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3 Officials Resign Amid Outcry Over Grenfell Tower Fire

Mr. Paget-Brown’s effort to block the reporters drew a rebuke from Prime Minister Theresa May, who had already seized control of the emergency response from the council, which was faulted for a lackluster handling of the tragedy. “The High Court ruled that the meeting should be open, and we would have expected the council to respect that,” her office said in a statement on Friday.

In a statement, Mr. Paget-Brown said he only tried to block the journalists because he had received advice from lawyers not to discuss the fire in public. “As council leader I have to accept my share of responsibility for these perceived failings,” he said, adding that “it cannot be right that this should have become the focus of attention when so many are dead or still unaccounted for.”

Mr. Paget-Brown indicated that he would remain a councilor — a position to which he was first elected in 1986 — but would step aside as leader. Mr. Feilding-Mellen, who was first elected in 2006, also said he would remain on the council, though he resigned as deputy leader.

Kensington and Chelsea is one of London’s wealthiest boroughs, but it also contains large sections of housing built for people of modest means. Many residents have for years accused the council of allowing penny-pinching to override fire safety when the building undertook the renovation, which was completed last year.

The government is racing to test cladding on high-rise buildings across the country. As of Friday, 160 buildings in 47 areas had failed fire-safety tests, officials said.

The Times of London, citing leaked emails and meeting minutes, reported on Friday that Artelia UK, the project management consultants overseeing the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, had come under pressure to reduce costs.

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One email from the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organization to Artelia discussed several options for slashing cladding costs and suggested that using cheaper aluminum composite panels, rather than panels made of zinc, could yield a “saving of £293,368,” about $ 380,000.

The BBC, which also cited documents it had obtained, reported that the money saved by using aluminum “cladding in lieu of zinc cladding” was part of a broader package of savings that brought down the total cost of the project to about £8.5 million from about £9.2 million.

Brian Meacham, an associate professor of fire engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, said that in general, the more expensive zinc cladding may have been less combustible because it has a less flammable insulation — some of it made of mineral wool fiber — than the aluminum composite cladding.

Grenfell Tower, which opened in 1974, is owned by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea but is managed by the quasi-public management organization. Mr. Black said that he wished to focus on “assisting with the investigation and inquiry.”

On Thursday evening, after Mr. Paget-Brown was forced to relent from his opposition to admitting journalists, he prematurely ended the meeting after 20 minutes — earning him swift criticism from Mayor Sadiq Khan of London and from Sajid Javid, the secretary for communities and local government, who called for greater transparency.

The council’s top Labour leader, Robert Atkinson, called the way the meeting was handled “an absolute fiasco” and urged Mr. Paget-Brown to resign, according to a video of the proceedings published in the British news media. He also suggested that the Conservatives, a majority on the council, were trying to obfuscate the reality of what had happened at the tower block.

This week, the government appointed Martin Moore-Bick, a retired appellate judge with a background in commercial law, to lead the public inquiry into the disaster. Mrs. May told members of Parliament that the investigation would “leave no stone unturned.”

Source: NYT > World

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