Borough chief steps down after silencing a public meeting
DISGRACED Kensington and Chelsea Council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown quit yesterday amid growing criticism of his poor handling of the Grenfell Tower fire.
The council chief announced his resignation following widespread condemnation of his decision to draw a public meeting on Thursday night to an abrupt halt.
Mr Paget-Brown had quickly terminated the meeting of senior councillors after giving a brief statement claiming that the presence of journalists would “prejudice” the forthcoming inquiry into the blaze.
However Mark Stephens, a senior partner with law firm Howard Kennedy, branded Mr Paget-Brown’s claims “nonsense.”
He said: “Only a moron in a hurry would conclude that a judge-led inquiry could be prejudiced by scrutiny of local councillors in a public meeting.
“I think emotions are running high, and part of that reason is because of the sub-optimal way in which the authority has responded to the crisis.”
The council had initially called for the meeting to be held in private over concerns of “disruption” but was forced to allow journalists to attend by a last-minute High Court order.
The abrupt close was met with anger by reporters and councillors, including Robert Atkinson who laid into the leader, yelling: “An absolute fiasco, this is why I am calling for your resignation.”
Kensington and Chelsea Council has faced heavy criticism for its part in the events leading up to and following the blaze, in which at least 80 people were killed and scores are still “missing.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said it “beggars belief” that journalists and the public would be shut out of this meeting despite a court order, and warned that residents have “no confidence in the local council” and “feel let down” by central government.
A Radical Housing Network spokesperson said: “Grenfell residents’ concerns were consistently ignored before the disaster, and nothing has changed.
“The so-called threat of disruption is a flimsy excuse to defend the council’s usual strategy of pulling up the drawbridge and treating those they represent with contempt.”
Shadow communities and local government secretary Andrew Gwynne said: “It is completely unacceptable that Kensington and Chelsea would rather cancel their meeting than obey a court ruling to provide for a basic level of transparency.”
Even Downing Street added to the growing criticism of the controversial decision by the council.
A No 10 spokeswoman said that Prime Minister Theresa May’s view was that the council should have “respected” a High Court ruling that the press and public should be allowed into the meeting.