THE COUNCIL leader says the uncertainty residents at Crown Heights are living through is a "travesty" and has pledged to support them.

Cllr Ken Rhatigan said that the council "will ensure that whatever is required from us, that we provide and that we... get the best outcome from a terrible situation".

Additionally, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council's new chief executive has set up a task force of officers from different departments to offer support.

Earlier this month, The Gazette revealed that Crown Heights, an apartment block of around 250 flats in the town centre, was covered in combustible material and no fire breaks.

This newspaper also revealed that leaseholders are set to face a bill for the costs of interim measures put in place to reduce the risk to their lives.

Now, the leader of BDBC has given his backing to residents, saying they should not have to "put their hand in their own pocket".

Cllr Rhatigan told The Gazette: "I feel for the residents who, through no fault of their own, have worry and distress.

"Some of them are housing association tenants and I think it is beholden upon the housing associations make sure that anything that can be done to communicate with residents is done, so some uncertainty is going to be taken away.

"It is not right that they are likely to have to put their hand in their own pocket, which is completely distressing for something that is not their fault. I think some of the responsibility has to lay with the developer, with the freehold owner and has to sit with the management company.

"It is now three and a half years since Grenfell, and it is in my view a travesty that even through all this time we are only now getting to see the full extent of the problem and it is one that we as a borough will help co-ordinate communications.

"We can’t fund what is not ours, but we can make sure that everybody, and especially those that don’t have English as a first language, are aware what help they can get, whether that be through a fantastic Citizen’s Advice Bureau in Basingstoke, one which we fund funnily enough, they can get the correct housing advice.

"We will ensure that whatever is required from us that we provide and that we work with out partners to ensure we get the best outcome from a terrible situation."

The authority's new chief executive, Russell O'Keefe, added that the council had set up a project team who are "working on how we support the process to get the best possible outcome we can".

He said: "It is an incredibly difficult situation and for the individual leaseholder through no fault of their own, it is a horrible position to be in.

"We’re working with the fire service with what’s called the responsible person, who is the person responsible for the fire safety measures on the building, making sure that the necessary measures are in place at the moment to ensure that everyone is safe day to day now, and we want those to be the most efficient measures as quickly as possible.

"The usual process that happens is that when it is first discovered it starts with a waking watch, very quickly you try and move to an integrated alarm system and a simultaneous evacuation plan, because that is a better solution and a cheaper solution, and as quickly as possible you try and deal with the physical issues in terms of changing the building.

"We are working with the different parties on that to ensure that it is done as quickly and efficiently as possible, in a way that engages residents, and ensures they know what is happening when.

"We have got a very good housing service who are there to provide advice and guidance to individual leaseholders and residents. What we want to try and do is to ensure that any actions the government takes are ones that support the difficult situation the individual leaseholders are in.

"We are fortunate there is more money available for the physical measures, but obviously there is still a range of costs you incur which are potentially huge for an individual before you get to that.

"We want to see the government consider that in terms of any future measures they may do. This isn’t just something affecting Basingstoke and Deane, and from my perspective I want to ensure that with any development we support in the future we make sure that they are built to the highest possible standard so we never have these issues again."

Cllr Rhatigan also labelled the Gazette's campaign, which called on FirstPort to make the building safe immediately, as "strong", adding: "Your campaign, it raises awareness, it highlights to the rest of the borough, nobody would want to see a tower that size in flames, it is good, and even this morning I was in a meeting with Maria Miller discussing exactly the same issue, I know that Russell was in a meeting.

"This is how seriously we are taking it, the leadership of the borough are getting involved. Tristan Robinson has been deeply involved, and that level of awareness has risen hugely in the last few weeks on the basis of such a strong campaign from yourselves.

"I think what we need to do is to pull everyone together in a meeting, ensure that we understand our responsibilities on it."