Britain’s Javid welcomes resignation of borough leader after fatal fire

FILE PHOTO: Damage to Grenfell Tower is seen following the fire, in north Kensington, London

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s communities minister welcomed the resignation of the council leader in the London borough where a fire killed at least 80 people, saying on Monday he would work with the local leader’s replacement.

Nicholas Paget-Brown, the leader of Kensington and Chelsea council, resigned last week after he was criticized for the council’s response to the Grenfell Tower fire, which spread rapidly through a social housing tower block in the middle of the night.

“It is … vital that we put in place long-term support for the longer-term recovery. It was right that the leader of the royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea took the decision to move on,” Communities Minister Sajid Javid told parliament.

“I look forward to working with the new leader of the council, and I will look at every option to ensure that everyone affected by this tragedy has the long-term support they need.”

Fire tests are being carried out at high-rise buildings similar to Grenfell Tower. Cladding from 181 blocks so far having failed safety tests .

The large number of buildings that have failed tests was “obviously disturbing,” Javid said, adding that there had been a 100 percent failure rate among samples tested.

“We ourselves have asked questions about the testing regime after discovering the 100 percent failure rate so far. Last week, I asked for the testing regime to be independently assessed,” Javid said. “This was carried out by the Research Institutes of Sweden, and they have confirmed they believe the process to be sound.”

The results of the tests meant the cladding – put on tower blocks for aesthetic and insulation purposes – probably violated fire-safety regulations, Javid said.

“Every failed test means the panels are unlikely to be compliant with the limited combustibility requirement of the building regulations guidance,” he said.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout and William James, editing by Larry King)