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Council chief quits in wake of Grenfell Tower fire

22 June 2017

THE CHIEF Executive of Kensington and Chelsea council has quit in wake of criticism over the authority’s response to the Grenfell Tower fire.

Residents have spoken of their anger at the initial relief effort in the wake of the tragedy and the council’s failure to provide information about how they would be rehomed. The council’s chief executive Nicholas Holgate has revealed he has resigned after being asked to step down by local government secretary Sajid Javid had asked him to resign. 

Mr 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. 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.

“Success in our efforts requires leadership across London that sustains the confidence and support of central Government. There is a huge amount still to do for the victims of the fire, requiring the full attention of this Council and many others. If I stayed in post, my presence would be a distraction. 

“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.”

Council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown released a statement saying he had “reluctantly” accepted Mr Holgate’s resignation. He said:” It is with great regret that I have today accepted Nicholas Holgate’s resignation. 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.”

The government has refused to comment on if Mr Holgate had been asked to resign but did reveal that the government has secured the first tranche of permanent new homes to rehouse local residents affected by the fire at Grenfell Tower.

The 68 flats are all newly built social housing and form part of the Kensington Row development in Kensington and Chelsea. Work is ongoing to identify the needs of those affected who have lost their homes and match them to suitable housing. The expectation is that these new properties will be offered as one of the options to permanently rehouse residents from Grenfell Tower.

The increase to local social housing is a significant step towards meeting the government’s commitment that every family from Grenfell Tower will be rehoused in the local area.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The residents of Grenfell Tower have been through some of the most harrowing and traumatic experiences imaginable and it is our duty to support them.

“Our priority is to get everyone who has lost their home permanently rehoused locally as soon as possible, so that they can begin to rebuild their lives.

“The government will continue to do everything we can as fast as we can to support those affected by this terrible tragedy.”