Heating Batchwood Hall puts rubles in Putin's pocket
- Credit: Archant
St Albans council has been accused of fuelling the Russian war machine by buying its gas from a company directly controlled by Vladimir Putin.
A review of SADC's accounts shows the authority has been using Gazprom, the Russian majority state owned oil/gas company as the preferred supplier for Batchwood Hall, formerly a nightclub and more recently a Covid vaccination centre.
Recent reports show SADC spent the following amounts with Gazprom: £9,111.55 in January 2022, £7,179.71 in December 2021 and £5,013.60 in November 2021.
When Putin became President of Russia in 2000, he sacked leading directors within Gazprom and replaced them with his own former colleagues.
Cllr Mary Maynard, leader of the Conservative Group on SADC, blamed the Lib Dem administration for the decision to use Gazprom: ‘Yet again, we see the yawning gulf between what the Liberal Democrats say and what they do.
"They are strongly criticising others for relationships with Russian companies and individuals, yet they themselves set up a contract with the largest Russian state-owned company, paying local people’s taxes straight to Russian oligarchs. They need to undertake an immediate review of all their contracts and perhaps take more ethical purchasing approaches."
An SADC spokesperson said Batchwood Hall was on a long-term lease to a nightclub, and at some point, the club must have taken out a contract with Gazprom for its energy supply.
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"We inherited this contract when the leaseholders gave up because of financial difficulties and returned the premises to us during the COVID pandemic.
"We’re in the process of switching suppliers for the property which is empty at the moment as we look to lease it out again."
They added that SADC has no other contracts with Gazprom.
The council has now frozen all payments to Gazprom while they review recent bills and the Batchwood contract.
Their utilities are generally looked after by Team Energy, a Milton Keynes-based company, and they are looking to switch the Batchwood contract to them while they seek to lease the building long term.
Specialist business property advisor Christie & Co is currently marketing Batchwood Hall, proposing new high-quality pub-restaurant with letting rooms will appeal most to the local community, as well as visitors to the adjacent Batchwood Leisure Centre and golf club, which collectively receive up to 700 visitors per day.