EXCLUSIVE: Anger as council spends £7,500 on wine since Grenfell disaster

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) has spent £7,500 on wine since the fire at Grenfell Tower. 

The council bought 1,104 bottles of wine between June 2017, when the fire took place, to April of this year. A total of £37,625.71 was spent on wine by the council over the past five years, a freedom of information request has revealed.

The bottles bought ranged from a £4.96 Cotes de Gascogne to a £10 Chateau Le Cedre D’Arthus. 

Emma Dent Coad, the MP for Kensington – pictured above – expressed her frustration over the spending arguing that any hospitality budget not focused on residents should have been suspended after the fire and any money spent by the council on alcohol should be “seriously questioned”.

She added: “That £40,000 on wine could be very well spent on actually keeping people off the breadline.”

The council spent £9,711.90 on alcohol in 2014/15 alone, including 972 bottles of £6.75 sparkling rose. 

Last year saw a slight increase in the amount of money spent on wine orders, with 704 bottles purchased in total. 

“Anybody who has heard direct experience from people of what has been like to survive would be horrified that the council are spending any money at all on jollies. The council are pleading poverty, but we still have very substantial reserves,” Ms Dent Coad said.

It was revealed in April that 15 families are still living in temporary accommodation almost two years after the fire, with at least one Grenfell survivor currently staying in a hostel.

Pressure group Justice4Grenfell also said that the council’s hospitality budget should have been restricted after the fire.

The group, which was set up to represent the 72 victims of the fire, called the alcohol purchases “another example of RBKC’s institutional indifference to the needs and views of their residents.”

A spokesperson for the group added: “Considering that we are still awaiting test results for toxicity in the area, £7,500 would have been better spent on free healthy juices for the elderly and young children.” 

Since the tragedy, the council has spent £4,128.42 on sparkling wine alone. RBKC’s total wine order shows purchases of 498 bottles of Saumur Brut, described by The Wine Society as a ‘good sparkler’.

While the council’s spending on alcohol has decreased in recent years, last year’s figures saw more than £5,000 of expenditure dedicated to wine alone.

An RBKC spokesperson said: “The mayor hosts community events to celebrate and support achievements by residents, community organisations and businesses in the borough. Wine is provided at some of these events. 

“Examples include a celebration for doctors, nurses and other NHS staff to celebrate the NHS’s 70th anniversary, a reception for uniformed emergency services, military and youth organisations and an annual reception for poppy sellers for the Royal British Legion.”

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