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Fears for town's Christmas lights after 'gobsmacking' electricity bill
4:58pm Saturday 14th December 2013 in News
AN energy company threatened to switch off a North Yorkshire town's Christmas lights display after volunteers refused to pay an electricity bill which was 1,240 per cent higher than the previous year.
Thirsk and District Business Association members said they had been "gobsmacked" to receive demands from npower for £10,208.33 for powering the display in 2012, after being charged £760 by the firm the year before.
Accountant Guy Baragwanath, chairman of the association, said threats from npower to disconnect the display, which was switched on in front of 1,500 residents on November 29, had sparked fears this year’s illuminations could be the town’s last.
Mr Baragwanath said the firm had written to the association warning of £8,000 disconnection and reconnection charges, despite him contacting it 15 times since March to find out why the bill had rocketed.
He said: “It is just stupid. We are not talking about the Blackpool illuminations, but the 1,214 lights we do have on from 4pm to 11pm for 38 days are very popular with residents.
“We had the same number of lights last year as we had in 2011, so if this is what it is going to cost, we won’t be able to do it for another year.”
Members of the association said they had been appalled to repeatedly receive automatically generated responses from the firm after questioning the bill.
Mr Baragwanath said: “When I have contacted npower, they have never come back to me even when they said they would. “There is no personal service any more. We are just a number to them.”
Association secretary Jill Miller said numerous fundraising events had been staged throughout the year to generate the £12,000 needed to maintain the display, which is seen as vital to attract shoppers over the crucial festive trading period.
She said it would be impossible to raise an extra £10,000 to fund powering the lights. “I just couldn’t believe there were so many zeros on the bill.
“It is amazing, they are a huge corporation and we are just a dot in the ocean.”
A spokeswoman for npower said it would not take any action until an investigation into the matter had been completed.
She said it was possible the information it had received from distributor National Grid had been misread or that the association had been charged for a year rather than 38 days.
The spokeswoman added: “We don’t want to see the Christmas lights turned off in Thirsk so we are looking into this and working really hard to get this resolved.”
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