Kensington & Chelsea RBC’s leader Nick Paget-Brown has stood down, along with deputy leader Rock Feilding-Mellen and the chief executive of the Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation.
LGC reported earlier how Cllr Paget-Brown, who had reportedly had a previous offer to resign turned down by the Conservative group on the council, had admitted the local authority’s reputation is in tatters due to its handling of the Grenfell Tower disaster.
In a statement Cllr Paget-Brown said he had to “accept my share of responsibility for…perceived failings” in relation to not answering “all the questions that people have”.
Yesterday, Cllr Paget-Brown decided to cancel a meeting to discuss the fire at Grenfell Tower after previous plans to hold it in private were overturned by the media. Cllr Paget-Brown cited legal advice which said holding the meeting in public could prejudice the public inquiry.
Cllr Paget-Brown said: “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 and it cannot be right that this should have become the focus of attention when so many 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.”
Cllr Paget-Brown said there were “many questions about the cause of the fire and why it spread so quickly” and added: “There are clearly national issues to address around regulation.”
He 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”. He said he was “very grateful” to all of the London boroughs, emergency services, and community associations for their assistance.
Deputy leader and cabinet member for housing and regeneration Rock Feilding-Mellen (Con) noted there had been numerous calls for his resignation since the fire but said he had not felt it appropriate to resign during the peak of the crisis.
He said: “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.
“Nick has now announced his decision to resign as leader, and so I will no longer be deputy leader. I will continue to serve the residents of the borough as best I can as a councillor, and I will of course co-operate in full with the public inquiry.”
In his first public statement since the tragedy Cllr Feilding-Mellen, who has served as a councillor since 2006, expressed his “deep sorrow, grief, and shock”.
He added: “It is almost unbelievable that such a horrendous event could happen in the United Kingdom in the twenty-first century. Like all my neighbours, I feel heartbroken and my most deeply felt condolences go out to those who have lost their loved ones.”
Meanwhile, Robert Black, chief executive of Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), which manages the properties on behalf of the council, has also stood down.
A council spokesman said: “We are aware Robert Black has agreed to step aside from his role as CEO of the KCTMO and an interim CEO is being sought by the KCTMO as a matter of urgency.
“Kensington and Chelsea residents remain the council’s priority during this unprecedented time. In order to ensure that KCTMO can continue to provide services for its other residents, the board has agreed that an interim chief executive should be appointed to carry out this role.”
The departures follow the resignation of Kensington & Chelsea RBC’s town clerk Nicholas Holgate last week.