Outrage over Lancaster and Morecambe power cuts compo blow

Electricity North West have said they will not pay out compensation after recent power cuts.
Electricity North West have said they will not pay out compensation after recent power cuts.
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Homeowners are outraged that an electricity firm has refused to pay out compensation after recent power cuts.

Furious readers messaged us after Electricity North West said they would not award any of the 22,000 claimants a single penny.

Meanwhile the MP for Lancaster has called for Electricity North West to give out compensation and wants a meeting with bosses at the power firm – which made a £301m operating profit last year.

And the MP for Morecambe has called the decision “disappointing” and said he’ll be writing to electricity regulators OFGEM.

Around 55,000 customers in Lancashire, mainly in the Lancaster and Morecambe district, and 13,000 in Cumbria lost power when an electricity substation flooded during December’s severe weather of Storm Desmond.

But Electricity North West described the storm as “exceptional circumstances” and said they had not fallen below required standards.

These state that compensation will only be paid to people who lost power for 48 hours straight. The company said none of the claimants fell into this category.

The announcement on Tuesday came days after the firm set up a team to handle possible claims.

On hearing the news, Cat Smith MP publicly tweeted Electricity North West to say: “I’m furious... @ElectricityNW do you want to get in touch & commit to meeting me or shall I chase your office today?”

Later, she said: “They said they are going to phone my office later today.

“For a private company that made a £301m operating profit last year, that has a monopoly, it’s a bad PR exercise.

“They are playing within the rules but I think they should make a goodwill gesture for the inconvenience.

“I’ve had tweets from constituents. People have lost food, their Christmas shopping, People had medication that had to be kept refrigerated. It was a huge inconvenience for a lot of people. They would do very well to offer some level of compensation.”

David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, said: “I am disappointed Electricity North West has chosen not to compensate customers for the long disruption to their electricity supply in December.

“I have looked into the reasons behind their decision and I will today be writing to OFGEM to ask them to reconsider the rules in light of the huge impact the power cut had on the whole area for the entire week we were off mains supply.

“I also believe that the 48 hours window should apply until the home is back on full mains power, as when on generators people were asked to use only essential power, which was by no means a full and stable service.

“I am also in the process of arranging a date when I can meet Electricity North West to ensure that the substation is protected in the future and that this does not happen again.”

Readers took to Facebook to give their views. One called the decision “a disgrace”.

Tracey Jenkinson said: “Should never have advertised the goodwill payments! Feel ripped off!

Dawn Winder said: “I lost over £100 in food. Not happy.”

Nicola Andrews said: “They shouldn’t have offered as goodwill if they were never going to pay it!”

Ian Williamson said: “Some people lost a freezer full of food, including Christmas extras. Many of those will have been on benefits or other low incomes. Replacing those items will have cost some people dear.”

But others backed the decision not to award compensation.

Andy Smith said: “Compensation world. Everything is so expensive because everybody wants compensating.”

Erica Sarney said: “The companies worked round the clock to restore power, in rotten weather conditions. They did a brilliant job. People who were sensible and kept freezers shut managed to keep food frozen during the blackouts.”

A spokesman for Electricity North West said anyone who lost food in their fridges and freezers would have to claim on household insurance.

Martin Deehan, Electricity North West Operations Director, said: “In cases of severe storms such as this, only customers without power continuously for 48 hours - starting when we can access our equipment - automatically qualify for payments.

“Having now analysed each claim, and thanks to the monumental effort of our engineers in extremely difficult circumstances, we do not believe that we have fallen below this standard.

“I understand that this is not the news that many had hoped for, and I apologise that due to the large number of enquiries, and the subsequent bad weather throughout the North West during December, it has taken us longer than we would have liked to get back to customers.

“We will be writing to each customer who has made a claim so that they can use our letter as evidence to claim for any losses as a result of the power cut through their insurance company.”

Many people in the district lost power on the evening of Saturday, December 5 as Storm Desmond struck and some parts of the Lancaster area were flooded.

Engineers were unable to access the Caton Road substation to begin repairs until 9.30am on Sunday, December 6.

Power was restored on the morning of Monday, December 7 although supplies were later lost again due to damage caused by the flood water to equipment inside the substation.

Many homes were without electricity again until Tuesday morning, December 8.

Electricity North West said power was restored to all possible properties within 48 hours excluding those which were flooded and could not have power restored for safety reasons.

There were intermittent power cuts over the ensuing days as engineers worked day and night to reconnect homes from temporary generators back onto the grid.