Takeaway in power dispute could close
A BARNSTAPLE takeaway could close within a week now their electricity supplier has a warrant to cut off their power for having an outstanding bill of £5,000.
The lease holders of Istanbul Takeaway, in Boutport Street, appeared before North Devon Magistrates' Court on Monday to contest npower's application for a warrant to allow them onto the premises to disconnect the power.
The energy company's representative from Utility Management Services, Martin Loader, told the court Istanbul Takeaway owed the company a total of £5,691.31.
The case had appeared before magistrates in September last year when Bernadette Ebcin, one of the takeaway's lease holders, claimed the reason they had not paid their bill was because the neighbouring pub Sherry's had been "stealing" their power through wiring in the roof.
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Magistrates adjourned the case so evidence could be found.
But today the debt had increased and confirmation was given that Sherry's closed in November.
Mr Loader added the number of units being used by the takeaway had decreased since Sherry's closed but that the amounts they had paid in that time did still not cover what they are using.
He said: "Since the hearing the meter was investigated but there was no sign of tampering. There have been three payments, one in September, next in November and then a payment in January."
He added that before Sherry's closed the usage for the takeaway premises was up to £500 a month but now was around £300.
He said: "The trouble is they are not keeping up with those payments and the debt just keeps increasing."
Mrs Ebcin said the takeaway used a total of around £314 of electricity a month.
She said: "I have tried numerous times to make an instalment plan with npower but they won't listen.
"The leaseholder of Sherry's changed in November and they removed the wiring and all evidence of the tampering."
She added that they previously had a payment plan which was £102 a month, which is why they have continued to pay at that rate despite the payment plan ending last year.
Magistrates issued the warrant and Mr Loader said it would be likely for npower to enter the premises within the next seven days if the debt had still not been repaid.
In September police confirmed they were investigating if the electric supply had been tampered with but Inspector Tom Holmes said the investigation had stopped in October due to insufficient evidence.
After the hearing Mrs Ebcin said npower had allowed them to pay a lesser amount to ensure the power is not cut off.
But she added that she has made a complaint to the energy ombudsman about the situation and is waiting to hear back.
She said: "We have been running the takeaway for 12 months but we have had so many problems we have decided to leave. We were thinking we would set up a café in Barnstaple instead but we have been put off by all the problems so we are not sure we will do that."
A statement from npower said: "Cutting off a customer's supply is only ever done as a last resort and after all other options have been exhausted. This is a very unfortunate set of circumstances but this is now a police matter so we're unable to chase the third party for any money owed to the takeaway.
"We're keen to help them as much as we can and so have reduced their initial reconnection payment by £2,000 and offered an extended repayment plan as they have also been underpaying for their energy use."