A COUNTY councillor has called for a law change that would penalise utility companies if they fail to supply accurate information regarding the locations of their assets underground.

Cllr Stephen Reid has made the call after a major outage in Basingstoke saw thousands of homes, businesses and hospitals left without internet and phone lines - some for more than two weeks - in June.

The outage was caused by contractors who damaged an underground network cable while undertaking the Brighton Hill roundabout piling works on Wednesday, June 8.

Cllr Reid said: "Every member of the council will recognise that this was a most serious incident, borne in the first instance from inaccurate information supplied by a utility company.

"I read a letter in a local paper arguing that utility companies cannot be expected to know the route of every duct they own. Actually, accuracy is exactly what I expect when they are being asked to supply information crucial to major infrastructure projects like Brighton Hill roundabout."

READ MORE: Internet and phone lines restored two weeks after major outage caused by roadworks

Cllr Reid called on Hampshire County Council's executive members to write to Hampshire’s MPs asking for a law change that would place a responsibility on utility companies to supply accurate information, with penalties attaching if they fail to do so.

Responding, Cllr Edward Heron recognised the challenges that utility companies face when documenting old assets and acknowledged that events such as the Basingstoke outage can happen.

However, where councils use best practices, as Hampshire does, Cllr Heron believed that liability for damage should lie with the utility companies and he would be pleased to write to the Members of Parliament to express that point.

Councillor Reid said afterwards: "I was grateful for the answer. This incident impacted thousands of people for weeks. I have been shown plans that the contractors were using and they clearly showed no cables in the vicinity of the location where the accident occurred.

SEE ALSO: More than 1,500 people attend 'Rathayatra' in Basingstoke

“The people who supplied the inaccurate information should not be allowed to slope shoulders and get away scot-free, otherwise this sort of thing could happen again and again. I am seeking to defend the interests of my residents and believe that there has to be accountability when inaccurate information leads to such a major loss of services."

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