A BROKEN water pipe left unnoticed for months led to nearly £200,000 of public money being poured literally down the drain.

And nobody knew until the bill came in.

The pipe on the swimming pool at Lydiard Park House is under concrete and sits next to a drain, meaning water went directly into it, giving nobody any inkling that there was a problem.

Labour group leader Jim Grant was shocked by the huge bill. He said: “It does seem this is money literally down the drain.

“I’m concerned that the Conservative cabinet and council were not aware of how much this leak would cost before they got the water bill.

“I think this is probably a result of the council leaving some of these buildings in a state of disrepair for a long time and now taxpayers are having to pick up the cost.

“Lydiard has huge potential and it is absolutely essential we do all we can to make it a success.

“Thankfully the Conservatives changed their minds on transferring Lydiard to the private sector and recognise it has potential.”

Margaret Jefferies, 72, from west Swindon thought modern technology might have helped the council.

She said: “We’ve got a water meter, so if they’d had one at Lydiard they might have noticed something was wrong before they got the bill.

“It’s a bit unfortunate that it went on so long without anybody knowing about it.”

Jeremy Barnes, 68 was more sympathetic, saying: “It sounds like a perfect storm of things going wrong.

“If you don’t see the water seeping out then there’d be no reason to suspect. That’s one hell of a water bill, though.”

Keith Williams, Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member for corporate services and organisational excellence, said: “Normally if you have a leak you have water pooling and you can see there’s a problem.

“The pipe under the reception area to the pool is under about 18 centimetres of concrete and is right next to a drain, so the water was going straight down it – and nobody knew that it was cracked.

“The first we knew was when there was a water bill for just under £200,000 and we were astonished. We wondered what was going on.”

The problem was tracked and found and has now been sorted, Coun Williams said.

But it has led to a hole in the budget of the council’s communities and housing Department.

It has reported to finance bosses at Euclid Street that it is looking at a £246,000 overspend, mostly due to the cost of the bill and then repairing the pipe.

The problem was brought to light when Labour councillor Des Moffatt asked Coun Williams which ‘heritage building’ was the cause of the overspend at the council’s scrutiny committee


A spokesman for the borough council said: “The council took over the running of the conference facilities at Lydiard from the previous operator in April last year and there was no indication at that time there was an issue with the water system at the house. Alarm bells were raised when we received a rather large water bill about a year on from the transfer of the facility.

“Investigations revealed a leak in one of the pipes underneath the pool which was feeding into a nearby drain, thereby ensuring there was no visible evidence there was a problem.

“The pipework was also located under 18cm of concrete. The leak has since been repaired and the pool has been decommissioned.

“Plans are in place to convert the space into a conferencing facility which will allow the council to improve its offer for larger events such as weddings.”

The house was run by private company Chartridge Venues until April 2018.

The borough council had also been in talks with the Lydiard Park Heritage Trust about the latter organisation taking over the running, with the local authority looking to cut its annual £450,000 subsidy to the house, but no agreement could be reached over how much money was needed for maintenance.

The council said about £850,000 work was needed while the trust put the figure closer to £5 million.

Since the council has taken the running of the Grade I listed building in-house, occupancy rates for room has risen from 50-60 per cent to above 80 per cent and it has started offering itself as a venue for weddings.