Grenfell Tower Council chief quits

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The chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea council has quit after a barrage of criticism for its response to the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy.

Nicholas Holgate said the Communities and Local Government Secretary had “required the leader of the council to seek my resignation” on Tuesday.

The chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea council has quit over response to the Grenfell Tower fire.

The chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea council has quit over response to the Grenfell Tower fire.

He added in a statement that he would have been a “distraction” if he had stayed in his post after the “heart-breaking tragedy”, which left at least 79 feared dead.

Mr Holgate said: “Serving the families so desperately affected by the heart-breaking tragedy at Grenfell Tower remains the highest priority of the council.”

He said there is a “huge amount” still to do for the victims “in very challenging circumstances” and added: “If I stayed in post, my presence would be a distraction.”

He continued: “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.”

Council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown said he accepted the resignation “with great regret” and added that “the council will now need to work in a new way with different partners to take this forward”.

There has been a lot of anger over the official response to the deadly blaze from survivors and victims’ families.

Theresa May will address the Commons on Thursday after previously apologising for the failures by local and national government in reacting to the tragedy.

It came as inquests were opened and adjourned at Westminster Coroner’s Court into the deaths of five victims, with a married couple officially named as among the dead.

Omar Belkadi, 32, died from inhaling fire fumes, while his wife, Farah Hamdan, 31, was killed by smoke inhalation.

They lived on the 20th floor of Grenfell Tower with their daughters Malek, seven, Tazmin, six, and Leena, just six months old.

The two eldest daughters were found in hospital by family members but the fate of their youngest girl remains unknown.

Abufars Ibrahim, 39, died of multiple injuries, while Anthony Disson, 65, and a 52-year-old woman, Khadija Khalloufi, both died from inhalation of fire fumes.

A highly toxic gas released by insulation on the outside of the building is believed to have contributed to a number of deaths.

The boards, fitted during a refurbishment of the tower, could have produced enough deadly hydrogen cyanide to fill every flat, it has been reported.

Richard Hull, professor of chemistry and fire science at the University of Central Lancashire, told Sky News: “The outside wall of the building had 150mm of PIR foam (fitted), and once the fire had spread to that every flat would have its own source of PIR foam, which would have produced enough hydrogen cyanide to kill all the people in that flat.”

Manufacturer Celotex stated that the insulation would have released “toxic gases” if it caught fire.

King’s College Hospital confirmed to Sky News that three of its 12 Grenfell patients were treated with the hydrogen cyanide antidote Cyanokit.

Earlier on Wednesday a funeral for 23-year-old Syrian refugee Mohammad Alhajali, the first victim to be identified, was attended by his family and London mayor Sadiq Khan.

It was also announced that 68 flats around 1.5 miles from Grenfell tower in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea had been purchased by the City of London Corporation in a deal brokered by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).

An independent public advocate to help bereaved families after major disasters was announced in the Queen’s Speech the same day.

The speech confirmed plans for a public inquiry into the tragedy and a new strategy for resilience in major disasters could include a Civil Disaster Reaction Taskforce to help at times of emergency, and an independent advocate will support those affected and help them at inquests.

The Grenfell Tower Response Team said 249 households are in emergency accommodation in hotels and £675,000 has been handed out to families affected by the disaster.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he supported a complete amnesty for any immigrants who were living in the tower illegally at the time of the blaze.

He told LBC radio: “No action must be taken against anybody in Grenfell Tower who comes forward.

“There may be some people who are sub-letting, breaching their tenancy agreement.

“There may be people who have got friends and family visiting, who they are worried about if they report them because they haven’t got immigration status.

“All of those people should feel confident that, if they come forward and speak to the authorities, that no action will be taken.”