A CHARITY is facing closure after damage caused by vandals racked up gas bills of £7,000 together with a £5,000 repair bill.

Fuel pipes at Derwentside Council for Voluntary Services in Stanley, County Durham, were snapped twice last year, leading to huge bills from the power company.

The charity, which works with people suffering financial hardship in one of the most deprived areas of the region, has itself also been hit by Government funding cuts and now faces an uncertain future.

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DCVS manager Tina Parry, a former chairman of Stanley Town Council, said: “We are in crisis.”

The first time vandals struck, last February, gas was left spilling out from the supply at The Tommy Armstrong Centre, where the charity is based, from Friday to Sunday until it was discovered.

Ms Parry said: “The gas was just coming straight out and we were really anxious that there could have been a major fire. There was a danger of there being a build up a lot of gas and there could have been an explosion.”

A bill of £4,000 was subsequently issued and was paid, but the same thing happened in July, resulting in a £3,000 bill in October.

The charity was unable to pay and was cut off by the power company, meaning they have been using portable electric heaters over the winter.

Formed in 1996, DCVS holds job clubs, offers computer and internet services, supports victims of domestic violence and houses a food bank.

It is run by 26 volunteers and has 40 people a day through its doors.

But the service is regularly targeted by vandals, who damage the shutters, drink around the back and smash their bottles.

There has also been damage to roof leaving asbestos exposed.

Police have pledged to increase patrols in the area to stamp out the anti social behaviour.

Ms Parry, a representative of Stanley Area Action Partnership, said: “We are not sure what is going to happen. If people cannot access the internet and the food bank then there is going to be more people and families in financial crisis than there are already. This is an essential service.”