Grenfell Tower blaze forces Kensington council chief and Chelsea Nicholas Holgate to resign

June 22, 2017 3:40 pm

Outgoing council chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea council Nicholas Holgate (Photo by AFP)

Council chief of Kensington and Chelsea Nicholas Holgate has stepped down after coming under fire for the borough’s handling of the last week blaze that killed 79 people at the Grenfell Tower.
In a statement on Wednesday, Holgate said the deadly fire was “heart-breaking” but he had to resign to avoid causing a “distraction.”
“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,” said Holgate, who took on the job in 2014.
Holgate blamed his resignation on the government of Prime Minister Theresa May, a claim that was denied.

Demonstrators hold a banner in support of Grenfell Tower victims in London, June 21, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Noting that he communities and local government secretary had on Tuesday “required the leader of the council to seek my resignation,” Holgate said Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid had forced him to give up his position.
The claim was dismissed by a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government, who said, “The appointment of chief executives is entirely the responsibility of the local authority.”
Holgate hoped that the ongoing investigations would reveal “the truth of the causes of this tragedy.”
Labour welcomes the decision
Shadow housing secretary John Healey welcomed Holgate’s resignation, saying he was “right to go.”
“His council went awol in the days after this terrible fire – at a time when the victims, survivors, those families still looking for their family members who were missing, needed help on the ground and, above all, someone to reassure them and coordinate the relief and help efforts,” he told BBC.
The government and the council have come under heavy fire for their response to the fire.
May and members of the local council stirred outrage when they walked back earlier pledges to re-house the survivors of the fire in the same neighborhood.

The burned-out shell of the Grenfell Tower block. (Photo by AFP)

May also faced overwhelming pressure after it was revealed that the former Gavin Barwell, the former housing minister who was recently appointed as the prime minister’s adviser, had failed to OK a fire safety review request he had received.
The council has been accused of using a banned cladding material during that £8.6m refurbishment of the tower. The material has been blamed for the fire’s quick spread to all floors.
May has ordered these and all other allegations to be included in a full public inquiry into the fire.
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