A PUB was brought to the brink of bankruptcy because of skyrocketing energy costs.

Jeanette Elstone, landlady of the Green Dragon in Northwich, has had to pay £19,000 to BES Utilities this year alone.

This comes as the company’s former owner, Andrew Pilley, was jailed earlier this month for 13 years for fraud and mis-selling energy contracts, which Mrs Elstone believes she was a victim of.

Mr Pilley’s actions forced 'many businesses' to cease trading, Lord Michael Bichard chair of National Trading Standards said.

With the Witton Street pub still locked into a contract, Mrs Elstone feared she may be next.

"People are having to give up their businesses every day because of them (BES Utilities)," she said.

"If I can’t get out of this contract then there are 18 people who will lose their jobs."

READ MORE: Andrew Pilley sentenced at Preston Crown Court 

Northwich Guardian: The Green Dragon on Witton StreetThe Green Dragon on Witton Street (Image: Google Maps)

Mrs Elstone, who will celebrate her 10th anniversary at the Green Dragon this Sunday, signed the original contract with BES Utilities in 2015.

The pub was fitted with a ‘Market Tracker’, which saw prices reviewed twice a year to reflect changes in the energy market.

She had no problems until last year, when her monthly bill rose from around £1,200 in April to £4,200 in October.

Around the turn of the year she tried to leave her contract but was told she would have to pay £30,499 to do so.

In desperation, she decided to cancel her direct debit, resulting in a breach of contract.

BES Utilities then cut off her electricity supply, with Mrs Elstone eventually having to stump up £10,000 to have power restored.

This week, Mrs Elstone wrote to politicians including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to ask for their help.

She said: "Throughout this entire ordeal, BES Utilities has demonstrated a complete disregard for ethical laws and legislation, leaving me with no choice but to face the possibility of bankruptcy.

"My situation is dire, and I fear that many other small business owners might be facing similar challenges due to this company's practices."

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BES Utilities stated that the conflict in Ukraine, among other things, led to the increased prices and that they will now only be reviewing prices once a year.

A spokesperson said: "Mrs Elstone agreed to our electricity Market Tracker product and has been supplied under this contract for some time.

"The product is designed to track wholesale and other costs, and historically customer prices were reviewed every April and October to ensure they reflect what is happening in the energy market. 

"Unfortunately, global events beyond our control including the conflict in Ukraine, had a significant and well-publicised impact on wholesale energy prices during winter 2022-23, and we had to pass this increase through to customers in line with the terms of their contract. 

"Of course, we would much rather be reducing our customers prices, as we did in April 2023, and on numerous occasions when costs have allowed us to do so.

"To minimise market volatility, our electricity market tracker is now reviewed annually, meaning the reduced prices Mrs Elstone is now paying will remain in place until at least April 2024.

"We are sensitive to the financial impact on our valued customers, including Mrs Elstone and we are working closely with Mrs Elstone to reduce the debt balance."


Mrs Elstone has said that since being contacted by the Guardian, BES Utilities has agreed put her on a lower rate of 39.1p/kwh which she has described as 'much more achievable'.