Traders’ power cut showdown

[from Islington Gazette]

Traders’ power cut showdown
14 January 2009
Mark Adolphus, from EDF, MP Jeremy Corbyn and Despina Johnson, of FinFuture
Mark Adolphus, from EDF, MP Jeremy Corbyn and Despina Johnson, of FinFuture

OUTRAGED traders plagued by 18 months of massive power cuts met with electricity bosses to demand compensation on Monday – only to suffer another blackout the very next day.

More than 50 businesses and residents in Finsbury Park vented their anger at a public meeting chaired by Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North, on Monday after suffering repeated power cuts lasting for up to 10 hours at a time.

Bosses from electricity supplier EDF Energy said they had spent £60,000 trying to fix six “highly unusual” faults in the area since September 2007 – and admitted their service had fallen “massively short” of expectation.

Victoria Yamoah, 41, who runs Cut & Co hairdressers, in Lennox Road, said: “I’ve had to take customers who’ve had chemical treatments in their hair to neighbours’ houses to wash it out. I’ve lost hundreds if not thousands of pounds.”

Gracia McGrath, chief executive of children’s charity Chance UK, in Fonthill Road, said: “We had to pay a huge amount of money to reconfigure all of our computers. Can you ask your chief executive for exceptional compensation for exceptional circumstances?”

And resident Bruce Johnson, of Stroud Green Road, said: “We’ve had 15 power cuts in two months lasting up to 10 hours at a time. We were told we weren’t allowed compensation and we were lied to.”

But on Tuesday morning another power cut left Finsbury Park Tube station partially closed during rush hour for the second time in a week.

Despina Johnson, chief executive of business group FinFuture, said: “It’s really demoralising to have this happen the next day. It’s just not acceptable. EDF need a generator or some other contingency plan in place for when this happens.”

Mark Adolphus, EDF head of customer operations in London, said: “The service you as a community have received over the last 18 months falls massively short of what you should receive.

“We’ve seen six different and unrelated faults in a small geographical area. It is highly unusual and it has a massive effect on your business.”

Mr Adolphus said he was “disappointed” with EDF’s response to individual complaints and vowed to send out letters offering businesses and residents up to £100 in compensation as “a contribution to insurance premiums”.

A six-week survey of electricity use will be finished in early February while a new £5,000 link box in Wells Terrace will improve the flow of power in the area.

But EDF was unable to guarantee a permanent end to the problems or extra compensation for those businesses worst hit in the run-up to Christmas.

Mr Adolphus said: “We’ll make these changes and make that investment. A good service is not about the money.

“But if you think about the range of organisations we’re responsible for distributing electricity to – from residential homes to Deutchebank in the City – if we had an equal liability to each customer we wouldn’t be viable as a company.”

Mr Corbyn vowed to liaise with EDF to monitor improvement works and pursue individual compensation claims from businesses.


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