Kensington Council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown resigns after fatal Grenfell tower fire

Move follows criticism of the council’s response to the disaster

Tom Batchelor
Friday 30 June 2017 17:19
Leader of Kensington and Chelsea council stands down

The Tory leader of Kensington and Chelsea council, Nick Paget-Brown, has resigned in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, saying he accepts a "share of responsibility" for the "perceived failings".

The move came as two other senior officials involved in the Grenfell tragedy also said they were standing down, following criticism of the council’s response to the disaster, which claimed the lives of around 80 people.

Speaking on Friday evening, Mr Paget-Brown said: "The scale of this tragedy was always going to mean that one borough alone would never have sufficient resources to respond to all the needs of the survivors and those made homeless, on its own.

"We have been very lucky to have the support of other London boroughs, the emergency services and the community associations based in North Kensington and I am very grateful to all of them.

"This council has also been criticised for failing to answer all the questions that people have.

"That is properly a matter for the public inquiry.

"As council leader I have to accept my share of responsibility for these perceived failings."

Pressure had been building on Mr Paget-Brown to step down throughout Friday after a chaotic council meeting was cancelled on Thursday evening.

He called a halt to the meeting – the first to be held with council staff since the devastating fire – after warning about “recent real threats of assault on council staff and damage to building”.

Journalists attending the meeting would "prejudice" the forthcoming public inquiry, he claimed.

​Theresa May's spokesperson earlier criticised the council for shutting the meeting down, while the communities secretary, Sajid Javid, made similar remarks.

Grenfell fire meeting scrapped after journalists gain access

Commenting on that meeting, the council chief said: "My decision to accept legal advice that I should not compromise the public enquiry by having an open discussion in public yesterday has itself become a political story and it cannot be right that this should have become the focus of attention when so many are dead or still unaccounted for," adding:

“The task for my successor is to ensure that the strengths which also characterise this place, and North Kensington in particular, are seen to play their part in bringing the community together and ensuring that this borough, the most wonderful place, can start to move forward from this tragedy.”

Sadiq Khan posted a statement on Facebook saying he welcomed the departure of the council leader.

“Ever since the awful events of two weeks ago, it has been clear that the local community in and around North Kensington has lost trust in the council and that the administration is not fit for purpose,” he said.

“Last night’s decision to abandon the council’s cabinet meeting has merely compounded the misery for local people who are grieving, traumatised and desperate for answers.”

Kensington and Chelsea council should be run by civil servant commissioners "to act in the best interests of residents until the voters of the borough can choose, at next May's council elections, who they wish to represent and serve them", Mr Khan added.

Moments after Mr Paget-Brown's resignation, deputy council leader and the cabinet member responsible for housing, Rock Feilding-Mellen, also announced he was stepping down.

He said: "It has been suggested several times since the tragic event of the 14 June that I should resign, but until now I have felt that it was my duty to do whatever I could personally to back the council's efforts to help the fire's victims, to encourage all of the dedicated officers within the council as they worked tirelessly for the relief effort, and to support the council's leader.

"It will be for others to judge whether it would have been better for me to resign immediately, but I would have found it hard to forgive myself if I had ducked out at such a moment of crisis for the borough.”

In a separate development, the organisation which manages Grenfell Tower in west London announced it had agreed its chief executive would "step aside" so he can "concentrate on assisting with the investigation and inquiry".

A statement from the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) confirmed Robert Black's position, two days after retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick was appointed to lead the public inquiry into the deaths of at least 80 people.

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