POLITICS

Grenfell Tower Fire: Kensington And Chelsea Council Leader 'Offered To Quit'

But Nick Paget Brown's colleagues urged him to stay

20/06/2017 14:28 BST | Updated 20/06/2017 15:04 BST
PA Wire/PA Images

The embattled leader of Tory-run Kensington and Chelsea Council has offered to resign in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, it has been claimed.

Nick Paget Brown asked his fellow Conservative councillors if they still wanted him in post and they agreed unanimously to support him at a meeting on Monday, the London Evening Standard reports.

The Tory council has been heavily criticised for its response to the fire, which claimed at least 79 lives as the blaze ripped through the tower block in west London last week.

The borough has since been sidelined from the relief effort by a Grenfell taskforce run jointly by Southwark Council’s chief executive, central government, the Metropolitan Police and the British Red Cross. 

A No.10 spokeswoman refused on Monday to say if the Prime Minister had ‘full confidence’ in Paget Brown.

Channel4 News
Nick Paget Brown quizzed by Channel 4 News's Jon Snow in front of Grenfell Tower.

The Tory council chief has repeatedly sidestepped his own role, preferring to say his immediate focus is on ensuring an effective relief effort.

But in a new statement issued on Tuesday, he has now revealed that he sought the backing of his colleagues.

“In the circumstances it has of course been appropriate to ensure that as Leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council I continue to have the support of my colleagues.

“They have said overwhelmingly that they back me and are behind my key priority at the moment, which is to work with Government, charities, volunteer and resident groups and the emergency services to re-house and assist all those affected.  This is absolutely rightly the focus of all of our attention and efforts.”

Kensington and Chelsea council refused to deny to HuffPost UK that Paget Brown had offered to step down if he had lost the support of his fellow councillors.

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Messages left at a vigil for the victims of the fire.

“The current priority of the Leader of the Council is focused on working with all agencies to ensure that those people affected by the Grenfell Tower fire are rehoused and get all the support they need,” it said in a statement.

But the council’s Labour opposition is sure to feel bypassed by the resignation offer, as the town hall has so far failed to hold a special meeting to discuss the Grenfell Tower fire.

Paget-Brown defended himself on BBC Radio 4’s The World at One on Monday, saying staff had been on the ground since soon after the fire started.

Asked whether he felt guilty, he replied: “I feel terrible about the whole position we find ourselves in.”

And asked whether he would resign, he said: “That’s not a matter for now.”

The Labour leader on the council, Robert Atkinson, said the leadership had lost all credibility. “They have lost control. They seem mesmerised by the gravity of the situation.”

Atkinson has called on Paget-Brown, his deputy and senior officials to stand down, saying they had “collapsed on the job”. “There must have come a point on Wednesday or Thursday when they realised they were out of their depth,” he said.