The leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council will not attend a Grenfell memorial service marking the six-month anniversary of the devastating blaze, 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 on Thursday wasn’t “about me”.
A national ceremony will be held at St Paul’s Cathedral in central London on Thursday, broadcast across the country on the BBC.
The council has been heavily criticised for its response to the fire at the 24-storey block on the Lancaster West Estate on June 14.
The local authority is also accused of ignoring residents’ repeated warnings about fire safety prior to the inferno, which killed 71 people.
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.
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.”
Speaking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme on Monday, Campbell added that the wishes of the families were “perfectly understandable”.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, the 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.
“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.
Shahin Sadafi, chair of Grenfell United, said Thursday would be a “special day for our community”.
She added: “We are coming together to remember the loved ones we lost in the fire, to unite as a community and to start to build hope for the future.”
Jacqui Haynes, chair of Lancaster West Residents’ Association, said: “The fire left 71 dead, including 18 children, and daily we continue to see the impact and damage that fire did. We will stand together in memory and support of victims and families.
“We hope that this memorial is fitting and dignified. The people in Grenfell Tower were forgotten about and ignored before the fire and this is a chance for people across the country to unite and stand with us.
“Life in the shadow of the Tower is a daily struggle to repair our fractured community, lest we forget what happened that night.”