Leisure centre may be forced to close

LESLEY INNES LITTLEPORT Leisure Centre may be forced to close after electricity chiefs landed it with a £38,000 bill. The massive charge is for unpaid electricity over the last six years after an error in the way the centre s meter was read. It comes on t

LESLEY INNES

LITTLEPORT Leisure Centre may be forced to close after electricity chiefs landed it with a £38,000 bill.

The massive charge is for unpaid electricity over the last six years after an error in the way the centre's meter was read.

It comes on top of an extra £13,000 each year the centre must find to settle future bills.


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The mistake happened after the electricity meter at the centre was changed so that energy used was recorded as a tenth of its actual amount.

When the meter reader took the information back to administration staff, the reading should have been multiplied by 10 to give the actual amount of electricity used.

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The supply has since been taken over by Npower and the management of the centre changed, which meant that in no-one spotted the error for six years.

Now Npower is demanding settlement of the account and has warned that the centre must expect to pay an extra £13,000 on top of its normal bills.

Management committee members have held crisis talks in a bid to resolve the situation but claim, whilst they are prepared to pay the extra money on top of the centre's bill, they can only afford £18,000 of the debt paid in three instalments over the next three years.

Npower warned, however, that unless the whole amount is paid in three years or a reduced total of £30,000 settled in a week it will cut off the centre's electricity supply.

"Without electricity the centre will have no choice but to close," said Daryn Dodge on behalf of the management committee. "I can't stress enough how this situation has put the centre in a serious financial position.

"We are not trying to wriggle out of paying this bill. It is going to cause us considerable hardship but we are trying to resolve this.

"Littleport Leisure Centre is not a top fitness and leisure centre where people are paying high membership costs but a community centre. But Npower is just not listening."

After the Ely Standard contacted Npower, a spokeswoman for the company said it was not in a position to wipe £20,000 of the leisure centre's debt.

But it was going back to the committee with a new offer which would knock 30 per cent off the total, leaving the centre with a £27,000 bill which could be paid off in four-and-a-half years.

"This would mean a payment of £453 a month and we are hoping that will be acceptable," she said. "We are not in the business of trying to make it difficult for people to meet their bills. We don't want to see people struggle.

"We are waiting for the committee to get back to us on this new offer.

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