HOMEOWNERS and MPs across the North East have welcomed a critical report into the response to Storm Arwen after electricity firms were told to “up their game” after the crisis situation left almost a million homes without power.

In November last year, the region was battered with winds of 100mph and torrential rain which uprooted trees, damaged power lines, and cut the electricity supply to thousands of homes.

Now, almost seven months on from the desperate situation for homeowners, some of whom lost power for over 12 days, a report into the weather incident has been published.

Read more: Storm Arwen: Ofgem brands response as 'unacceptable'

Through information released by watchdog Ofgem, a six-month review has been published, citing that some customers received “unacceptable service”, poor communication about when they would be reconnected and slow compensation payments.

Three network operators – Northern Powergrid, who was responsible for the North East response, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks and Electricity North West – have paid nearly £30 million in compensation and agreed to pay another £10.3 million in “redress payments” to local communities.

However, Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley, has called the whole situation “unacceptable”.

The Northern Echo: A fallen tree in the North East that crushed several cars. Picture: PA MEDIAA fallen tree in the North East that crushed several cars. Picture: PA MEDIA

He said: “It was unacceptable that nearly 4,000 homes in parts of England and Scotland were off power for over a week, often without accurate information as to when power would be restored.”

 “The main message to all the network companies is ‘up your game’, get ready for winter.

This message has been echoed by MPs across the region – who want to see the electricity firms learn their lessons.

North Durham MP, Kevan Jones, who has lobbied the government for a better response in how companies handle crisis weather situations, said: “I welcome Ofgem’s report which highlights a lot of the issues that were identified at the time by my constituents about the failings of Northern Powergrid.

The Northern Echo: North Durham MP, Kevan Jones. Picture: NORTHERN ECHONorth Durham MP, Kevan Jones. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO

“What we need now is a full survey on the resilience of the network and to ensure that the report’s recommendations are implemented in full.”

North West Durham MP, Richard Holden, has also become critical about the “botched job” that was carried out by Northern Powergrid during Storm Arwen.

Alongside providing support at the time, Mr Holden has set up a public meeting on Friday (June 10) at 6pm, at the Castleside Village Hall in Consett, to explore the new Ofgem report into Northern Powergrid’s Storm Arwen response earlier this year.

He said: “Some of my most affected and vulnerable constituents spent days and weeks without power. Without hot food. Without safety and security.

The Northern Echo: North West Durham MP, Richard Holden. Picture: NORTHERN ECHONorth West Durham MP, Richard Holden. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO

“I sincerely hope these are promptly acted upon by Northern Powergrid, to ensure their future responses to natural disasters can learn valuable lessons from their botched job over Storm Arwen – to ensure this never happens to communities like North West Durham again.”

The Ofgem review found:

– Some affected customers remained off power for an unacceptable amount of time, received poor communication from their network operator and compensation payments took too long.

– Plans in place to deal with the storm were not sufficient to deal with the scale of the damage.

– Northern Powergrid did not directly contact vulnerable customers enrolled on its Priority Services Register prior to Storm Arwen, which should have been carried out as part of its winter preparedness campaign.

The Northern Echo: An emergency vehicle attempts to lift a fallen tree during Storm Arwen. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO An emergency vehicle attempts to lift a fallen tree during Storm Arwen. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO

In response to the Ofgem findings, David Smith, chief executive of the Energy Networks Association, which represents the UK and Ireland’s energy networks businesses, said firms have planned improvements.

He said: “This is particularly important as severe weather events become more frequent.

“The six electricity distribution network operators have submitted these details in their business plans for the next five years and Ofgem is due to make its initial determination in the coming weeks.”

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