A CARPENTRY firm raided the revamped Prittlewell Priory and removed doors, drawers and shelves because of a dispute over £95,000.
GW Carpentry, which is based on the Cranes Farm industrial estate in Basildon, was threatened with being reported to the police by Southend Council after reclaiming the products it made as part of the £1.8million restoration project.
The firm took the drastic action because it was left out of pocket by the collapse of Ibex Interiors, the company hired by council chiefs to oversee the revamp of the 1000-year-old Priory.
But, following a four-month stand-off, the council has still refused to meet GW’s unpaid bill and instead hired another carpentry firm to replace the missing goods.
Geoff Woolcomb, GW’s managing director, said he was bitterly disappointed by the outcome.
He said: “We are proud to be a local firm employing local people, and we just feel the council could have done more to help us.
“We were not looking to get all the money back, we just wanted to talk about the way forward.
“But the council simply refused to listen or help in any way.”
GW, which employs about 60 people, was one of a raft of firms subcontracted by Ibex to work on the two-year Priory revamp.
However, when Ibex went into administration in June, GW was left with a large unpaid bill.
Mr Woolcomb said he had warned Ibex he would remove the goods if it did not pay out before administrators moved in, and claimed they still belonged to his firm because no money had changed hands.
But council chiefs argued they had become part of the site and were therefore owned by the authority, and their removal could be deemed to be theft.
Nick Harris, the council’s head of culture, said: “We sympathise with their predicament.
“However, we believe GW and the other subcontractors who claim they are owed money, should take this up with the administrators.
“There are fixtures and fittings at the Priory which the Council paid for and regards as its property, but which GW has removed.
“We are not pursuing action to recover this property, but we will not be paying for it a second time as we have already paid the main contractor for it.”