The director of a building firm which undertook the major refurbishment of a Lancashire sports club has been left with a "sour taste in his mouth" after the council failed to pay him in full for the £265,000 transformation.

Andrew Charnock, director of SJJ Contracts, was appointed by South Ribble Borough Council in January to undertake a total renovation of Vernon Carus Sports Club in Penwortham, Preston.

The club appeared last night in the BBC One documentary, Freddie Flintoff's Field of Dreams, which aims to get more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into cricket.

Mr Charnock, whose Widnes-based firm usually works on new build homes, said he took on the job as he believed it would be a fantastic opportunity to be involved in something so high profile.

The council wanted the renovations completed before the start of the new cricket season in April, and in time for Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff's documentary to be filmed and aired. 

But when he was told the budget was just £265,000 and he had only three months to complete all of the work - which included a full rewiring and improvements to the run down, outdated clubhouse, delapidated changing rooms and scoreboard - he knew he and his team of around 30 employees were up against the clock. 

Speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph, Mr Charnock said: "We worked every day we could, morning, noon and night, even weekends, to get it all done.

"The timescale they wanted us to complete it in was really tight, and the budget not enough for what they were asking of us.

"When we were coming to the end of the works, the council suddenly turned around and told us they needed an extra £9,000 for new furniture and fittings, TVs and state of the art projectors etc for the clubhouse, and as a gesture of good will we used our own suppliers for this.

"We were paid in increments, so after a stage of the work was done we would get part of the money.

"However, upon completion, which was at the end of April, they still owed us around £26,000, and they still, three months later, haven't paid us."

Lancashire Telegraph:

Mr Charnock said it's not about the money so much for him, it's the way the situation was handled, as part of the agreement allegedly stipulated that SJJ Contracts would become a sponsor of the club, something which has yet to materialise.

He also said South Ribble Borough Council has failed to enter into dialogue with him in relation to the owed £26,000, and claimed they even tried to barter with him on site in front of members of Vernon Carus Cricket Club to reduce the cost. 

He went on: "They have not responded to any of my emails in relation to the final payment, and I have been forced to get my legal team involved.

"But it's not really about the money, it's the principle, and the way it was handled and it's left a sour taste in my mouth.

"One of the directors even came down to the site one day to try and haggle and barter with me - I felt like I was in a bazaar abroad somewhere - it was embarrasing.

"They clearly didn't have enough money to achieve what they wanted to achieve but had to get it done so they would look good for the TV. 

"For us, £26,000 is not that much in real terms, but can you imagine if the contract had gone to a smaller business - that £26,000 non-payment would be enough to send them under, and that's not what any company needs trying to recover from the pandemic.

"I'm not bothered about the sponsorship now, it would have been really nice but I can let that go.

"I feel like we've been taken advantage of - we were contracted to do the work, and we worked so hard, just to make the council look like heroes in Andrew Flintoff's documentary.

"All I care about is putting this matter to bed.

"I want to make it perfectly clear too, I have no issue with anyone down at Vernon Carus, or Andrew Flintoff and what he was trying to do - they were all absolutely amazing and deserve the best, and in fact, we liaised more with them than anyone at the council. 

"I was really proud of the job we did too, we worked so hard and it looks fantastic, and I wish the club all the best for the future, but the way we have been treated by the council has left a sour taste in my mouth."

Mr Charnock says that following his conversation with us, and after we went to South Ribble Borough Council for comment, he was contacted by someone at the council to "arrange a meeting to discuss a way forward". 

Leader of South Ribble Borough Council, Councillor Paul Foster, said: “The transformation of the sports club at Vernon Carus has been brilliant for the local community and is another example of us investing in facilities right across the borough.

“On any building contract like this there will be some element of snagging and unfortunately this has been fairly significant and has taken longer than we and the contractor would have liked to get it resolved.

“We appreciate the effort the contractor has put in to get the work done to time and understand that the time pressures made the job more challenging but we have to be satisfied that everything has been resolved before paying the final amount as we are dealing with public money.

“We’ve been having dialogue with the contractor as recently as Tuesday, July 19, and we’re confident we can get this sorted quickly now good progress has been made.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

In September last year, Lancashire County Council cabinet members approved a proposal for the transfer of more than 18 acres of land, which includes the Vernon Carus site, to South Ribble Borough Council.

The council were expected to receive up to £650,000 for the upkeep of the land, which encompasses Penwortham Reservoir.

A sum of £150,000 was initially set aside for the refurbishment of Vernon Carus' sports club facilities, with an additional £25,000 to be invested from the council's leisure budget, totalling £175,000. 

In his documentary, Freddie Flintoff offered to put £25,000 into the pot for the refurb and pledged a further £25,000 if the council could stump up the full £200,000 - which they agreed to in episode two, aired on July 12.

The full cost of the refurb was around £265,000.

A further phased development of the area north of Factory Lane, using the remaining money from the £650,000 budget, could include additional sports facilities such as a new BMX track along with upgrades to the Boxing Club and bowling green.

A garden and picnic area has also been proposed while parking would be expanded and improved.

Longer-term, there is the potential for the current sports club building to be replaced by a new state-of-the-art sports pavilion and changing rooms.

It was also proposed that the reservoir footpath be upgraded and new picnic areas and viewing points with benches installed - as well as storage space for water sports equipment.