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  1. ITV Report

London Fire Brigade 'slow to implement changes' following Grenfell, says watchdog

London Fire Brigade has been slow to implement changes following the Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017, the industry watchdog has said.

London Fire Brigade Credit: PA

A review found that important projects including reviews of staffing arrangements and emergency response using specialist equipment and personnel have either stalled or are behind schedule, according to the examination by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services.

Fire fighters at the scene of a fire at Walthamstow Mall earlier this year Credit: PA

Its report also said the London Fire Brigade goes to a disproportionately high number of false alarms, while some drivers have not received refresher training for 20 years.

The tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017 was one of the biggest challenges London Fire Brigade has ever had to face.

The incident has had a profound effect on how the brigade now performs.

Although our findings are broadly consistent with those of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, it must be emphasised that this was an inspection of the brigade in 2019. We found that, while the brigade has learned lessons from Grenfell, it has been slow to implement the changes needed. This is unfortunately typical of the brigade's approach to organisational change.

– Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services
A London Fire Brigade worker moves air tanks close to the scene of Grenfell Tower Credit: PA

Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack said the report will be "deeply concerning for the Grenfell community and all of London".

Grenfell must be a turning point for UK fire safety - anything less is completely unacceptable.

– Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union

The assessment identified areas of strength within London Fire Brigade, such as being well-resourced with staff and exceeding its own standards on response times.

But the report was particularly scathing of its current effectiveness for protecting the public through fire regulation, how it uses its resources, and said it is "worryingly inadequate" at "getting the right people with the right skills". The watchdog also said senior LFB commanders rarely exercised "operational discretion" to deviate from brigade policy.

The report did not make explicit reference to the brigade's much-condemned stay put policy, when Grenfell residents were told to remain in their flats by firefighters and 999 operators for nearly two hours after the blaze broke out.

Inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick subsequently identified that more lives could have been saved had the policy been abandoned sooner.

This is a disappointing report: there are too many areas where the London Fire Brigade needs to make improvements. Many of its projects are wasteful, projects get started and stalled. The organisation as a whole is slow to learn.

We are absolutely not criticising every firefighter in London - there are lots of people who are very dedicated.

But what it doesn't leave you with is the impression that the organisation is well-run and where value for money is top of their agenda.

– Matt Parr, HM Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services

Dany Cotton, who will retire as London Fire Commissioner at the end of the month, had seen the report before she announced the decision to bring her resignation forward from April 2020, Mr Parr said.

Her replacement, Andy Roe, said:

I recognise that what's been highlighted in the report isn't good enough and, as the new Commissioner I am committed to making the necessary improvements when I take on the position in January.

– Andy Roe, Deputy Commissioner London Fire Brigade