Islington housing boss set to take top job at Kensington and Chelsea Council – with hunt now on for a successor

Outgoing housing chief Maxine Holdsworth. Photograph: Islington Council

Islington’s head of housing is set to take over as chief executive at a west London council.

Maxine Holdsworth will be moving to Kensington and Chelsea to replace current boss Barry Quirk.

Dr Quirk was brought in after the Grenfell Tower disaster, which claimed the lives of 72 people including an unborn boy.

He announced in January that he was stepping down from the role after the fifth anniversary of the fire and the end of the Grenfell Inquiry’s public hearings.

The job was advertised with a salary range of £198,642 to £228,177, and the appointment has to be formally agreed by councillors.

Holdsworth was seconded to Kensington and Chelsea when she was Islington’s director of housing needs. Her role, which lasted almost two years, included using the £235m budget for sourcing homes for the survivors of the June 2017 disaster and working with traumatised people as they were rehoused.

She returned to Islington in March 2019 as director of housing, where challenges included repairs, retrofitting homes to make them greener, and an ambitious plan to create 500 new homes. It also involved taking a “tough line” with rogue landlords and helping Islington’s homeless residents when the Everyone In policy during the pandemic saw people housed in hotels to protect them from Covid.

Diarmaid Ward, who was executive member for housing and development, praised her “vast experience and leadership skills”.

Holdsworth joined Islington Council 17 years ago as head of sustainability after starting her career as a homeless persons officer at Brent Council in 1993. Prior to that, she had spells at the Terrence Higgins Trust, the National Consumer Council, and London Advice Service Alliance.

Islington is now recruiting for a new housing chief with a salary between £117,624 to £141,480 on offer – the pay bracket for all of the council’s 10 departmental directors.

In his resignation letter, Dr Quirk spoke of the trauma caused to those affected by Grenfell.

He said: “There is so much more we need to do to support each of them along their personal routes to recovery.”

Holdsworth has remained in touch with people who suffered because of the fire.

When she returned to work in Islington after her secondment, she said: “Working with residents in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire has changed me personally and professionally.”

One of her challenges in west London will be to find permanent homes for the three remaining displaced families still in temporary accommodation.