Two Shelter board members quit after Grenfell Tower fire

The lower floors of Grenfell Tower.
The lower floors of Grenfell Tower. Two Shelter board members have stepped down in the wake of the fire. Photograph: Niklas Halle'N/AFP/Getty Images

Two board members of the housing charity Shelter, including its chairman Sir Derek Myers, have resigned amid reports of internal disquiet over the organisation’s allegedly muted response to the Grenfell Tower fire.

Myers is a former chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea council, which owns Grenfell Tower, while trustee Tony Rice is chairman of Xerxes Equity, the sole shareholder in Omnis Exteriors – the company that sold the cladding used in the tower.

On Friday afternoon, Shelter confirmed the pair had resigned from the board but offered no reasons for their departure.

A statement from Shelter’s interim chief executive, Graeme Brown, said: “Tony Rice has resigned as a trustee of Shelter and the chair of the board of trustees, Sir Derek Myers, has also resigned. The role of trustee is entirely voluntary and unpaid, and we wish them the best for the future.”

Asked subsequently to explain the joint resignations, a Shelter spokesperson said: “The trustees decided to step away from their roles in the interests of the charity. They would not want there to be any unnecessary distraction from the work we are doing to help people affected by the Grenfell fire.”

The Guardian has seen an internal staff email from Shelter union representatives sent earlier this week. It notes that although Shelter’s frontline services had been quick to provide practical help to those affected by the fire, many staff had expressed discontent that the charity “had been slow to speak publicly about the event”.

The email said the reps had raised staff and public concerns over possible reasons for Shelter’s apparent silence to management at a routine meeting this week.

A Shelter spokesperson said it had made several media statements over the past few days concerning the Grenfell fire and the needs of former residents of the tower who needed rehousing. Its website has a four-paragraph press release made on 16 June, two days after the blaze, calling for a full investigation of the fire.

Shelter added that it continued to provide free expert advice to anyone in the country who needed help with bad housing or homelessness, including Grenfell Tower residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed by the fire.

A spokesperson said: “We are working with partners to provide free advice clinics to those affected and our London advice line has been extended to seven days a week. We are also speaking to the relevant authorities to offer any other support that may be needed.”

Myers is a qualified social worker and respected former local government manager who jointly ran Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham councils between 2011 and 2013. Until recently he led the government intervention team running Rotherham council in the wake of the child abuse scandal.

Rice was chief executive of telecoms giant Cable and Wireless. Xerxes Equity received a dividend of £950,000 from Omnis last year. Rice is the largest shareholder in Xerxes.

Myers and Rice had both been on the board of Shelter since 2013. Rice was chair of the board’s audit, risk and finance committee. They could not be reached for comment at the time of publication. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing.