25 April 2023

SSEN provides million-pound plus boost for community resilience in the North-East

Resilience plans for communities across the North-East have received a major boost today following SSEN Distribution’s £1.35m award of funding to the region’s three local authorities. 

The funding, marked at an event this morning in the distribution network operator’s Aberdeen offices, recognises the major impact of the winter storms of 2021-22, particularly Storm Arwen, and the important role that community-led resilience activity can play in responding to emergencies such as extended power loss. 

The award being made to each local authority reflects the level of impact felt across each region following the storms, the worst weather many had seen in their lifetime, with Aberdeenshire Council receiving £1million, Moray Council £200,000 and Aberdeen City Council £125,000. 

To secure the funding, each local authority worked with SSEN to create a comprehensive community-led resilience programme, outlining the projects and initiatives that would most benefit from financial support.  While the focus was on community, household and personal resilience projects, specific emphasis was placed on supporting the most vulnerable across each community. 

Funded projects include the provision physical resilience equipment, such as generators for supported care facilities and batteries for those most at need, as well as capacity building and improving routes of communication during incidents. 

  • As part of its £1m award, Aberdeenshire Council will purchase 100 battery generator packs for individuals to use in their homes, as well as 86 packs to be deployed across their Sheltered and Very Sheltered Housing complexes – these would allow the most vulnerable members of the community to remain in their own surroundings during a power outage, supporting their independent living. They will also run a Community Resilience conference where local groups can get together share ideas, best practice and enhance their resilience planning to reduce vulnerability in local communities. 
  • Moray Council is receiving £200,000, a large part of which will be used to create three Community Co-ordination and Support Centres at schools across the region - each powered by a generator purchased as part of this funding award. These centres will become a temporary hub for Community Resilience teams, blue light responders and other key members of support staff; part of the schools will also be set aside as Welfare and Rest Centres for members of the local community, where they can get hot food, drinks and charge their mobile phones, heat babies’ bottles etc.  
  • As part of its £125,000 award, Aberdeen City Council will be purchasing 20 battery generators for use by individual households, and 20 portable power stations for use in support of wider community resilience, as well as purchasing essential items to be used in the new personal emergency kits which will be deployed across its six regional support centres.  

 This boost to community resilience complements SSEN’s existing Resilient Communities Fund, which has directly supported 680 community groups and not-for-profits with over £4.7m of funding since its inception in 2015.   

Graeme Keddie, Director of Corporate Affairs at SSEN Distribution, said:  “The unprecedented impacts of Storm Arwen will live long in the memory of both those in the North-East and our dedicated teams who were involved in the significant power restoration and recovery effort.  

“As part of a comprehensive stakeholder-led review, we’ve made key improvements to both enhance the resilience of our network and improve customer communications, but we know we have an important role to play in supporting communities too.   

“As we saw during Storm Arwen, resilience efforts are most impactful when they are community-led.  We are therefore delighted to have collaborated with local authorities and wider community to design this innovative programme which will help to empower communities and make a real difference to the resilience of individuals and families up and down the region.” 

Cllr Mark Findlater, Leader of Aberdeenshire Council, said: “I would like to thank SSEN for its generous financial support which will allow us to continue providing and enhancing individual, household, family and community resilience in an emergency situation with special emphasis on supporting those who are vulnerable.

"We know just how resilient our communities have proven to be, particularly with regards to recent weather-related events. However this funding from SSEN will enable us to provide additional support on the ground where and when it is needed. That might be through the provision of equipment such as wind up torches and radios, or the issuing of battery generator packs to support the most vulnerable individuals who need to use power reliant medical equipment within their own property during a power outage.”

Cllr Anne Stirling, Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Communities Committee, added: “We have developed a number of projects which will contribute to the enhancement of the resilience of those who are vulnerable in our communities. These are reflective of the learning we’ve undertaken from a variety of incidents which have occurred over recent years whether it’s been flooding, winter weather or other emergencies.

“Through close collaborative working, we’ve listened carefully to the feedback coming from our residents, community groups, elected members, services and resilience partners to ensure these projects will not only be successful but sustainable in the long-term. The new Aberdeenshire Community Resilience Strategy will, of course, link to existing local community resilience groups and plans and will also support our important Community Planning and Place Strategy work across the council in the future.”

Roddy Burns, Chief Executive of Moray Council, said: “We welcome this funding from SSEN which will be used to take forward a range of initiatives aimed at supporting our communities, and in particular our most vulnerable residents, to better prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies and major incidents.

“Working alongside community councils, local residents in affected areas and our partners, we have built on lessons learnt from past events such as Storm Arwen and opportunities have been identified to develop new community resilience groups, mapping each community’s skills, assets and local safe spaces.

“We look forward to continuing our work with partners and local communities to make essential resources available during any future disruptive events.”

Councillor Miranda Radley, Aberdeen City Council Communities, Housing and Public Protection Convener, said: “Storm Arwen had a devastating effect across the city and the wider region and we thank people in our communities for the often unseen help they gave to friends, neighbours, and sometimes strangers during the storm and the days after.

 “The grant from SSEN will help further the city’s resilience against storms and other similar events as it will directly help our communities to give that assistance to the organisations which coordinate the response, from ourselves in Aberdeen City Council to the emergency services.”