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Businesses face losing licences after electricity meters are tampered with – including one that was stopped... by a cocktail stick

Five Blackpool Promenade hotels could lose their licences after town hall officers found electricity meters had been tampered with.

Enforcement officers visited the By The Beach Hotel, New Oceans Hotel, Inglewood Hotel, the Beach Hotel and the Roker Hotel and found “various means” of tampering with the devices – including one hotel where a cocktail stick had been jammed into a
meter to stop it turning.

There was also evidence of broken security seals on the devices.

Each of the premises was issued with a Prohibition Notice by the council which saw the electrical supply immediately cut off and meters removed following the visits.

And licensing chiefs at the council now have the power to suspend or revoke their premises licences when hearings for each premises take place later in the year.

The discoveries come as part of a major council-led crackdown on meter tampering launched earlier this year, which has already seen off-licences and takeaways in the resort have their premises licences revoked.

They follow an investigation lasting several months by Blackpool Council enforcement officers and Electricity North West inspectors.

Coun Gillian Campbell, cabinet member for public protection on Blackpool Council, said: “Utility meter tampering is a dangerous crime which we’re working hard to stamp out in Blackpool.

“It is a safety risk and defrauds legitimate businesses who trade fairly and honestly.

“I want businesses to know our fight against this is going to continue and we will name and shame those who continue to try it on.”

At the start of this year Blackpool Council told The Gazette it had identified at least 30 businesses believed to be committing electricity theft and a town centre shop soon became the first to have its licence revoked after a hearing was told of evidence of electricity meter tampering.

The council warned traders who put lives at risk by tampering with the electricity supply they will be closed down.

Sue Turner, revenue assurance manager for Electricity North West, said: “We take meter tampering very seriously and electricity abstraction is a criminal offence and puts the safety of people and the property at great risk.

“We will continue our successful partnership with Blackpool Council to crack down on local businesses such as these as it is unacceptable that honest bill-paying residents across the North West are effectively paying for others to have free electricity.”

Among the evidence gathering during the visits, according to the council, was defects in the electrical installation at the By The Beach Hotel, dangerous electrics, a hole in the meter and evidence a wire was poked into it at the Roker Hotel and defects in the installation of the electrics at the Beach Hotel.

Peter Parekh, leasee of both the Beach Hotel and the New Oceans Hotel, says the issue was caused before he arrived and he had no idea of the problems when he took the properties on in January.

He said: “Within a day of us taking them on we got our supply back on again.

“We had no idea, we came into it quite behind on what was going on.

“Apparently some of the wires were dangerous before.

“The council asked us for some paperwork but we had all that here and we’ve done a fair bit of work ourselves - not electrical, but on the building side of things.”

Sunny Raja, receptionist at By the Beach Hotel, denied the allegations its electricity supply had been tampered with.

However, he did admit inspectors had told hotel staff their supply was unsafe.

He said: “They came and looked at our units.

“They said anybody could touch them, children could touch them and it wasn’t safe.

“We’ve spent £9,000 on rewiring it so it is safe and electricians are still working on it.

“It was dangerous but we’ve redone it.

“They said it hadn’t met their standards so they told us to do the work.”

The owners of the Inglewood Hotel and the Roker Hotel were not available for comment.