London fire commissioner Dany Cotton resigns amid Grenfell controversy

Ms Cotton quits four months early to enable swift delivery of recommendations from Grenfell Tower inquiry report

Fire chief Dany Cotton says response to another Grenfell like fire would be different

London fire commissioner Dany Cotton is to resign early amid controversy surrounding the Grenfell fire.

Ms Cotton had intended to retire from the fire and rescue service in April 2020, but it has been agreed with City Hall that she will bring that forward to the end of this year as the brigade works to deliver the recommendations of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry report.

The fire chief attracted criticism last year when she told the inquiry she would not have done anything differently on the night of the tragedy in June 2017.

Last month, survivors and relatives of the 72 people who died in the blaze called on her and other senior officers to be prosecuted for the “stay put” advice given to residents on the night of the fire.

Announcing her resignation on Friday morning, Ms Cotton said: ​“I will never forget tragedies like the Clapham Junction rail disaster or the acts of terrorism that we have faced, but Grenfell Tower was without doubt the worst fire we had ever experienced.

“The brigade has and will keep making the changes it can make and continue its fight for all of the other changes that are needed, to prevent such a terrible incident and loss of life from happening again.”

In October, phase one of the Grenfell Inquiry concluded that fewer people may have died in the fire if the London Fire Brigade (LFB) had not stuck so rigidly to its “stay put” policy, and evacuated the block instead.

Inquiry chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick said the brigade had failed to educate its firefighters in the dangers associated with combustible cladding systems and also failed to visit the tower following its refurbishment to ensure the risk assessment was accurate and up-to-date.

The LFB has been defended by Labour politicians who argue that it is unfair to pin the blame on the fire service, while firefighters said they felt “scapegoated” by ministers.

Responding to Ms Cotton’s resignation, campaign group Grenfell United said the change of leadership was “needed to keep Londoners safe”, adding: “Sir Martin Moore-Bick raised serious concerns that the LFB was an institution at risk of not learning the lessons of Grenfell.

“The phase-one report has important recommendations for the LFB. The incoming commissioner must move swiftly to implement those recommendations and be determined in their efforts to ensure the lessons of Grenfell are learnt.”

Grenfell survivors state fire brigade did not do enough to help residents

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan thanked Ms Cotton for her 32 years of service at the LFB, adding: “I believe this decision is the right one. I will be appointing a new fire commissioner shortly and it’s right that they can quickly take on the responsibility to drive forward the changes being made within the brigade, and to deliver on the recommendations made in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry report.

“Dany has worked her way through the ranks as a firefighter over three decades. She was London Fire Brigade’s first woman commissioner, has helped to inspire people from all backgrounds into considering a role in the fire and rescue service and shown leadership on the mental health of her firefighters. I wish her all the best in her retirement.”

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