Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer slams storm response on visit to Northumberland
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has slammed the Government’s response to Storm Arwen on a visit to Northumberland.
Severe weather saw thousands of homes across the county lose their power supplies, some for more than a week.
And after speaking to some of the worst affected families, the opposition chief slammed Boris Johnson for focussing on damning claims over Christmas parties at the expense of dealing with the crisis.
“We need a plan for a storm or a flood – we can’t stop it, but we can have a plan and the Government hasn’t got one,” Starmer said at the Hadston House community project.
“I’ve been talking to people who have been without power for 10 days, who have talked about being in the pitch dark and without the ability to contact anyone.
“They were left there because the Government hasn’t got a plan, instead they’ve got a Prime Minister up to his neck in stories of dishonesty in Downing Street.”
Storm Arwen left 240,000 people without electricity.
More than a week later, about 500 homes and businesses across the region were still waiting to be reconnected, a situation branded “completely unacceptable in 2021” by the leader of Northumberland County Council.
Bosses at Northern Powergrid, which has borne the brunt of criticism on the ground, claims to have restored power supplies to all of its affected customers, although many are still reporting outages and unreliable connections.
One of those was Anne Marie Coe, who told the leader of the opposition she was so far more than £5,000 out of pocket for spoiled food, hotel accommodation and repairs to her home.
The Government has also come under attack for its response to the storm, with claims of a “North-South” divide.
Mr Starmer said: “People feel very strongly that had this happened in the South East, that this would never have been the case.
“They’re asking why [it took] the Prime Minister seven days to declare a major incident.”
He added: “I don’t think the infrastructure has been strong enough and I think the response has been slow across the board.
“There needs to be a backup plan, if there is an emergency there needs to be a plan to say if there is a storm.”