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County Durham MP slams government ‘failure’ over Storm Arwen which highlighted North – South divide

The early findings of a government probe has slammed the response of utilities firms after thousands were left without power for more than a week.

By james harrison
Wednesday, 23rd February 2022, 3:00 pm

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Huge swathes of the North East were left paralysed when Storm Arwen hit the region last year - with many families still feeling the effects days later.

Official figures suggested just under one million households across the UK suffered power cuts during the severe weather event, with the army even called in to aid households in County Durham and Northumberland.

The ordeal prompted an inquiry which criticised the “completely unacceptable that thousands of homes were left without power for so long”.

Huge waves crash the against the sea wall and Roker Lighthouse in Sunderland in the tail end of Storm Arwen which saw gusts of almost 100 miles per hour battering areas of the UK. Picture date: Saturday November 27, 2021.

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"The interim report cannot cover up the failure of Local and Central Government,” said Easington MP Grahame Morris, who was one of the first regional leaders to call for a probe into the storm and its aftermath.

“There was a systemic failure to react to the red weather warning and they didn’t recognise the scale of the crisis until it overwhelmed them.

Easington MP Grahame Morris

“The lacklustre Storm Arwen response would not happen in London and the south, and Storm Eunice proved this to be true.”

He added: “The government simply does not treat the north in the same way as they treat the south and until there is a change of mindset in Westminster and Whitehall, promises to level up are a lie.”

A final report by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is expected to be published in March, along with findings of a separate investigation by energy regulator Ofgem.

An interim paper published this month found nearly 6,500 faults were recorded by the network operators, predominantly to overhead line circuits.

This left 59,101 homes without power for over 48 hours and 3,032 for a week or more.

Key highlights included:

“Unacceptably high” waiting times for customers trying to contact their energy network operator

That network operators had failed to adequately “account for wind direction as well as speed and duration in their escalation thresholds”

A recommendation to speed up “payment of compensation to affected customers”

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