Cash windfall absorbed by power giant

ELECTRICITY distribution company 24seven got away with £1.5 million less than it had budgeted for when it offered compensation following October's storms.

ELECTRICITY distribution company 24seven got away with £1.5 million less than it had budgeted for when it offered compensation following October's storms.

But today the Ipswich-based energy giant admitted it hadn't budgeted for the payment, and the £1.5 million it saved would just be absorbed into its profits – and it could end up in the pocket of the French government!

The Evening Star revealed on Monday that only 5,000 of the 20,000 customers eligible for £100 compensation cheques had claimed their money during the three months that it was available.

That meant the company is having to pay £500,000 in compensation, rather than £2 million.

But according to a statement issued to today, that's just small change.

LE Group (owners of 24seven) will be investing more than £120 million in the electricity network it operates in East Anglia this year.

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No specific budget was ever set to cover the special storm payments 24seven offered to those customers who were continuously without a power supply from the storm until 10pm on October 31.

Therefore, there is no surplus amount to be accounted for.

Our priority, as always, is to invest the budget available into network improvements to further secure electricity supplies for our customers.

The company made extensive appeals through the media for those customers who believed they were eligible for a payment to contact us by January 27. A large number of those customers did so and, where the payment criteria was met, payments were made as quickly as possible.

The money might be small change for 24seven – but then that has deep pockets.

It's owned by the LE Group which also owns London Electricity, SEEBOARD, and SWEB.

LE Group itself is owned by Electricté de France – which is the nationalised French power company.

Its only shareholder – the only organisation to get any profits from it – is the French government.

Today cash-strapped charities in the region could only dream of how they might have spent the wind fall.

Graham Collins, chief executive of the East Anglian Children's Hospice which currently relies on charitable donations to make up 90% of its annual £4 million costs, said: "It would make a big difference.

"We get government funding for just 10% of our costs the rest comes from the public. Last week we had a lad come in to give us £2 pocket money. We would love to get our hands on the money."

And Peter Thompson, organiser of Ipswich's World War Two memorial, pledged to run round the town naked if electricity bosses decided to donate to his good cause.

He said: "We need £60,000 and we are half way there. Ipswich is the only town without a war memorial to the second world war.

"It would mean everything to me if they gave us some money. Out of £1.5million, £60,000 isn't much. If we got some of that money I would run round the town naked."

Suffolk mum Carole Appleby had to fight for her £100 compensation. She was connected 30 minutes before the cut-off time – and had to wait for 24seven to agree to pay it.

She was disgusted by the news that the company had got off so lightly and said it felt as if it was making money through other people's misery.

She said: "I thought it (the £100) was a derisory sum in the first place given that the money we had to shell out during the course of the week exceeded £100.

"They got off pretty lightly as it was.

"To be honest when I got the £100 you think, no it is no compensation but I am better off than other people.

"It is pretty awful really. Perhaps with the money left over they can rally round all the people who are without electricity because of the cold weather."

nThe £1.5 million may not be much for 24seven, but for other good causes it could make a major difference.

It would give 500 children their wishes through Make a Wish Foundation.

It would also fund per year an average of:

50 senior level teachers

56 social workers (training and wages)

58 fire fighters (training and wages), or 71 without training

71 new police officers

75 senior staff nurses