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Council chief executive resigns over Grenfell Tower fire tragedy

Nicholas Holgate said his resignation had been sought by the Communities and Local Government Secretary.

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.

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.”

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 has apologised for the failures by local and national government in reacting to the tragedy and will address the Commons on Thursday.

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.

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Some of the Grenfell Tower residents are to be re-homed elsewhere in the borough (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

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

It was 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.

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