Chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea council resigns

22 Jun 17

The chief executive of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has resigned following the fatal fire in which police believe at least 79 people died.

Nicholas Holgate announced his imminent departure from the local authority yesterday amid heavy criticism over the council’s initial response to the fatal Grenfell Tower fire.

The former Treasury civil servant said in a statement he would have liked to have continued in his role and blamed Sajid Javid for forcing his resignation.

In a statement Holgate said: “The secretary of state for communities and local government required the leader of the council to seek my resignation.

“Serving the families so desperately affected by the heart-breaking tragedy at Grenfell Tower remains the highest priority of the council.

He added: “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.”

The Department for Communities and Local Government has denied any role in the resignation.

“The appointment of chief executives is entirely the responsibility of the local authority,” a spokesperson said.

Holgate acknowledged there was still a “huge amount still to do” for the victims and conceded that staying on in his role “would be a distraction”.

His resignation followed a decision on Sunday to hand responsibility of the relief and response effort to Whitehall staff and other local authorities after RBKC’s coordination was deemed ineffective.

A Grenfell Fire Response Team, comprised of central government, London councils, emergency services and the British Red Cross have assumed the lead role in handling the disaster.

It comes after council documents emerged showing RBKC ammassed "usable reserve" of £274m at 31 March 2017 in a draft statement of Kensington and Chelsea’s accounts for 2016-17.

Prime minister Theresa May apologised over the weekend after the fire last week, saying the initial response on the ground “wasn’t good enough”.

Nicholas Paget-Brown, leader of RBKC, said Holgate had served the council well for eight years and “led from the front” in trying to do the upmost for the victims of the Grenfell fire.

Holgate’s departure was welcomed by John Healey, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, who said he “had to go” because the council was “AWOL” in the days after the fire when the survivors and their families needed its support the most.

Healey added: “The council was nowhere to be seen when I was down there the day after the fire - he had no option and he was right to go."

Today, Theresea May told MPs that similar cladding on a number of towers was found to be susceptible to fire.

May said: “Shortly before I came to the chamber, I was informed that a number of these tests have come back as combustible.

“The relevant local authorities and local fire services have been informed, and, as I speak, they are taking all possible steps to ensure buildings are safe and to inform affected residents.”

She also confirmed that there would be no immigration checks on the survivors of the disaster and that residents in receipt of the £5,500 handouts would not have to pay it back and it would not affect other benefits there were entitled to.

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