The chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea Council has accused the government of forcing him to quit over the Grenfell Tower fire.
Nicholas Holgate said local government and communities secretary Sajid Javid ordered the council's Conservative leader Nicholas Paget-Brown to demand his resignation, a claim the Department for Communities and Local Government has denied.
The local authority has faced intense criticism after residents claimed they offered little support following the tragic fire which left 79 people dead or missing, presumed dead.
Holgate said his remaining in post while a public inquiry was ongoing would be a “distraction” although he said the council's staff would be found to have consistently served in the interests of local residents.
In a statement he said that Javid “required the leader of the council to seek my resignation”.
“Despite my wish to have continued, in very challenging circumstances, to lead on the executive responsibilities of the council, I have decided that it is better to step down from my role, once an appropriate successor has been appointed,” he said.
“There is a huge amount still to do for the victims of the fire, requiring the full attention of this council and many others. If I stayed in post, my presence would be a distraction."
He added: "Whilst the public inquiry and other investigations will get to the truth of the causes of this tragedy and the management of its aftermath, I strongly believe that councillors and officers have always endeavoured to have the interests of our residents at heart and will continue to do so."
A spokesperson at the Department for Communities and Local Government said however: “The appointment of Chief Executives is entirely the responsibility of the local authority.”
Paget-Brown it was with great regret that he had accepted Holgate’s resignation.
“Like everyone else, the Council has been grief stricken by the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire and has sought to provide the greatest level of support we can to victims,” he said. “That is a huge challenge and Nicholas has led from the front in seeking to do this. However, the council will now need to work in a new way with different partners to take this forward.”
The claim comes as the prime minister Theresa May chaired the fifth meeting of the Grenfell Recovery Taskforce, which has been formed in Whitehall to better coordinate the response to the tragedy.
It was confirmed that the Department for Work and Pensions had provided £5,000 grants from a £5m discretionary fund to the vast majority of households directly affected by the fire and the total amount paid from the fund is now over £488,000.
Work is ongoing to re-house all residents who have had to leave their home and 68 permanent social housing units have been made available along with more than 160 temporary units. Housing is being made available in the Kensington Row apartment complex, with homes acquired by the Corporation of London.
In a parliamentary statement today, May said that tests on cladding on some other high rise flats had found some were “combustible” in the same way as the fire at Grenfell Tower.
Blocks across the UK are being examined after the blaze at Grenfell Tower. Approximately 600 high rise buildings in England have similar cladding to Grenfell Tower and May said all local authorities responsible for the tested flats had been informed.