Council, housing chiefs resign over London Grenfell Tower fire

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Grenfell Tower
The blazing Grenfell Tower in London Kensington

Two leaders of the local council, which own London Grenfell Tower, where at least 80 people died in a huge fire, have resigned.

The head of the housing trust managing the building also stepped down on Friday.

This widens the political fallout from the disaster.

Conservative Nick Paget-Brown, the leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council, resigned after criticism of his response to the fire, most recently by the government earlier on Friday.

“The Grenfell Tower fire has been possibly the worst tragedy London has seen since the end of World War II.

“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.

“Those made homeless on its own,” Paget-Brown said in a statement.

He said that his council had also been criticized for “failing to answer all the questions that people have.”

“As council leader I have to accept my share of responsibility for these perceived failings.”

Rock Feilding-Mellen, Paget-Brown’s deputy and lead councilor for housing and regeneration, also resigned.

The Kensington and Chelsea Tenants’ Management Organisation, which managed the social housing block for the council, said its management board agreed that Robert Black “should step aside from his role as chief executive of KCTMO.

“The resignations became necessary in order that he can concentrate on assisting with the investigation and inquiry.”

The resignations followed reports earlier Friday that contractors renovating Grenfell Tower had switched to a cheaper type of external cladding that was more flammable.

“The switch from an initially planned zinc-covered cladding to a cheaper aluminium type, during work in 2014, saved nearly 300,000 pounds (390,000 dollars),’’ the BBC said, citing leaked documents.

The Times said it had seen similar emails, urging savings during the programme to refurbish the building.

At a brief council meeting on Thursday, Paget-Brown had apologized for the local authority’s response to the fire.

Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday named a former appeal court judge to head an inquiry into the fire.

“I am determined that there will be justice for all the victims of this terrible tragedy and for their families who have suffered so
terribly,” May said.

The Grenfell Action Group said it had warned of fire safety risks at the tower, including the cladding, for several years.

In a blog post in November, it accused KCTMO of allowing “dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation.” (dpa/NAN)


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