Monday, 1 March 2010

East Barnet gas debacle - come to the scrutiny committee (guest blog)

Two and a half months after a gas breakdown plunged 3,500 households and businesses in East Barnet into Arctic temperatures, Barnet council launches an inquiry into the emergency on Thursday night. Bernard Walsh, of Brookhill Road, orchestrated a campaign aimed at bringing those responsible for the crisis to account.

The meeting of the council's scrutiny committee will examine why shivering residents and shop owners were stranded as utility companies, local authority officials and emergency services failed to communicate with them during the crisis.

The loss of gas caused severe problems during the festive period, but the total lack of communication exacerbated the problem.

National Grid appears to be using pre-agreed compensation guidelines to ride roughshod over people's needs. This gas breakdown cost people money, hard cash from their pockets. All National Grid are offering is £30 a day compensation for households and £50 for businesses. The £multi-billion organisation threw in £100 per day for homes cut off on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

National Grid has ducked calls for increased compensation to make good the anguish caused by failure to tell people what was going on. And local councillors also went into hiding - until I called for a public meeting two weeks ago. It's a pity those councillors couldn't knock on a few doors to communicate with people during the breakdown - they'll be doing just that in the next month or so in the run-up to the election.

Following the public meeting at New Barnet Community Centre, National Grid held two and a half days' of surgeries at East Barnet Baptist Church, to track down all 3,500 premises affected by the cut off - around 350 people made it to the surgeries.

Scrutiny committee chairman Cllr Brian Coleman has snubbed calls to hold the meeting in or close to East Barnet, meaning many of the vulnerable people who were left high and dry by the communication breakdown will again be denied the chance to have their say.

The meeting takes place at Hendon Town Hall, the Burroughs, NW4 4BG at 7pm on Thursday 4 March. Official papers available here.

Bernard Walsh

P.S. Notice of the meeting in the Times series today.


Brian Coleman aka Mr Toad has GOT to go said...

Coleman's cold comfort:

Anonymous said...

The meeting will only take written evidence. No one turning up will be able to speak. Only two representatives of the public have been chosen to speak and that's it. Looks like debate will be squashed. Not very democratic in my book!

John said...

I see that Councillor Macdonald has offered to help if he can:,119.0.html