The former leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council who stepped down over criticism of his handling of the Grenfell Tower fire is quitting as a local councillor.
Nick Paget-Brown, who was first elected to the Royal borough in 1986 and serves in the Brompton and Hans Town ward, said his continued presence on the council “would stand as a distraction”.
Cllr Robert Atkinson, who as leader of the Kensington and Chelsea Labour group would regularly clashed with Cllr Paget-Brown, said: “He’s a decent man in the wrong place, in the wrong job, at the wrong time.”
Cllr Paget-Brown stepped down days after Downing Street criticised him for cutting short the first full Cabinet meeting after the fire because of the presence of the media .
He said he accepted responsibility for the local authority’s “perceived failings”, in a move broadly welcomed by members of the community as well as government figures.
Acknowledging the need for a new team, under his successor Elizabeth Campbell , to rise to challenges posed by Grenfell, he said on Thursday (October 19): “I have greatly enjoyed my years on the council representing the residents of Brompton and Hans Town and most recently serving as leader of the council.
“However, my continuation as a councillor is likely to serve as a distraction as the council lobbies the government to address these issues and I have therefore decided not to stand again as a candidate at next year’s elections.”
Mr Paget-Brown said the new team would need to address the “unparalleled pressures” on housing facing London boroughs.
He said this had been laid bare by the difficulty the council has experienced in finding replacement homes for those caught up in the fire.
But he denied that a policy of social cleansing had been in place in recent years, saying regeneration efforts were intended “to increase the densities to the same levels that prevail in the most sought-after parts of the borough where mansion blocks are commonplace”.
Cllr Atkinson said he was not surprised by his opponent’s decision, and added: “I expect he will be the first of many.
“He has made a contribution to the council in the past but under the circumstances he didn’t have anything to contribute to its future.
“I wish him well.”
The council was met with fierce criticism in the days after the fire, with a specialist taskforce sent in by central government to assist with the recovery effort.
Neither Cllr Paget-Brown, or his deputy Rock Feilding-Mellon, who also stepped down following the fire, have attended either of the two full council meetings since the Grenfell fire.
Next year’s local elections will take place in May.
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Available to download from the App Store or Google Play for Android now. Grenfell Tower fire: Government to send in taskforce to take over parts of Kensington and Chelsea Council