Francis Maude: kind acts do show our society at its best

Horsham MP Francis Maude

Horsham MP Francis Maude

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As I write, it has been raining for much of the day on many of the days since Christmas, and so far we seem to see no signs of any let-up despite the hopeful appearance of the snowdrops I see as I drive around Sussex.

This week I had letters in my post from the chief executive of UK Power Networks and the Secretary of State for Transport about the effects of recent weather events and what is being done to try and restore us to normality. I thought I would share the contents with you.

Of the 460,000 customers who lost power over the holiday period, all but 30,000 of them had it restored within 24 hours and of those, 145,000 were reconnected within three minutes. On Christmas Day itself some 10,000 customers had their power restored by engineers but sadly 20,000 had their Christmas Day affected. The weather was extreme, and within a few hours the storm had generated nearly 2,400 faults to overhead power lines – a more usual tally being some 50 faults in any one day. Although the decision had been taken in November to increase cover to 75 per cent instead of the usual 50 per cent over Christmas, there were still 850 employees who gave up their own family day to help restore power to those affected.

On Boxing Day, when there were no scheduled trains running, a local landowner reported to Network Rail that there had been a severe landslip of 50 metres of embankment at Ockley on the Horsham to Dorking train line. Contractors had to build an access road just to get to the site where the underpinning had to be carried out, and the line may not be back to full functionality until mid February although some service is now being provided.

As you will have read in these pages, emergency services then had to pump millions of litres of water from the railway line through Horsham only to discover a collapsed culvert under Worthing Road, which has since been rebuilt while the road was closed for ten days or so.

Compensation above the statutory levels has been offered to affected customers, and rightly so.

But I have heard about many examples of neighbourliness and support for each other which are the real story here, and which should make us proud of our society.

Those small acts of kindness, looking out for the vulnerable and elderly, cooking or shopping together and volunteering to open and run shelters, kitchens, buses and even boat services really do show our British society at its best.

Whilst I doubt if Christmas and New Year 2013/14 will be remembered by many people as one of their favourite times and none of us would have chosen to have the problems which continue to plague many of our houses, roads and services, it is good to know that most people will cheerfully do their best for others when needs must and pull together in adversity. I do not think we live in a broken society here in Horsham.