Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Article excerpt

In sympathy with New Yorkers, albeit inadvertently, I have had virtually no power for weeks. Worse, I have been warned that my lights are on an ancient system of fabric wiring which could burst into flames at any moment.

I have been trying to fix things, but have come up against a vicious circle of energy industry red tape. Or should I say blue tape?

It is, after all, the deregulated version of petty bureaucracy. There is so much blue tape, in fact, that I, a collector of shares in every utility company to go on sale since I was 18, am beginning to question my commitment to privatisation. Hush my mouth!

To summarise: British Gas, my electricity supplier, came out when the lights blew two weeks ago and said the whole place needed rewiring. But they couldn't help me further until the ancient electrical mains box had been replaced. And as it contained asbestos they could not touch it.

So they outsourced the job to UK Power Networks, who promptly outsourced it to a company called Skanska. Skanska could not give me a date sooner than the end of November to come and change the mains box, but insisted that I must be able to get British Gas to give me lights before then, because there should be no need to touch the mains box to do the rewiring.

UK Power, who came to the flat after I begged them to help, agreed with this but wanted nothing further to do with any of it unless it became a 'proper emergency'. In other words, they will only help me if and when I do go up in smoke.

So I called British Gas again and insisted they come and quote me for rewiring. I must now add into this heady mix the fact that every time I call British Gas, they fail to keep their appointment and each time they reschedule they send me a long letter of apology and £44.

Since my electrical problems started, they have missed at least four appointments, racking me up a tidy little British Gas savings pot of £176 - almost enough for a week's heating.

(I'm kidding. Two weeks. ) This is super, but I still have no lights and, on balance, I think I would rather not sit in the dark waiting for my electrical wiring to kill me than be paid £44 every few days in compensation.

Anyway, British Gas missed their first appointment to come and quote me for rewiring - ker-ching! …

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