Latest: Council leader steps down after criticism of his response to Grenfell Tower disaster

Latest: Council leader steps down after criticism of his response to Grenfell Tower disaster

Update 5.31pm: Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown has said he is stepping down following criticism of the response to the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Nicholas Paget-Brown said he had to accept responsibility for "perceived failings" by Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council after the tragedy which claimed at least 80 lives.

"I have therefore decided to step down as leader of the council as soon as a successor is in place," he said.

Earlier:

Cladding used during a multi-million-euro refurbishment of Grenfell Tower was switched to a cheaper version to save £300,000 in a £8.6m refurbishment scheme, it has been reported

Both The Times in England and the BBC said they had seen official documents which stated aluminium panels were preferred to the non-combustible zinc alternative.

The west London tower block, built in 1974, was recently refurbished at a cost of £8.6 million, with work completed in May last year.

The "downgraded" cladding decision resulted in a saving of nearly £300,000, the reports said.

It came as:

:: Under-fire Kensington and Chelsea council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown apologised for the authority’s response to the tragedy, in which at least 80 people died, before Thursday evening’s meeting was abruptly brought to a close.

:: The Red Cross said £3.2 million has been raised following the fire and said there were enough "excess donations" to cover three football pitches, which will be distributed to charity shops across the country.

Latest: Council leader steps down after criticism of his response to Grenfell Tower disaster

:: Lord Porter of Spalding, the chairman of the Local Government Association, said the Government needed to canvas the opinion of a greater number of experts amid allegations its safety testing is flawed.

:: Anh Nhu Nguyen, 52, was due before magistrates charged with five counts of fraud over allegations he falsely claimed to have lost family members in the fire.

:: Latest figures from NHS England show that four people remain in hospital, of which one is in critical care.

The Times has claimed to have seen emails which it said suggest cladding at the 24-storey building was downgraded to save money.

Paperwork showed the consultants for the refurbishment of the tower block were placed under pressure to keep costs low, the paper said.

The BBC also said another key reason for the switch was to save money.

Meanwhile, the retired Court of Appeal judge appointed to head the inquiry immediately downplayed the scope of the investigation.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick suggested the focus of his investigation would likely be limited to the cause of the fire, why it spread and how it could be prevented in future - despite residents’ clamour for culpability and accountability.

Latest: Council leader steps down after criticism of his response to Grenfell Tower disaster

Tensions were further heightened at Thursday night’s council cabinet meeting, which was aborted by Mr Paget-Brown - amid a cacophony of dissent - following "legal advice" the presence of journalists would "prejudice" the inquiry.

As part of his update before the meeting was stopped, Mr Paget-Brown said: "I realise the council has come in for much criticism for its response. I will acknowledge this and apologise for what we could have done better."

Labour councillor Robert Atkinson, whose ward includes Grenfell Tower, laid into the authority’s leader, yelling: "An absolute fiasco, this is why I am calling for your resignation."

Mr Paget-Brown had earlier dismissed the pressure on him to stand down.

Every cladding panel tested in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy has failed, but Lord Porter criticised the way the examinations were being carried out.

The Tory peer told the BBC Radio Today programme: "I think we can’t be certain that what we know now is any better than what we knew two weeks ago.

"The Government needs to listen to a wider set of opinions and not just the experts they have got.

"The experts, they may well be right, but we can’t have confidence in that because every single one has failed across the whole country.

"The tests are not testing the fire safety of the panels, they are testing what the core of the panel is made from. That’s not what the test needs to be."

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