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London's ‘most experienced’ chief steps in at K&C as leader admits failings

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Lewisham LBC chief executive Barry Quirk has been appointed interim head of paid service at Kensington & Chelsea RBC, following the resignation of Nicholas Holgate yesterday.

Barry Quirk

BREAKING: London borough chief appointed K&C interim

Barry Quirk, London’s most experienced chief executive has been drafted in to help Kensington & Chelsea RBC

Mr Quirk’s appointment is expected to be a short-term arrangement to support the council in dealing with the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire while a permanent replacement is found for the role of town clerk, the title given to Kensington & Chelsea’s most senior officer.

Nick Paget-Brown (Con) described Mr Quirk as “London’s most experienced chief executive”.

“With his deep professional experience, I am pleased that he will be able to lead our staff at this critical time,” he said. “This will be particularly important as we recover from the grief and sorrow caused by the Grenfell Tower tragedy.”

At least 79 people are feared dead and hundreds have been left homeless by the devastating fire that ripped through the 24-storey tower block last week.

Kensington & Chelsea’s initial response to the disaster has been widely criticised for being slow and inadequate in the support offered to residents.

In a statement yesterday afternoon Cllr Paget-Brown accepted there were failings. He said he had nothing but praise for the council staff who had been “on duty round the clock” since around 1.30am on the morning of 14 June but added the overall effort was not good enough.

Cllr Paget-Brown continued: “However, although individual council officers have worked so hard and delivered so much, it is clear that there has been a failing in our collective response. We could have done a better job at co-ordinating what happened on the ground and we weren’t able to re-home people as fast as we would have liked.

“We are truly sorry for that. This is a tragedy of enormous proportions, and it has overwhelmed our normal capacity.”

Since Friday afternoon other London boroughs, including Lewisham, Southwark LBC, City of London Corporation and Westminster City Council, have been supporting Kensington & Chelsea through the capital’s established gold command procedures for major emergencies. However, questions remain over why it took Kensington & Chelsea almost three days to ask for assistance, and only then after damning criticisms from the prime minister.

Lewisham mayor Steve Bullock (Lab) said he was proud of the support his council had offered to the West London borough in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire which has also included 11 council staff providing assistance to homeless families and working in the rest centres.

In a statement Mr Bullock said he had agreed Mr Quirk could join to “help stabilise the managerial structures” at Kensington & Chelsea but as the arrangement was not expected to be long-term Mr Quirk’s role at Lewisham would be covered internally.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • It needs to be publicised sooner rather than later as to why the senior management in the council did not respond as they surely have planned trained and exercised to do so.
    The longer it takes for this to happen, the greater the distrust will grow, and the greater the perception that the council will be covering their tracks. Generic statements are no longer good enough to placate media. The log of the councils actions on this should be placed in the public domain as soon as possible to show their decision process. if they are to counter the amount of negative publicity, much of it wrong that their actions generated.

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