Council has £25,000 to pay after being left in the dark over street lighting bills for four years

Heacham Parish Council has received nearly £25,000 in backdated bills from British Gas. Picture: Den

Heacham Parish Council has received nearly £25,000 in backdated bills from British Gas. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: ©Archant Photographic 2009

A parish council has found itself owing almost £25,000 for street lighting, after being left in the dark over their bills for four years.

The village sign in Heacham. Picture: Matthew Usher.

The village sign in Heacham. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

Communication mix-ups with British Gas have meant that Heacham Parish Council has not paid for street lighting since the 2014/15 financial year.

In this time the council has been sent bills for £0 and made countless attempts to contact the provider to find out exactly how much it owed.

But until recently the council has been unable to discover the costs of running the hundreds of footway lamps in the parish.

Sue Eke is the third clerk it has had since the issue arose.

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She said: 'We have tried so many times to get to the bottom of the problem but it felt like we were going in circles.

'Since 2015 and we have never received the right bill. It almost feels like British Gas didn't realise we existed.'

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In this period, the council switched to LED lights which cost significantly less to run.

Throughout the timeframe the council has kept money in reserve to cover any backdated bills, which led to them being faced with questions over why reserves were in such high supply.

Much of the confusion is centred around the fact that for years the lights had been billed by a previous supplier on an unmetered system - a supplier which collapsed in 2008.

British Gas informed the council that its contract with them expired in March 2018 - a contract the parish was unaware it even held. The zero billing commenced from this point.

The council has now been given a backdated bill of £24,731.09, which covers the period of zero billing and historical unpaid invoices, which British Gas says were correctly calculated.

A British Gas statement said: 'We supply electricity for street lighting in the Heacham area and because this is a business contract, prices are pre-agreed with the council.

'Whilst we've continued to supply them, their contract expired in March 2018, which meant we were not able to bill correctly.

'In line with industry processes we needed a new agreement in place before any bills could be backdated and re-issued.'

Once the backdated payments are made, the council intends to switch to a new provider.

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