MP says "it is vital lessons are learned" over Storm Arwen

Anne-Marie Trevelyan has put forward her views on what should have been done better in the wake of Storm Arwen – including “inaccurate information” about reconnection dates that left people “angry and frustrated”.

By Andrew Coulson
Friday, 21st January 2022, 3:16 pm
Updated Friday, 21st January 2022, 4:13 pm
Anne-Marie Trevelyan out with engineers in the aftermath of Storm Arwen.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan out with engineers in the aftermath of Storm Arwen.

And the MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed has referred to her own experience in the submission of her report into the performance of the network operators to inform reviews being carried out by Ofgem – the energy regulator – and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The devastating consequences of the late November storm included thousands of people being without power, heat and water for days. Properties were also damaged and trees felled.

Ms Trevelyan invited comments from her constituents in order to inform her submissions.

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Her letter to Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley does say that lessons need to be learned by other bodies such as Northumberland County Council, Northumbrian Water Group and the local resilience forum, but her comments are specifically about the network operators as the review is into their performance

It also includes the following: “Inadequate and inaccurate communication from both networks (Northern Powergrid and Scottish Power) is the primary complaint I have received.

“There was a level of appreciation among constituents I have spoken to that they understood the size of the task and the nature of work involved, and understood they may have a wait before being reconnected.

“However, many were given inaccurate information regarding reconnection dates either by telephone or via the operator websites.

“This not only left people angry and frustrated, but meant they were unable to take mitigation.

“Many people reported to me that, had they known they would be without power for a number of days, they would have sought alternative accommodation, but were repeatedly told they were about to be reconnected – incorrectly as it transpired.

“On a personal level, I had the pylon which brought power to my home come down across my garden, leaving a live cable at ground level.

“I spent over eight hours on the phone, over two days, trying to get through to Northern Powergrid to report this highly dangerous situation. Once I managed to report it (on day three), it took a further four days before the cabling was made safe.”

Ms Trevelyan, who continues to hold regular meetings with the network operators, ran surveys for constituents into the handling of the compensation scheme, having expressed concern that data held by the operators would not be sufficient to ensure everyone entitled to received compensation did so.

She said: “We are likely to face similar storms in the future, so it is vital lessons are learned and our network becomes more resilient.

Residents were left without power for far too long and were given poor or inaccurate advice on when they might be reconnected. I know from my own experiences, and those of so many local residents, that vast improvements could be made into communications, compensation delivery, and the wider resilience of supply.

“I continue to hear from constituents who were off power for more than 72 hours who have either not heard from their operator about compensation, or have not received the correct amount.

“If anyone is unsure, they can contact my team and we will try to help you make contact with your operator.”