Exclusive: Reputation of London Fire Brigade undiminished by Grenfell Inquiry report, survey shows

The majority of people across the country do not think the Grenfell Inquiry's criticisms of London Fire Brigade (LFB) were fair, according to an exclusive survey for PRWeek, conducted after the independent public inquiry's 'Phase 1 Report' was published last week.

The public backs London Fire Brigade despite criticism of it in the Grenfell Inquiry published last week (pic credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

More than 2,000 adults across the UK took part in the survey, conducted by Atomik Research, with respondents balanced for age, gender and region.

The Grenfell inquiry report heavily criticised the efforts of the LFB in its response to the London tower-block blaze on 14 June 2017, in which 72 people died. 

Inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick claimed that more lives could have been saved if the LFB had decided to evacuate the building earlier than it did.

Public more sympathetic

However, the inquiry’s perspective does not appear to be shared by the general public.

The results of the poll revealed that just one in four (24 per cent) agreed that the inquiry’s criticisms of the London Fire Brigade were fair, while more than half (54 per cent) said they were not.

Asked whether the report had changed their opinion of LFB, three-quarters (74 per cent) of respondents said no. Of the remainder, 13 per cent said they had a worse opinion, while 13 per cent said they had a better one.

Only one in 10 (10 per cent) thought that individual firefighters were at fault, and fewer than one in four (23 per cent) agreed that LFB commissioner Dany Cotton should resign.

Sharing the blame

The majority of respondents (74 per cent) thought that too much blame has been placed on LFB.

In terms of other organisations that should share responsibility for the fire, 80 per cent cited the company that installed the cladding, while 66 per cent identified the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea council. Some 59 per cent selected the the tenant management organisation for Grenfell Tower, and 32 per cent said the government should share the blame.

One respondent said: "The Government is responsible because their penny pinching and regulations tied everyone else's hands behind their backs."

Another said that responsibility was not confined to "one particular person or organisation" and described the tragedy as "a very unfortunate chain of events".

Now read: London Fire Brigade overwhelmed by media during Grenfell disaster

Gender divide

Men were more likely to agree that the inquiry’s criticism was fair – 29 per cent expressed this view compared to 19 per cent of women.

And 16 per cent of men said the report had made them think more negatively about LFB, while just 10 per cent of women shared this opinion.

Male respondents were twice as likely as women to say that individual firefighters were at fault, at 14 per cent versus seven per cent.

And more than one in four men (28 per cent) agreed that LFB commissioner Dany Cotton should resign, compared to 18 per cent of women.

Age difference

There were clear differences between the 18-24 and 55-64 age groups.

Younger people were far more likely to think criticism of LFB was fair, with 41 per cent taking this view, set against just 16 per cent of older people.

And one in three (30 per cent) of 18- to 24-year-olds said the report had worsened their opinion of LFB, compared to less than one in 10 (8 per cent) of 55- to 64-year-olds.

Young respondents were seven times more likely to find individual firefighters at fault, with 29 per cent holding this view, compared to four per cent of the older age group.

Younger people were also twice as likely to think Cotton should resign, with 36 per cent in support of this compared to 19 per cent of older respondents.

Regional variations

The LFB’s harshest critics were people in London, with 43 per cent of those in the capital thinking the inquiry’s criticism was fair. By contrast, only 13 per cent of those in Yorkshire and Humberside shared this view.

One in four (24 per cent) Londoners had a worse opinion of LFB, compared to just four per cent of people in Wales.

And while 30 per cent of people in the capital thought individual firefighters were at fault, only one per cent of respondents in Wales had this view.

Almost one in four (38 per cent) Londoners thought that Cotton should resign, compared to one in seven (15 per cent) in Yorkshire and Humberside.

Commenting on the findings, Kyra McDonald, project manager at Atomik Research, said: "The research suggests that the general public do not believe the London Fire Brigade and the individual firefighters are at fault for the Grenfell Tower fire, and instead think the blame should be shifted onto other organisations, particularly the company which installed the cladding for the building. It is shown that older Brits are the most likely to feel this way, while younger generations are less likely to feel sympathetic toward the LFB."

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