NEWS
03/07/2017 22:10 BST | Updated 04/07/2017 04:21 BST

Choosing Ex-Cabinet Member To Lead Grenfell Council 'Completely Unacceptable'

The selection of a former council cabinet member to lead the local authority at the centre of the Grenfell Tower fire is "completely unacceptable", a survivors' group campaigner has said.

Kensington Conservatives have nominated Elizabeth Campbell to take over from Nicholas Paget-Brown, who resigned on Friday, and lead the embattled Kensington and Chelsea Council.

Mr Paget-Brown stepped down amid fierce criticism of the council's response to the Grenfell tragedy, in which at least 80 people died nearly three weeks ago.

In her first public statement, Mrs Campbell said she was "truly sorry" and pledged to "heal the wounds" in the community.

But Sue Caro, a co-ordinator of the Justice 4 Grenfell group that represents survivors, said she had no confidence in the leadership of the council and called for it to be dissolved.

She told the Press Association: "I know that she has a track record that's not considered to be particularly good.

"I know that she was a cabinet member already - it's completely unacceptable. It's like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

"They have shown they are not fit to run a council or deliver the services that are needed and I don't really think it matters who is the leader."

Mrs Campbell, who stepped down as cabinet member for family and children's services in May, told reporters after the meeting: "The first thing I want to do is I want to apologise. This is our community and we have failed it when people needed us the most.

"So, no buts, no ifs, no excuses - I am truly sorry."

She continued: "As new leader, I will appoint a new cabinet tomorrow and things are going to change.

"The first thing I'm going to do is to reach out to our community so we can begin to heal the wounds, and the second thing I am going to do is to phone up Sajid Javid, as Secretary of State (for Communities and Local Government), and ask for more help.

"I don't know at this stage what that help will be like, what the plan will be, but I know that the thing we need is a plan for the community in North Kensington and that is what I'm going to do."

Mrs Campbell must be formally elected by a meeting of the full council and a spokesman for the authority said the next scheduled meeting was on July 19, although an emergency one could be called earlier.

One Tory councillor, who did not want to be named, said her election was a "formality" and Mrs Campbell was now leader of the council "in practice".

She was elected to the council in 2001 and has represented the Royal Hospital ward since 2006, according to the Kensington, Chelsea and Fulham Conservative Association website.

The married mother of four served as the council's cabinet member for family and children's services for four years and was previously cabinet member for education and libraries.

Robert Atkinson, who leads the Labour opposition group, said the Government will need to send in specially appointed commissioners.

He said: "I will give her a couple of days. 

"I have questions for her, particularly around what her housing policy is going to be.

"We will see if she's able to engage and try and win the confidence of the people of North Kensington - that's going to be a tall order.

"If she can't do it, I'm sure the Government will move in commissioners.

"I think that the situation is bad enough, she's got to get a grip and she's got to get a grip quickly."

Mr Atkinson said Mrs Campbell had recently taken a leave of absence and had returned to take what he called "the poison chalice".

He said she had no expertise in housing or regeneration and represented the "most privileged" ward in the Royal Borough.

But he added: "She's not one of the un-empathetic males that have made such a mess of it, she does have a bit more human understanding."