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Row brewing over Kennet Leisure Centre bill

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However, Thatcham Town Council has accused West Berkshire Council of squeezing it for extra money that is not covered in the agreement over shared funding.
In 2012/13, the town council paid £42,643.48 towards the upkeep of the centre, which amounted to 40 per cent of the annual bill, the remainder of which was covered by the district council.
For 2013/14, the town council had set aside £45,000, but at the end of April it received a bill for £51,057.60, £6,057.60 more than expected.
West Berkshire Council provided a breakdown of the costs, which showed that replacement cubicles and a new boiler had been installed over the past year.
In a report to the recreation and amenities meeting on Monday, the town council clerk, Elaine Hare, said that these were capital items and that the originally agreement between the two authorities stated that the town council would contribute to revenue expenditure only.
However, the arts and leisure information officer for the district council, Jim Sweeting, defended the inclusion of the costs in the bill.
In a letter, he said: “The boiler breakdown was not anticipated during the past year and thus not planned for, hence the inclusion in the revenue expenditure.
“Similarly, the failure of the distribution board and pump were not anticipated and required a quick replacement to allow the centre to continue to offer a full programme of activity to the community.
“The cubicles required a lot of work done due to wear and tear and the doors started to hang off them. They could have been done as an extensive programme of repair works, but when reviewed it proved to be most cost effective and less disruptive for the public for replacement cubicles to be installed.
“However, there was no capital allocation remaining for this, so permission was given for it to be included as a revenue item.”
In response, town councillor Lynne Pettyfer (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said: “What dismays me is we get this at the end of the financial year and [the district council] has not given us any indication that these works were happening, nor they did not forewarn us they were happening.”
Town and district councillor Sheila Ellison, (Con, Thatcham north), said: “If you have a big boiler like that, you have to have a fund put by in case something goes wrong.”
Town councillor Owen Jeffery (Lib Dem, Thatcham South and Crookham) said that Thatcham taxpayers were not liable for the capital costs and added that an increase of about £8,500 from the previous year was “fairly considerable and fairly important”.
Agreeing that a meeting should be arranged between the two councils to discuss the way forward, he added: “The last thing we want to do is to pass an angry resolution.

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