New LFB commissioner appointed
ANDY ROE has been appointed commissioner of London Fire Brigade (LFB) after Dany Cotton resigned her post earlier than expected ‘after stinging criticism’.
The Guardian reported on the appointment of Mr Roe, a former army officer with 17 years of firefighting experience who was the most senior incident commander at Grenfell Tower. Mr Roe revoked the tower’s stay put policy ‘as soon as he took control’ on the evening of 17 June 2017, with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan stating that Mr Roe would be responsible for ‘transformation of the brigade […] as swiftly as possible’.
Mr Khan added that the Grenfell inquiry’s first phase report ‘made it clear there were institutional failures that meant, while firefighters performed with great courage and bravery, the overall response to the disaster was not good enough and there are significant lessons for London Fire Brigade’. Mr Roe was made assistant commissioner in January 2017, and also gave testimony to the Grenfell inquiry about his role on the night.
He stated that on travelling to the site, he thought his focus would be on saving residents ‘rather than trying to put the fire out’, but on arrival and taking command knew stay put was ‘absolutely unsustainable’, revoking it at the same time that call handlers ‘were asking for it to be changed’.
He said of his appointment: ‘It is an enormous privilege to be offered this opportunity to lead London fire brigade into a new decade. We have some real challenges ahead but I’ll be working tirelessly with the brigade, the mayor and London’s communities to ensure we deliver on the recommendations of the Grenfell Tower inquiry report.’
The Guardian also discussed Ms Cotton’s resignation last week ‘after a delegation of bereaved families’ called on Mr Khan to remove her, based on ‘stinging criticism’ of LFB’s planning and response to Grenfell. Her resignation was welcomed by the bereaved and survivors of the fire, but Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack claimed she was – among others – being ‘scapegoated’, and that the decision ‘had caused shock and anger among the rank and file’.
Ms Cotton will step down at the end of the year instead of in June, despite having stated at the inquiry that ‘she wanted to see out reforms’, but the meeting between Mr Khan and a group of bereaved families a few weeks ago had ‘restated’ their demands for her resignation. It was after this meeting, The Guardian stated, that Mr Khan’s view was said to have changed, and after having ‘fully digested’ the first phase report’s criticisms of LFB leadership.
Shahrokh Aghlani, whose mother and aunt died in the fire, said that ‘we asked him to do the right thing. She should have gone long ago. It was disrespectful to our loved ones who died. It is a step in the right direction towards restoring our faith in the system’. In turn, Nabil Choucair, who lost six family members in the fire, commented that ‘the inquiry said she failed so it was disappointing we had to request this. Feelings are not being considered. There is no respect’.
Bereaved and survivors campaign group Grenfell United responded: ‘This change in leadership is needed to keep Londoners safe. Sir Martin Moore-Bick raised serious concerns that the London fire brigade 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 ensure that they move swiftly to ensure those recommendations are implemented. The LFB leadership must be determined in their efforts to ensure the lessons of Grenfell are learnt.’
Ms Cotton said in a statement: ‘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. I feel honoured to have served London and I will do all I can to assist the safe transition of my responsibilities to the new London Fire Commissioner when they are appointed.’
Mr Khan added that ‘I want to thank Dany Cotton for her 32 years of service at the London fire brigade. I believe this decision is the right one’, stating of the new commissioner – before Mr Roe’s appointment – that ‘it’s right that [the new commissioner] 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’.
The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) ‘paid tribute’ to Ms Cotton’s ‘hard work and dedication over the past 32 years’, with chair Roy Wilsher stating: ‘I have worked closely with Dany Cotton for a number of years; more so since she took on the role of commissioner three years ago. Under Dany, London Fire Brigade has engaged closely with NFCC and played a vital role in supporting our work.
‘The last two-and-a half years have been very difficult for everyone involved in the tragic Grenfell Tower Fire and Dany has been under immense personal pressure. I would like to wish Dany the very best in whatever she decides to do in the future. I am also looking forward to establishing a strong working relationship with the new Commissioner and continuing our work once the recruitment process has been finalised and the announcement on her successor made.’