NEWS

Grenfell Fire: Government Will Watch Council Closely, Says Sajid Javid

'If we need to take further action, we won’t hesitate to do so.'

01/07/2017 16:08

The Government will keep a “close eye” on Kensington and Chelsea council, Sajid Javid said, as pressure mounts for the troubled authority to be taken over by commissioners.

The communities secretary’s intervention followed resignations by the council leader and deputy leader under intense criticism of how the Grenfell Tower tragedy was handled.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan earlier led calls for commissioners to be drafted in to take over the day-to-day running of affairs in the west London borough.

Javid said: “It is right the council leader stepped down given the initial response to the Grenfell tragedy.

Stefan Wermuth / Reuters
Sajid Javid said the Government will keep a 'close eye' on Kensington and Chelsea Council 

“The process to select his successor will be independent of government, but we will be keeping a close eye on the situation. If we need to take further action, we won’t hesitate to do so.”

Outgoing leader Nicholas Paget-Brown said he had to share responsibility for “perceived failings”, departing alongside deputy Rock Feilding-Mellen.

The council has now been hit by three high-profile resignations in the aftermath of the fire, with chief executive Nicholas Holgate also exiting.

The authority came under fire for its slow response to the disaster, in which at least 80 people are thought to have died.

The Labour Party launched a drive for the council to relinquish its handling of affairs until the crisis was brought under control, with a string of party figures weighing in.

Khan, who welcomed the resignation, said the Government had “no option” but to appoint “untainted” commissioners who had “a genuine empathy for local people and the situation they face” to take over running the authority.

He said: “The council now needs to find a way to move forward and find a way to restore the confidence in that community.

“That can only be done with new leadership and a new approach that reaches out to residents who quite rightly feel desperately neglected.

“I ... feel the response from the council and subsequent breakdown in trust is so severe that there is now no alternative and the Government needs to step in quickly.”

Commissioners were brought in to run Tower Hamlets Council in 2014 after a critical independent report into the council’s award of grants and sale of properties under former mayor Lutfur Rahman.

Shadow housing secretary John Healey said the move would amount to “specific, immediate, obvious and necessary action”, while shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne added the powers should be used to “get a grip on what has gone dreadfully wrong”.

Hannah Mckay / Reuters
The burnt out remains of the Grenfell apartment tower where at least 80 people lost their lives on June 14

Meanwhile, Yvette Williams, one of the organisers of the Justice 4 Grenfell campaign group, said the community would not accept commissioners imposed on them without consultation.

She said Grenfell survivors and victims’ families are “very, very angry” and claimed that one former resident called her on Friday to reveal their rent for the tower block had been deducted from their bank account.

It comes as Jeremy Corbyn said he has written to Prime Minister Theresa May urging her to widen the scope of the public inquiry.

He has asked for a two-part inquiry, the first looking at specific issues around the fire in at the 24-storey building in Kensington, west London, and reporting back soon, with an additional second part “looking at the national issues”.

In his resignation statement, Paget-Brown acknowledged the council had been criticised for “failing to answer all the questions that people have” but that the scale of the tragedy “was always going to mean that one borough alone would never have sufficient resources to respond to all the needs of the survivors and those made homeless, on its own”.

Suggest a correction
Comments

CONVERSATIONS