Grenfell Tower fire: Downing Street criticises council over aborted meeting

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Media caption Council tries to ban press and public from meeting

Downing Street has rebuked Kensington and Chelsea Council over its decision to adjourn its first cabinet meeting since the Grenfell Tower fire.

The cabinet had tried to hold Thursday's meeting behind closed doors but was forced by a court order to hold it in public.

A spokesman said Number 10 expected the council to "respect" the court ruling.

Separately, the chief executive of the organisation which manages Grenfell Tower has agreed to "step aside".

Kensington and Chelsea Council leaders abruptly ended their meeting after 20 minutes, claiming an open meeting would "prejudice" the forthcoming public inquiry.

On Thursday appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick was appointed to lead the public inquiry into the deaths of at least 80 people.

'Hiding from residents'

Angry protests followed after the abandoned meeting, which Labour councillor Robert Atkinson, whose ward includes Grenfell Tower, branded a "fiasco".

He shouted: "An absolute fiasco, this is why I am calling for your resignation."

Image copyright Twitter

Mr Atkinson, the Labour group leader on Kensington and Chelsea Council, told the BBC he was "ashamed" of the authority.

He accused the leaders of "hiding from residents, they have been hiding from backbench councillors for over a week".

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has demanded the resignation of the entire council leadership.

The Labour mayor said the council's decision to scrap the meeting "beggars belief".

Image caption Nicholas Paget-Brown has publicly apologised to survivors

And Andrew Gwynne MP, Labour's shadow communities and local government secretary, called for "commissioners to take control" of Kensington and Chelsea "if necessary".

While he welcomed the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid's call for the democratic process to be open and transparent in the wake of Thursday night's abandoned meeting, he also called on him to "immediately ensure that all residents who are now homeless or in temporary accommodation are getting the support they need".

Before the meeting, Mr Paget-Brown apologised for the authority's response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, in which at least 80 people died..

The Conservative councillor told BBC London he would not resign in the foreseeable future.

On 22 June, the chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea Council Nicholas Holgate announced he was resigning following pressure from Mr Javid.

A statement from Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) confirmed its chief executive Robert Black had also resigned so he can "concentrate on assisting with the investigation and inquiry".

In a statement released after the cabinet meeting was adjourned, Mr Paget-Brown said: "We are under sustained media criticism for a slow reaction to the fire, non-visibility and for failing to invest in north Kensington.

"I believe that many of these criticisms need to be challenged and over time they will be, but I can think of nothing more demeaning to the memory of those lost and missing in the fire than seeking the resolution of political scores."

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