Beverley Town Council gas blunder: Bills dating back to 2004 may never have to be repaid due to Ofgem rules

Beverley Town Council may never have to pay back the 17 years' worth of gas it has used without ever being billed for under Ofgem rules.

Coun Denis Healy, a Liberal Democrat member of Beverley Town Council, said his colleague Coun David Tucker has now been tasked with investigating the issue.

He added the amount the Town Council would ultimately have to pay was unclear because of Ofgem rules on how far unpaid bills can be backdated.

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Beverley Town Council found to have not paid gas bill - for 17 years
Beverley town centre

Beverley Town Council said in a statement its personnel committee ruled in December that an investigation to establish the facts should be launched.

It added Northern Gas Networks, which own local gas infrastructure, had told them they should get a supplier immediately, with the council currently in talks with British Gas.

Coun Healy said the Town Council had been getting gas without a supplier since around 2004, the same year it moved into its current Wells Lane headquarters.

He added the probe would look at what happened and what the Town Council needs to do going forward, including how much it actually owes. Ofgem rules state that customers cannot be charged for gas bills beyond the last 12 months.

But it also states there are exceptions if customers are found to have behaved obstructively or unreasonably to prevent proper billing.

“This came to light in early December when the Town Council building’s gas boiler broke down. The acting town clerk called out a gas engineer, they came and said the boiler’s filter had become clogged up and that we needed to contact our gas supplier.

“But when the clerk looked through the Town Council’s files he found there wasn’t a gas supplier or any bills. So he concluded that the Town Council had been procuring gas without paying for it.

“We regarded this as a serious matter, so we’ve commissioned an investigation into what happened.

“The terms of the investigation are to establish the facts of the matter and the context and whether the Town Council needs to take any further action.

“We’ve appointed David Tucker to lead the investigation, he’s not been on the council very long but he’s well established here and is very objective because he hasn’t had any part in this.

“The investigation began on Tuesday January 4 and it’s due to report back by Monday January 31.

“We’re completely open minded about what it will find, we’ve just got to establish what happened.

“We’ve also got to look at what we do going forward, the issue seems to have attracted a lot of interest. But the situation with any outstanding bills the Town Council owns is unclear.

“Northern Gas Networks who own the pipes and infrastructure say we need to get a supplier. But we don’t think a new supplier could bill us for the full 17 years because of Ofgem rules limiting back billing to 12 months.

“So there’s questions about this and who would be ultimately responsible, but repaying years worth of gas bills would cost a lot of money.

“But if the Ofgem rules come into play here then we’d be paying back much less, we want to make sure any rules that apply in this case are enforced so we’re paying the correct amount.

“Regardless, this investigation needs to happen because we need to see where the fault lies. We’ve spoken to about half a dozen companies to get a supplier, one has said they will so far.

“The problem is when we’ve contacted them, they ask if we’re a new customer or if we’re switching from an existing supplier.

“So we’ve told them we’ve got the gas but don’t have an existing supplier, so a lot of them haven’t been able to help us.

“We’re now pleading for a supplier to come and take our money for the future so we can make sure we have gas.

“In the meantime our gas has been restored for now.”