A CHURCH near Newport usually pays less than £300 per month for power - so leaders were shocked when supplier SSE took nearly £44,000 from its account.

None of the 80-strong congregation saw the huge gas bill envelope before the huge direct debit was taken because the church has no letterbox to post it.

Stunned worshippers at Castleton Baptist Church at Marshfield, between Newport and Cardiff, only realised the power company had taken it from their bank when the treasurer checked the account a week later.

The church's bill is normally less than £300 a month - but energy company SSE took £43,649.28 instead.

Now the power company has apologised and given £500 compensation as a goodwill gesture.

South Wales Argus: The bill received by Castleton Baptist Church. Picture: Wales News ServiceThe bill received by Castleton Baptist Church. Picture: Wales News Service (Image: Wales News Service)

Treasurer Nathan Evans who said the regular monthly bill was about £200 to £300 for the modest church building in Marshfield.

He said: "When I saw the money that had been taken my reaction was total shock and panic.

"SSE say they sent an invoice sometime at the end of November 2023 on paper. The church has no letterbox so it never got to me."

But they took the money by direct debit on Wednesday, December 6 - and it was more than a month later before the money was back in the church account on Thursday, January 11.

He said: "Where are the checks and balances, especially when you consider what our bill normally is?

South Wales Argus: Treasurer Nathan Evans. Picture: Wales News ServiceTreasurer Nathan Evans. Picture: Wales News Service (Image: Wales News Service)

"The church only happened to have a large amount of money in the bank because we were left money in a will."

Mr Evans said that when SSE recalculated the bill in question it should have totalled just £304.

Reverend Rafael De Lima said: "It was taken by direct debit and when we realised it had been taken we tried to get it back.

"They said to us they realised it had probably been a mistake and to get in touch with our bank to get it back but that took over a month for that to happen.

"There was a lot of too-ing and fro-ing and I believe now we have finally got the money back but they gave us quite a lot of hoops to jump through."

South Wales Argus: Reverend Rafael De Lima. Picture: Wales News ServiceReverend Rafael De Lima. Picture: Wales News Service (Image: Wales News Service)

He said that members of the church were "astounded" when Mr Evans told them of the accounting error, adding: "He was a real hero in getting it back."

Rev De Lima said that the money would have previously have left the church overdrawn but said: "We very fortunately had a substantial legacy left to us by one of our members and that was the only reason we had the money in there.

"Without that for sure the account would have been overdrawn."

A spokesman for SSE Energy Solutions said: "We are sorry for the issues the customer has encountered with their bill.

"This was caused by the incorrect submission of a meter reading by a third-party industry operator, which our internal checks regrettably missed before the customer was billed.

South Wales Argus: Castleton Baptist Church. Picture: Wales News ServiceCastleton Baptist Church. Picture: Wales News Service (Image: Wales News Service)

"We are reviewing both our third-party’s checks and internal processes to improve our service going forwards and will also be reaching out to the customer to offer compensation.

"When customers query their direct debit payment, industry terms and conditions allow them to request a refund from their bank.

"The timing of this payment is dependent on the bank’s processes."