Former London Fire Brigade boss admits failings over previous deadly fire

Tap above to watch video report by Rags Martel

Training issued to firefighters and senior officers in the wake of the Lakanal House fire was not properly evaluated, the Grenfell inquiry has heard.

Former London Fire Brigade Commissioner Dany Cotton told the inquiry the evaluation of training was a “gap” in the service and she was not sure if they “ever go back and fully review how well training has been embedded”.

The 2009 fire at Lakanal House in Camberwell, London, resulted in six deaths and at least 20 injuries.

The scene in Camberwell, south London, after a fire ripped through a tower block

The first report from the Grenfell Inquiry being conducted by retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick found that lessons from the Lakanal House fire had not been learned by the time of the Grenfell disaster eight years later.

On Tuesday, counsel to the inquiry Richard Millett QC asked Ms Cotton whether training packages put in place after the Lakanal House fire had ever been evaluated.

She replied: “To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think it was and with the benefit of hindsight and reviewing some of this training, I think that is an area where there have been deficiencies in the London Fire Brigade throughout a number of training interventions.

“I’m not sure that… the London Fire Brigade ever go back and fully review how well training has been embedded and how it’s embedded ongoing.

“I think that’s a gap.”

From 2012 until 2016, Ms Cotton carried out the role of Assistant Chief Officer at the LFB.

Mr Millett continued: “Do you know – you’ve given us the benefit of your evidence and your view about it being a gap – whether before you left the LFB that had been identified as a gap?”

In response, Ms Cotton said: “I don’t believe so. It wasn’t something I had considered or anyone else.

“I think that what happens is that a piece of training takes place, there are reviews that the training is taking place because that’s registered on the step process, you can see the percentage of staff that have undertaking it, and then I don’t think that anything then goes back to see how well that’s been embedded.

“Invariably, with a large organisation like London Fire Brigade, something else comes along and I know that whilst we were developing this, we had another fire that resulted in some very serious injuries to firefighters that then became the focus of developing another training package.

“So I think part of the problem is the continual development of new training in response to either national policy, a national event or something like this.

“I think as a result of that, the completing of that circle to discover whether or not something’s been fully embedded isn’t something that happened.”

Questioned on whether evaluating training was essential given the significance of the Lakanal House fire, Ms Cotton said: “Yes.”

“And was that not at the heart of your department’s function,” Mr Millett asked.

Ms Cotton said: “I don’t think that (evaluating training) was ever fully considered by anybody, including myself, and I think it should have been.

“But it would have been the responsibility of a number of us, not least the large number of highly experienced operational officers that took part of the (Operational Directorates Co-ordination Board) which is I think is where it should have sat.

“And I think that was something that we failed to do.”

“For your part, as (Assistant Chief Officer), do you accept responsibility for your part in that gap?”

“Yes, I do,” Ms Cotton said.