Grenfell fire: Kensington council cancels meeting after High Court lets journalists attend

Leader Nicholas Paget-Brown says meeting should be held in private due to ‘recent real threats of assault on council staff and damage to buildings’

Tom Batchelor
Thursday 29 June 2017 20:11 BST
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Grenfell fire meeting scrapped after journalists gain access

Officials at Kensington and Chelsea council have adjourned a cabinet meeting after press were allowed to attend, claiming it would "prejudice" the forthcoming public inquiry.

The High Court earlier ruled that the council must let journalists attend the meeting - the first to be held by the local authority since the Grenfell Tower fire - after reporters were initially told they were barred.

The decision by the leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Nicholas Paget-Brown, to postpone the meeting on Thursday afternoon triggered an angry response including from opposition councillor Robert Atkinson, who demanded the cabinet's resignation.

Mr Paget-Brown had already begun a statement on the authority's response to the crisis when reporters arrived.

After giving a short update, he announced to the room: "Given the public inquiry, we want to ensure our meetings do not descend into informal inquiries without all the facts to hand.

"As you will be aware this is a private meeting of the cabinet, to which other Kensington and Chelsea councillors have been invited."

Mr Atkinson intervened: "Why are press here, then?"

Grenfell Tower death toll of about 80 came mainly from 23 flats

Mr Paget-Brown continued: "I have agreed the meeting be held in private, given the subject under discussion and the recent real threats of assault on council staff and damage to buildings.

"I am advised that, if there are others present, we cannot have an open discussion."

Mr Paget-Brown continued: "We can't have an open discussion."

"You can't even organise a cabinet meeting," Mr Atkinson interjected, angrily.

The council leader said: "We can't have an unprejudiced discussion in this room with the public inquiry that is about to take place, if journalists are recording and writing our comments.

"I'm told the press are here as a result of legal intervention, that therefore means we cannot have a discussion as we were intending to have as that would prejudice the public inquiry.

"That is the advice I have received and therefore I have to declare the meeting closed."

Reporters have a legal right to attend public meetings of local authorities.

Additional reporting PA

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