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24seven could face fines

PUBLISHED: 19:36 20 December 2002 | UPDATED: 13:14 03 March 2010

TROUBLED electricity supply company 24seven could face fines after its failure to deal with power cuts in the wake of October's storm.

It also emerged today that some senior managers will be leaving the company but managing director Alan Carey said this was nothing to do with the public outcry after the fiasco.

TROUBLED electricity supply company 24seven could face fines after its failure to deal with power cuts in the wake of October's storm.

It also emerged today that some senior managers will be leaving the company but managing director Alan Carey said this was nothing to do with the public outcry after the fiasco.

The company remains defiant in its refusal to pay general compensation to customers who lost power for more than a day following the storm.

It was blasted in an official government report commissioned from Colchester-based consultants British Power International (BPI).

It said the company was unprepared for the number of calls it would receive from the public – and could not cope with the number of faults it suffered.

24seven's initial response on the ground is not criticised – 86 per cent of the 500,000 customers who lost power on the first day were reconnected with 18 hours.

However once high-voltage power systems were restored, the company took too long to repair low-voltage problems.

And 24seven's own inquiry showed up significant problems including:

nIneffective overhead line maintenance.

nShortcomings in preparation for an event like this.

nAn unpopular compensation policy.

nThe system relied on complex technology with effective back-up.

Today 24seven managing director Alan Carey, who took over the job just days before the disaster, said there would no widespread sackings.

But the business was being reorganised to give local managers more say in how it was run.

"Some senior managers will be leaving as a result of these changes, but that isn't related to the storm," he said.

Energy minister Brian Wilson blasted 24seven's "poor" performance, singling out the firm's attitude to maintenance, its IT and phone systems and its emergency measures.

"It simply isn't good enough. This report is essential not only to measure reasonable expectation but also against what the company said in a review of power companies earlier this year," he said.

The BPI report found that nearly all the damage to the electricity network was caused by trees falling on to overhead wires.

Some power companies did not anticipate problems despite a number of severe weather warnings.

Staff at one firm were said to be surprised when they saw a convoy of engineers from another company en route to areas where the storms were anticipated.

Energy regulator Ofgem said the report would form part of the evidence it was collecting on customers' compensation claims.

Carole Pitkeathley of Energywatch, the gas and electricity consumer watchdog, said: "This report goes a long way in identifying the shortcomings of distributors who were, frankly, woeful: from failing to act on weather warnings to trying to pretend it was all unavoidable.

"Distributors like 24seven have badly let their customers down.'

WEBLINK: www.24sevennet.co.uk

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