The government should consider taking direct control of Kensington and Chelsea council to deal with the “chaos” that has engulfed the handling of its response to the Grenfell Tower fire, Labour has said.
Nicholas Paget-Brown, the Conservative leader of the council, is under pressure to quit after he shut down its first cabinet meeting since the fire after he was forced to allow journalists to watch proceedings.
As a sign of how the Kensington and Chelsea has required external help to cope with the tragedy that cost the lives of at least 80 people, HuffPost understands around 130 staff from neighbouring Brent council have been sent to help with the relief effort in the borough.
The Brent officials have been providing cross council support and include social workers, administration and emergency planning staff.
Andrew Gwynne MP, Labour’s shadow communities secretary said this afternoon: “It is completely unacceptable that Kensington and Chelsea would rather cancel their meeting than obey court ruling to provide for a basic level of transparency.
“I welcome that [communities secretary] Sajid Javid has supported Labour’s call in urging for the democratic process to be open and transparent - but the response from the Government falls short of actually doing anything to address the utter chaos in the way this tragedy has been handled.
He added: “Sajid Javid needs to immediately ensure that all residents who are now homeless or in temporary accommodation are getting the support they need, and undertake an immediate review into the adequacy of corporate governance with a view to sending in commissioners to take control of the council if necessary.”
Support to the residents affected by the fire is being coordinated by the Grenfell Fire Response Team, which includes London-wide local and regional government, central government, British Red Cross, Metropolitan Police, London Fire Brigade and many different local and national voluntary groups.
It was revealed today that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was changed during its refurbishment to a cheaper version in order to save money.
At Thursday night’s meeting, which was cut short, Labour councillor Robert Atkinson, whose ward includes Grenfell Tower, laid into the authority’s leader, yelling: “An absolute fiasco, this is why I am calling for your resignation.”
“Our reputation is absolutely in the gutter,” another councillor in the room said.
Downing Street today issued a rebuke to Paget-Brown for suspending the meeting. A Number 10 spokeswoman said that Theresa May’s believed council should have “respected” a High Court ruling that the press and public should be allowed in.
Asked whether the PM retained confidence in the political leadership of the Conservative-run council, the spokeswoman said: “We are working very closely with Kensington and Chelsea throughout the ongoing recovery process. The view I’ve given you about the meeting is the Prime Minister’s view on that issue.”
Also today, Robert Black the chief executive of the Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation has stepped aside following the blaze.