LONDON – Nicholas Holgate, the CEO of Kensington and Chelsea council, has resigned in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire disaster.
In a statement, Holgate said he was asked to step down by Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid. He will make way once a successor is identified.
Council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown said Holgate’s resignation was accepted with “great regret.” He said the local authority is “grief-stricken” by last week’s blaze, which claimed the lives of at least 79 people.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea was responsible for managing Grenfell, the west London residential tower block. It was sidelined in providing relief for bereaved and homeless residents caught up in the catastrophe by a coalition of other local councils and organisations, such as the British Red Cross.
Prime Minister Theresa May apologised for the state’s response to the Grenfell tragedy on Wednesday. “Support on the ground for families in the initial hours was not good enough,” she said. “That was a failure of the state, local and national.”
Here is Holgate’s statement in full:
“Serving the families so desperately affected by the heart-breaking tragedy at Grenfell Tower remains the highest priority of the Council. Despite my wish to have continued, in very challenging circumstances, to lead on the executive responsibilities of the Council, I have decided that it is better to step down from my role, once an appropriate successor has been appointed.
“Success in our efforts requires leadership across London that sustains the confidence and support of central Government. There is a huge amount still to do for the victims of the fire, requiring the full attention of this Council and many others. If I stayed in post, my presence would be a distraction.
“Whilst the public inquiry and other investigations will get to the truth of the causes of this tragedy and the management of its aftermath, I strongly believe that Councillors and officers have always endeavoured to have the interests of our residents at heart and will continue to do so.”
Elsewhere on Thursday morning, Sky News reported that cladding fitted to the west London tower block released toxic hydrogen cyanide gas as it burned. At least three of those injured in the fire were treated with an antidote to the poisoning, Sky said.