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'I have to accept my share of responsibility': Council leader steps down in wake of Grenfell fire

Nicholas Paget-Brown came in for sharp criticism after cancelling a council meeting on the fire last night.

Posted by on Sunday, 16 June 2019

THE HEAD OF Kensington council Nicholas Paget-Brown has announced that he will step down in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

The Conservative leader at the embattled council has faced sustained criticism over the local authority’s response to the fire.

Yesterday evening, he cancelled a council meeting because journalists were in attendance, claiming that any information would prejudice a public inquiry into the tragedy.

At least 80 people were killed in the blaze that consumed the tower this month, with the cladding blamed for spreading the fire throughout the 24-floor block.

Residents have expressed anger at the authorities’ handling of the fire, leading protesters on 16 June to storm the town hall which manages the social housing block.

Addressing journalists as he was stepping down today, he said: “I have to accept my share of responsibility for these perceived failings.

In particular, my decision to accept legal advice that I should not compromise the public inquiry by having an open discussion in public yesterday has itself become a political story.
It cannot be right that this should become the focus of attention when so many people are dead or still unaccounted for. I have therefore decided to step down as leader of the council as soon as a successor is in place. They will appoint a new deputy leader and cabinet.

“As I said yesterday, this is a huge human tragedy for so many families. 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.”

Labour councillor Robert Atkinson told BBC Radio 4 that yesterday’s council meeting descended into “utter chaos”.

“I am ashamed of the way in which the council proceeded. They’ve been hiding from residents, they’ve been hiding from backbench councillors for over a week … The leader of the council read the statement and then was not prepared to have a debate with his own council members.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan told Sky the decision was “madness”.

Read: 149 high-rise buildings in Britain have failed fire safety tests since the blaze at Grenfell Tower

Read: Man falsely claimed his wife and son died in Grenfell fire to get money and housing

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Sean Murray

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