchase it, requisition it, there’s a lot of things you can do,” he said.

“There are a large number of deliberately kept vacant flats and properties all over London – it’s called land banking. People with a lot of money buy a house, buy a flat, keep it empty.”

Corbyn pointed out in Parliament last week that the council ward where the fire took place was one of the poorest in the whole country.

 “Properties must be found - requisitioned if necessary - to make sure those residents do get re-housed locally,” he said.

A poll at the weekend found strong support for the Labour leader’s suggestion.

But while rejecting the property seizure plan, the PM’s spokeswoman made clear May had not been satisfied with the local council’s response to the blaze last week.

Asked if the PM had “full confidence” in Nick Paget-Brown, the embattled leader of Kensington and Chelsea council, the spokeswoman side-stepped the question.

“The Prime Minister’s work has been to ensure people on the ground get the support they need,” she said.

Kensington and Chelsea council was forced to hand control of the response to the fire to a London-wide ‘Gold Command’ operation, run by Southwark council’s chief executive alongside the Met police, Whitehall and the British Red Cross.

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Protestors outside Kensington and Chelsea's Town Hall on Friday.

The PM’s spokeswoman said it had been made clear to her by local residents that the response “in the first few days wasn’t good enough”.

Put to her that the Tory-run local council had run up a budget reserves of £270m, the spokeswoman said: “Council finances are a matter for each council.  You should ask each council why they have reserves or surpluses.”

Asked if seven years of Government cuts to local councils had played a role, the spokeswoman replied: “Our focus is on making sure residents get all the help they need.”

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