Families to question utility firms over dismal Storm Arwen response

Storm Arwen caused extensive damage across Northumberland.Storm Arwen caused extensive damage across Northumberland.
Storm Arwen caused extensive damage across Northumberland.
The families worst affected by Storm Arwen have been promised a chance to question utilities bosses over their dismal response to the crisis.

The bout of severe weather late last year left about 100,000 homes across the UK without power, and thousands of homes in Northumberland struggled without heating or electricity for more than a week.

And with bosses in the county gearing up to hold their own inquiry into the event, households have been told they will have the chance to put questions to key decision-makers.

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“The most important part for me is to ensure that local people, local residents, who have suffered so much, have the opportunity to place their questions and make their statements,” said Glen Sanderson, leader of Northumberland County Council.

“[They should] have some assurance from Northern Powergrid and others that should such a storm happen again, there will not be the lack of communications that we’ve seen.

“They will want to ask why aren’t there 10,000 generators sitting in a warehouse somewhere to allow quick and easy changeover to that sort of power in this sort of thing again.

“It’s up to the residents to have their chance to be able to speak and to be heard and to make sure that if this ever happens again they are not let down as they were this time.”

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Speaking at the first full meeting of the county council of 2022, Cllr Sanderson revealed a timetable has already been prepared for evidence-gathering sessions due to be run by members of the local authority’s scrutiny committees.

Northern Powergrid was among the organisations which faced the most criticism for its role in the aftermath of Storm Arwen.

The power provider was slammed for poor communication, which left families, many already feeling like “squatters” in their own homes, unsure of when their electricity supply would be reconnected or what compensation they would be able to claim.

Eventually, the army had to be drafted into Northumberland and County Durham, such was the concern for vulnerable households.

A motion to the county council on Storm Arwen was also approved, calling for all organisations involved in the response to “ensure lessons are learnt”.