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Grenfell Tower council’s new leader rejects calls to quit immediately

Elizabeth Campbell faced boos and heckling at a packed public meeting in Kensington Town Hall.

The new leader of the council at the centre of the Grenfell Tower fire has rejected calls to resign, after a meeting heard traumatic accounts of survivors’ experiences since the blaze.

Newly elected Elizabeth Campbell faced boos and heckling at a packed public meeting in Kensington Town Hall, but said she is stepping up to the challenge and pledged to rebuild trust among the community “brick by brick”.

The first full meeting of Kensington and Chelsea Council since the fire five weeks ago saw a public gallery filled with former Grenfell Tower residents and an over-spill room containing at least 150 community members and volunteers.

Outside, a group of demonstrators holding Justice for Grenfell placards were gathered.

Shouts of “shame on you” and yells of “resign” were heard as Ms Campbell addressed those present during a gathering which lasted around four hours.

Newly elected MP for Kensington, Emma Dent Coad, told the meeting she agreed with the demands of a petition, signed by more than 1,500 people, calling for the resignation of the entire elected leadership of the council.

But Ms Campbell said she had appointed a “fresh leadership”, adding: “We will not continue business as usual and we will rebuild trust, as I said, brick by brick.”

Asked after the meeting about calls for her resignation, she told reporters: “I think it’s quite understandable, as I said it comes down to a lack of trust, but I feel I’m stepping up to the challenge rather than stepping down and away from it.”

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People in the public gallery heckled Elizabeth Campbell during last night's meeting (Ben Stevens/PA)

Asked if she had any plans to resign as she stepped away from the camera she replied: “No, not yet”.

The leader said the actions of the council and the Tenant Management Organisation would be investigated, and told the meeting current regeneration plans have been put on hold.

She said she wanted to make sure the community was consulted on any future developments in the borough.

Various councillors described survivors as “dignified” and “eloquent” as they reflected on the impassioned accounts they gave during the meeting.

A woman who said her teenage niece had died in the blaze said her brother and sister-in-law could not speak in public because “their pain is too huge”.

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People protested outside last night's full meeting of Kensington and Chelsea Council (Ben Stevens/PA)

She told councillors: “I think you should be highly embarrassed by the response,” adding that it had been “totally inadequate”.

Another man who said he had been living in a hotel room with one double bed for him, his wife and three children since the tragedy, told how he felt “forgotten about”.

The meeting ended prematurely when a resident who had just finished speaking fell to the ground.

She was helped to her feet by medics and was assisted as she walked from the room, after lying prone on the floor for several minutes. A female companion said that she had collapsed multiple times since the fire.

The next meeting of the council is due to take place more than three months away on October 25.

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