Grenfell Tower council leader to miss memorial service at request of families

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The council leader linked to the Grenfell Tower fire will not attend a memorial service marking the six-month anniversary, following a request from bereaved families.

Elizabeth Campbell, who took over at Kensington and Chelsea Council in the aftermath of the June disaster, said the event wasn't "about me".

A national ceremony is to be held at St Paul's Cathedral in central London on Thursday, broadcast across the country on the BBC.

The west London authority owned the 24-storey block and is accused of ignoring residents' repeated warnings about fire safety prior to the inferno, which killed 71.

St Paul's Cathedral will play host to the memorial service (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)
St Paul's Cathedral will play host to the memorial service (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)

It is understood there will be no official council representation at next week's service, but a minute's silence will be held on the day at Kensington Town Hall.

The move came after some affected families asked that the council did not attend.

Ms Campbell said: "The service isn't about me, it's for the people who lost everything on that terrible night six months ago, and it is in memory of those who tragically lost their lives.

"It is only right that we respect the wishes of those involved."

Elizabeth Campbell has faced open hostility due to the council's link to June's deadly inferno (Victoria Jones/PA)
Elizabeth Campbell has faced open hostility due to the council's link to June's deadly inferno (Victoria Jones/PA)

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Ms Campbell, a Tory councillor, revealed she had been in Bermuda watching the America's Cup yachting races with her husband at the time of the fire.

She broke the trip off to return to Kensington and help with the fallout, during which the council's offices were stormed by protesters furious with its response.

In July, she replaced Nicholas Paget-Brown as leader when he resigned amid fierce criticism, drawing ridicule from leader of the Labour opposition group, Robert Atkinson, who said she represented the "most privileged" ward in the royal borough.

Labour councillor Robert Atkinson was among those to criticise Elizabeth Campbell's appointment as leader (Lauren Hurley/PA)
Labour councillor Robert Atkinson was among those to criticise Elizabeth Campbell's appointment as leader (Lauren Hurley/PA)

"I think the whole thing about identity politics is completely ridiculous," she told the paper, referring to the focus on her wealthy background.

But she added that the hostility was understandable, saying: "Wouldn't you be angry? I remember going to this meeting with this man saying, 'If you lose your glasses, go to Specsavers, lose your pencil, go to WHSmith, but what do you do if you've lost your children?'"

The Grenfell Tower National Memorial Service will be attended by the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.