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Grenfell Tower: RBKC Leader Halts First Cabinet Session after 80 Die in Tragic Blaze

A demonstrator holds a banner at Kensington Town Hall, following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth - RTS17D6L
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Private: Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea notice barring the public from its cabinet session

Amidst chaotic scenes in the council chambers the leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea aborted his cabinet’s first full session after the Grenfell Tower disaster that claimed 80 lives citing the presence of journalists may prejudice a judge-led public inquiry.

Council leader and chairman of the meeting designated earlier as ‘private’, Nicholas Paget-Brown had triggered a special clause excluding members of the public at the gathering citing “security and public safety concerns.” Though the sole agenda for the meeting was listed as “Grenfell Tower Fire (oral item, no written report)”, the meeting was scheduled to be held behind closed doors without the representatives or survivors of the blaze.

Demonstrators crowd outside Kensington Town Hall, during a protest following the fire that destroyed The Grenfell Tower block, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville - RTS17DZX

March for justice: Demonstrators storm Kensington Town Hall on Hornton Street, during a protest following the fire that destroyed Grenfell Tower in north Kensington, west London

The notice posted on the council website stated: “Please note this meeting will be held entirely in private session, pursuant to standing order 31.01, in the light of the risk of disruption (as witnessed on Friday 16 June) and consequent security and public safety concerns.”

Journalists were eventually allowed in after a judge ruled the press could not be barred from covering the meeting. However their admittance subsequently brought proceedings to a halt with Paget-Brown saying they could no longer continue their discussion in light of media coverage that may predjudice the public inquiry.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan answering questions during a State of London debate said the decision of K&C to exclude residents and the press “beggars belief”. Commenting on the decision to shut residents out of the cabinet meeting a spokesperson for the Radical Housing Network, an umbrella group for London’s residents’ housing organisations said: “Grenfell residents’ concerns were consistently ignored before the disaster, and nothing has changed.

“Residents could easily be permitted into what is usually a public meeting; the so-called threat of disruption is a flimsy excuse to defend the council’s usual strategy of pulling up the drawbridge and treating those they represent with contempt.

The burnt out shell of the Grenfell apartment tower block is seen in North Kensington, London, Britain, June 17, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Inferno: The burnt-out shell of Grenfell Tower block is seen in north Kensington

“The community deserves better. It’s disgraceful that Conservative council leader Paget-Brown, his housing chief Feilding Mellen and their team still cling to power after presiding over the most horrific civil disaster in modern London and a woeful first response that has forced other councils and the voluntary sector to step in. It’s the politicians who have run down our housing who should be kicked out, not local people.”

Kensington Town Hall on Hornton Street was besieged by protesters in the aftermath of the fire on 14 June demanding answers from council officials and seeking justice for the deceased residents and survivors of the disaster. The council’s chief executive Nicholas Holgate has since resigned after widespread condemnation of its handling of the first response and disaster relief operations. There have been strident calls for the council leader to follow suit.

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