Mark Whitehead 22 June 2017

K&C chief steps down under pressure from Whitehall

K&C chief steps down under pressure from Whitehall

The chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea council has resigned amid fierce criticism over the borough's response to the Grenfell Tower fire disaster.

Nicholas Holgate said local government secretary Sajid Javid required him to go -- though the Government says appointment of chief executives is ‘entirely a matter for local authorities’.

Mr Holgate said his continued presence would be a ‘distraction’ after last week's tower block fire in North Kensington, in which at least 79 people died.

Local residents condemned the initial relief effort as ‘absolute chaos’ and other boroughs and Government staff were drafted in to coordinate activities.

In a statement Mr Holgate, who has been in post since 2014, said: ‘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.

‘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.’

He said the communities and local government secretary had on Tuesday ‘required the leader of the council to seek my resignation’, but a spokesman from the Department for Communities and Local Government said ‘the appointment of chief executives is entirely the responsibility of the local authority.’

Nicholas Paget-Brown, the leader of the Tory-led council, said it was ‘with regret’ that he had accepted Mr Holgate's resignation.

He said: ‘The council has been grief stricken by the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire and has sought to provide the greatest level of support we can to victims.

‘That is a huge challenge and Nicholas has led from the front in seeking to do this.’

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