Owen Paterson: power suppliers ‘let customers down’ over Christmas blackouts
Some power companies “let their customers down” while dealing with Christmas power failures, the environment secretary Owen Paterson has said. Meanwhile, forecasters have warned that more bad weather could cause further disruption this week.
Paterson told the BBC that power companies should have been aware that the Environment Agency was warning of severe weather in the run-up to Christmas.
“It seems obvious at this stage that they let too many of their staff go away for the Christmas holiday, they didn’t have enough people manning the call centres and that wasn’t acceptable”, he said.
The environment secretary demanded that power companies and local authorities have “adequate staff” to cope with any future emergencies.
“We’ve made it very clear they have clear responsibilities to their customers and to their electors and we expect them to perform.”
The Energy Networks Association said that all of the thousands of homes that lost power during the Christmas storms had been reconnected by Sunday night.
At the storms’ peak, on Christmas Eve, over 150,000 homes were cut off. Some had been left without power for as long five days, and were offered “Christmas meals” by UK Power Network, which operates the grid in the area.
The UK Power Network also announced on Saturday that it would be tripling compensation payouts for some affected customers.
As people in affected areas attempt to recover, the Met Office has warned of heavy rain that may cause further flooding in areas of Scotland.
It has also issued a yellow warning for wind in north-west and north-east England, Yorkshire and Humber, the East Midlands, south-west England and London, the south-east and Wales.
The Environment Agency currently has 8 flood warnings in place in England – meaning flooding is expected – and has issued 119 flood alerts – meaning people should be prepared for possible flooding.
Another storm is forecast to arrive on New Year’s Day, with heavy rain affecting southern England and western Scotland.
Although most rivers have receded since Christmas, the Environment Agency warns that many are still full while the ground is still saturated, meaning there is a risk of yet more flooding.
From Monday onwards, large waves and strong winds are also expected along the south and west coasts, meaning waters may overcome promenades and coastal defences, especially on Thursday as spring tides approach.
“Normally, we would say this is a typical winter storm but because we’re still recovering from a string of other storms it is likely to cause more disruption and flooding”, said George Goodfellow, a forecaster for MeteoGroup.
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