Tuesday, 9 March 2010

East Barnet gas debacle - report of the scrutiny committee meeting

National Grid could not cope when a water mains burst cut gas supplies to 3,500 East Barnet homes and businesses over Christmas.

The energy network operator came under fire at a meeting of Barnet Council's scrutiny committee last week (4 March).

National Grid told the commitee it struggled to bring the emergency under control as water gushed through the gas mains and into some households. And it said that two national call centres had failed to keep up with calls for advice during the crisis.

Barnet Council officers claimed advice letters that should have been sent out to the East Barnet community had been 'sat on' by National Grid lawyers. A National Grid spokesman claimed, however, that the letters had been delayed because of a technicality and because "it was too dark" to deliver them on December 23 - four days after the gas supply was cut.

The company again snubbed calls to increase compensation to householders and businesses.

Benard Walsh, of Brookhill Road, who spoke on behalf of residents said:
I am staggered that, despite National Grid's admission that it could not cope with this crisis, the company is refusing to re-consider its compensation offers. The figures paid out have varied by £500 from neighbour to neighbour. Some of the shops have lost thousands of pounds but National Grid is only prepared to offer them £50 a day. These small businesses had to pay employees' wages with or without gas.
The Scrutiny Committee presents its conclusions at a meeting at Hendon Town Hall on March 18th at 7pm.

Report by Bernard Walsh

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