Boris Johnson is facing calls for an urgent investigation into the ‘appalling’ response to Storm Arwen and the resilience of the country’s power grids after thousands of people were without power for more than a week.
Local residents say they have felt abandoned after the failure to restore power to more than 9,000 homes, mostly in the North East and Scotland. MEPs said it was a “national scandal” that the elderly and vulnerable were put at risk in extremely cold conditions.
Ed Miliband, the shadow secretary for climate change, said: “It is absolutely scandalous that thousands of people have been without electricity for more than a week. People are left in the most appalling circumstances, but there has been a lack of government leadership.
“Communities in the north whose electricity is cut are treated like second-class citizens. The government must bring the immediate crisis under control and we need an urgent investigation to understand what went wrong and to ensure that our power systems are never again so vulnerable to extreme weather events. “
Storm Arwen was one of the worst in a generation, with broken utility poles and fallen wires over large swathes of the country. The Wye Valley, the Lake District, Aberdeenshire and Perthshire were among the hardest hit areas.
Opposition MPs say that after the violent storms of 2013, the government has said that lessons will be learned.
Mary Foy, Labor MP for Durham City, said: “The response has been a national scandal and the storm has shone the spotlight on the lack of preparation. If this had happened in the original counties, the government would have taken action and the prime minister would have put on his rubber boots and surrendered immediately. People froze in their homes and it put people in danger. My constituents feel forgotten and betrayed.
Some of the worst affected areas are powered by Northern Powergrid, which provides electricity to eight million people. He said he restored power to 98% of homes, but 5,100 were still off Friday night.
The company now faces questions about its power infrastructure, despite its proposals submitted to Ofgem, the regulator, earlier this year for additional infrastructure investments.
Farmer Ian Backhouse, from Reedness in East Yorkshire, said there had been a lack of investment: “There are several rotten, leaning poles that are just a strong wind to keep from falling. National Farmers’ Union vice president Stuart Roberts tweeted, “We are now seeing the devastating consequences of this lack of investment. He said many farms were without power and the damage would take years to repair.
Stephen Deakin, from Dissington, near Newcastle, told the BBC he had been without power for eight days. He said: “I understand this is an unprecedented situation, but why didn’t they have a plan in place? Why weren’t people helped sooner? “
Kevan Jones, Labor MP for North Durham, said some residents have been told repairs have been delayed due to the challenge of finding parts for aging infrastructure.
He said Phil Jones, chief executive of Northern Powergrid, should consider stepping down over complaints from homeowners about the company’s inadequate response. “They worsened the crisis by spreading false information about when electricity would be restored to homes. We now need an urgent network resilience assessment.
Major incidents have been reported in County Durham and Northumberland. The Defense Ministry said around 300 members of the British Army and Royal Marines were supporting local services, carrying out door-to-door checks on vulnerable people.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said, “Our dedicated military personnel are working alongside civilian authorities to provide critical support to communities affected by Storm Arwen. Ofgem announced Friday that it is launching a review of the impact of Storm Arwen, which will focus on the role of network companies in maintaining system resilience and their emergency response. He says he will take coercive action against companies that have failed to restore power quickly enough.
Residents can claim £ 70 for each 12 hour period without electricity, after an initial amount of £ 70 for the first 48 hours. A limit of £ 700 on compensation has been lifted.
MP Tim Farron, Liberal Democrats spokesperson for rural affairs, said: “There is no time to waste learning lessons from Storm Arwen. Winter is just beginning and it is clear that our infrastructure can no longer withstand storms. Last week was a scandal and the government fell asleep at the wheel.
Provider Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks said 950 properties were without power on Friday night. Northern Powergrid apologized yesterday for poor communication with residents during the power outages.
The Energy Networks Association, which represents the UK’s electricity and gas network companies, said: “Our focus remains firmly on reconnecting the remaining customers without electricity. It is clear that we must continue to learn from events like these, to make sure that we are ready for the future. The association claims power grids have spent £ 730million on resilience since 2015.