London fire chief Dany Cotton resigns after Grenfell criticism

Commissioner brings forward her retirement and will step down on New Year’s Eve

The London fire commissioner in charge of the highly criticised response to the Grenfell Tower fire has resigned after renewed calls from bereaved families and survivors of the disaster for her to quit.

Dany Cotton announced on Friday she would be stepping down on New Year’s Eve, bringing forward her planned retirement in June. In October, after the public inquiry into what happened on the night of the fire found serious failings in the London fire brigade’s (LFB) preparation and response, Cotton refused to resign, saying she wanted to see out reforms.

The inquiry concluded that the LFB’s delay in evacuating the burning building cost lives and Cotton was wrong to suggest that planning for such a cladding fire would be like planning “for a space shuttle to land on the Shard”, given the LFB knew about the risk. The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, also resisted calls for her to go.

A group of bereaved families met Khan at City Hall three weeks ago and restated their demand for her to resign.

“We asked him to do the right thing,” said Shahrokh Aghlani, whose mother, Sakineh Afrasiabi, and aunt, Fatemeh Afrasiabi, were killed in the fire. “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.”

It is understood the mayor changed his view on her position after the meeting and having fully digested the full impact of the public inquiry report’s criticisms of the LFB’s leadership.

“The inquiry said she failed so it was disappointing we had to request this,” said Nabil Choucair, who lost six members of his family in the fire and signed a letter demanding Cotton’s removal. “Feelings are not being considered. There is no respect.”

In a statement, Cotton said: “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.”

Grenfell United, the bereaved families and survivor group, said: “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.”

Cotton, 50, was the LFB’s first female commissioner and served in the capital for 32 years. She told the public inquiry she had suffered mental health problems in the wake of the June 2017 fire, which killed 72 people.

Khan said: “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. 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.”


Robert Booth Social affairs correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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