Kensington & Chelsea RBC chief executive Nicholas Holgate has reluctantly announced his resignation, following what he claims was pressure from the communities secretary.
In a statement published late last night Mr Holgate said Sajid Javid had required council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown (Con) to seek his resignation.
He 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.”
Mr Holgate said he had taken the decision as to have remained in post would have been a “distraction” from the councils’ priority of assisting the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.
The council’s initial response and support provided to victims of the fire has been widely criticised, including scathing comments from the prime minister and the London mayor. Questions have also been raised about why highly flammable cladding was installed in the 24-storey tower block during a renovation last year.
Mr Holgate said: “Whilst the public inquiry and other investigations will get to the truth of the causes of this tragedy and the management of its aftermath, I strongly believe that councillors and officers have always endeavoured to have the interests of our residents at heart and will continue to do so.”
Cllr Paget-Brown said it was with “great regret” that he had accepted Mr Holgate’s resignation. His own offer to resign is reported to have been rejected by Conservative council colleagues earlier this week.
He said: “Like everyone else, 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. However, the council will now need to work in a new way with different partners to take this forward.
“Nicholas has made a huge contribution to Kensington and Chelsea during his eight years with us and is greatly admired by staff and members. I am enormously grateful to him.”
A Department for Communities & Local Government spokesman said: “The appointment of chief executives is entirely the responsibility of the local authority.”
*This story was updated at 11.35am to include a statement from DCLG.