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Saturday, 20 September 2014

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Estate group is rocked by gas bill for £3,000

Rising energy costs could force a Maryport community group to fold, its chairman has warned.

Urgent talks will be held today between British Gas and Ewanrigg and Netherton Tenants’ and Residents’ Association.

It comes after the group was forced to pay a £3,000 gas bill for 2013 for Ewanrigg Community Centre.

Bill Barnes, association chairman, said the bill came out the blue after British Gas had not been notified when the centre was transferred to the association from its former owner Caritas.

Mr Barnes said the huge cost was a shock because no one at the centre, which is run entirely by volunteers, had realised that they were not receiving gas bills.

He said “When we took the centre over from Caritas everything was transferred over to us. The man from British Gas came and read the meter.”

He added that Caritas was previously paying about £1,200 a year for gas, which is what the association had budgeted for.

Mr Barnes said: “The bottom line, though, is that if we are being charged £3,000 a year for gas our future is at risk.

“The bill as it stands represents about half of our total income.

“We will still have to pay the electricity bills. I don’t really see how it can be done.”

He acknowledged that the volunteer group should have realised that bills were not coming in.

The £3,000 bill has been paid and the centre is now paying future bills by direct debit.

Representatives from British Gas were due to meet Mr Barnes today to discuss the situation and see what help can be offered.

Leigh Franks, of British Gas, said: “I would like to apologise for any stress or inconvenience caused by receiving such a large backdated bill.

“As soon as the association contacted us about its energy bills, we started working closely with them to resolve the situation.

“We have fully reviewed the account and agreed a new rate, which has been backdated until 2012.”

The original bill was for £3,900, and after the reduction the group paid £3,100.

“We want to ensure the community centre continues to reduce its energy use in coming months.”

The community centre provides activities for all ages across the estate.

Mr Barnes said: “I am really proud of the work that the committee has done in bringing people together and it would be heartbreaking if that could not continue.”

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