London fire: Kensington council chief quits


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AFP

The chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea council has resigned amid criticism over the borough’s response to the Grenfell Tower fire.

Nicholas Holgate said Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid had asked for him to go, but Mr Javid has not commented.

Mr Holgate said last week’s fire in North Kensington, in which at least 79 people died, was “heart-breaking” but his presence would be a “distraction”.

Residents had condemned the initial relief effort as “absolute chaos”.

In a statement issued by the council on Wednesday, Mr Holgate, who has been in post since 2014, said it was the “highest priority” of the council to help families affected by the fire.

He said the communities and local government secretary had on Tuesday “required the leader of the council to seek my resignation”.

The Department for Communities and Local Government would not comment on the resignation.

Since the fire on 14 June, some Grenfell Tower families have been staying in hotels and B&Bs, and there were concerns that more permanent housing would be offered in other parts of the country.

The government has said 68 social housing flats in Kensington Row, about 1.5 miles away from Grenfell Tower, would be made available to survivors.

‘Challenging circumstances’

However, residents said Kensington and Chelsea London Borough Council had provided little support or information.

Government staff and other London boroughs were drafted in to help with relief efforts in the wake of the fire, with humanitarian assistance being provided by the west London borough of Ealing.

The council’s £8.6m refurbishment of the tower has also faced questions, with suggestions that new cladding fitted during the refurbishment could have made the blaze worse.

Mr Holgate said: “Despite my wish to have continued, in very challenging circumstances, to lead on the executive responsibilities of the council, I have decided that it is better to step down from my role, once an appropriate successor has been appointed.”

He added: “There is a huge amount still to do for the victims of the fire, requiring the full attention of this council and many others. If I stayed in post, my presence would be a distraction.”

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Media captionTheresa May on Grenfell fire: “As prime minister I’ve taken responsibility”

Nicholas Paget-Brown, the leader of the council, said it was with “regret” that he accepted Mr Holgate’s resignation.

He said: “The council has been grief stricken by the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire and has sought to provide the greatest level of support we can to victims.

“That is a huge challenge and Nicholas has led from the front in seeking to do this.”

PM Theresa May, who is among those to have faced criticism after she failed to meet survivors in the immediate aftermath, has apologised for “State” failures after the blaze. She is expected to make a statement about the fire in the House of Commons on Thursday.

She told MPs on Wednesday: “People were left without belongings, without roofs over their heads, without even basic information about what had happened, what they should do and where they could seek help.”



Source : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40362317

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