The new leader of Kensington & Chelsea Borough Council has said she is “truly sorry’ for its failings over the Grenfell Tower fire.
Elizabeth Campbell was elected on Monday night to replace Nicholas Paget-Brown, who resigned on Friday after weeks of criticism over the council’s failure to prevent the fire, which has killed at least 80 people, and its poor response in the aftermath.
The council is now facing calls from Labour it be taken over by central government commissioners as it struggles to deal with the disaster.
It is also reeling from a PR disaster where a councillor described the fact some survivors of the fire were being charged rent for homes they have lost as a “tiny thing”.
Three days after Paget-Brown said he was resigning over “perceived failings”, Campbell used her first statement as mayor to say: “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.”
Speaking to the media outside the council offices, she continued: “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, 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.”
Paget-Brown’s resignation reportedly came after he was told central Government no longer had confidence in him as leader.
It came after he sought to hold a cabinet meeting about Grenfell behind closed doors, then abandoned the meeting when journalists won the right to attend.
“I have to accept my share of responsibility for these perceived failings,” Paget-Brown said in a statement late on Friday afternoon.
“The scale of this 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.
“We have been very lucky to have the support of other London boroughs, the emergency services and the community associations based in North Kensington and I am very grateful to all of them.
“This council has also been criticised for failing to answer all the questions that people have. That is properly a matter for the public enquiry.”
He then walked away, ignoring questions on whether Downing Street pressured him into resigning.