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.
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, 149 buildings in 45 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.
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…