Mearns councillor slams storm response

A Mearns councillor has criticised the response of the energy companies following the disturbances caused by subsequent storms across the north-east.

By Morag Kuc
Tuesday, 1st February 2022, 4:07 pm
The lack of communication from the energy companies, including a failure to process compensation requests, has been branded “complacent, chaotic and corrosive" by Mearns councillor Leigh Wilson.

Alba councillor Leigh Wilson raised concerns after Storm Arwen hit last year, asking Aberdeenshire Council to hold an inquiry into the affair and report to a subsequent meeting with their findings.

But the lack of communication from the energy companies, including a failure to process compensation requests, has been branded “complacent, chaotic and corrosive.”

Councillor Wilson said: “It is unacceptable that, yet again, we have people across Aberdeenshire who are being told that they have to wait days for their power to be reconnected.

"Over 100,000 households in Scotland have been without power but I heard the Deputy First Minister announce that power companies were actively removing trees in close proximity to power lines. If that is the case, I would suggest that it is negligence that what should ordinarily be standard practice has been allowed to wane over time.

"Just walking around my constituency in Inverbervie I can see the destruction caused: slates whipped off of roofs, fences mangled and trees felled. We need a long-term plan to tackle increasingly volatile weather circumstances, not soundbites and quick fixes.”

A number of welfare centres have been opened in Aberdeenshire for people needing showers and power, while a range of facilities are providing hot food and drinks, including Castleton Farm in Fordoun, which had also fallen victim to the storm, but is now operating again with the use of a generator.

He continued, “I would like to put my thanks on record to the workers on the ground as well as the individuals and small businesses who are providing support to those in need.

"Only last month I spent time bringing food parcels to constituents who had no power for a full seven days – yet shamefully, despite my repeated attempts to contact SSEN regarding compensation requests, they have yet to return one of my calls or reply to any of my emails.

"This is clearly a company who are complacent, because they are taking their customers for granted; chaotic, because the left arm isn’t in communication with the right; and corrosive, because public trust in their handling of these situations is fast slipping away.”

Meanwhile, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) says it is making good progress as its teams continue to respond to the significant damage from Storms Malik and Corrie, which brought gusts of over 90mph across the region.

SSEN engineers, supported by 500 additional operational and support staff from across the UK and Ireland, have been working since first light to restore power to customers.

As of 12pm today (Tuesday), power has been restored to 105,000 customers with around 9,500 customers remaining off supply. The main areas which continue to be affected are rural Aberdeenshire and the Angus border.

Further good progress is being made today, and SSEN expects to restore power to the vast majority of customers by this evening, prioritising areas of the network where customers have been without power the longest. For small pockets of customers, this may extend into Wednesday – depending on the extent of damage found and the impact of weather on our teams’ ability to work safely.

Customers are being notified proactively as estimated restoration times for their specific fault are updated, with calls to be made to those likely to be without supply overnight, where possible.

For customers without power who need support and are unable to make alternative arrangements to stay with family or a friend, SSEN will reimburse reasonable costs for alternative accommodation.

SSEN has deployed welfare facilities to The Square in Stonehaven (a hot food van).

Aberdeenshire Council has also opened all Live Life Aberdeenshire facilities. For those who need access to a hot shower or phone charging etc, the Portlethen Pool and Mearns Community Campus are open from 9am to 8pm.

Customers unable to access welfare facilities and who remain off supply may claim back the cost of meals up to £15 per person. Customers are being asked to keep copies of receipts for any claims.

SSEN continues to urge customers not to approach any damage to its equipment and instead, report it to SSEN by calling 105 or via its Power Track App and engineers will investigate as soon as possible.

Richard Gough, Director of Distribution System Operations at SSEN, said: “Our teams have continued to make strong progress restoring power to customers impacted by Storms Malik and Corrie and all available resources have been deployed to support with restoration efforts.

“Although the cumulative impact of Storms Malik and Corrie has compounded the challenge, we have started our final push and aim to restore power to the vast majority of customers today. For the pockets of customers that will remain without supply into Wednesday, we are prioritising welfare and support, working closely with local resilience partners.

“We would like to apologise to all customers affected and would like to encourage any customer concerned to give our dedicated teams a call on 105, where we can provide additional support and guidance.”