Fuel saving get-together bid

By IH Friday 12 October 2012 Updated: 17/10 09:06

THE FIGHT against rocketing fuel bills could see residents in the district encouraged to join forces for a fairer deal.

A motion is set to go before a meeting of Stratford District Council (SDC) on Monday (October 15) calling on council chiefs to consider developing a so-called community energy scheme, which would allow residents to register a possible interest in joining a bulk switch of gas and electricity suppliers.

Around 20 councils across the country are already developing such a scheme following the phenomenal success of the Big Switch campaign launched by consumer magazine Which? earlier this year. It saw over 287,000 people sign up. Which? then managed to broker a deal with Co-Operative Energy which enabled 30,000 customers - all the Co-op could cope with - to secure average savings of around £223 per year on their energy bills.

Coun Kate Rolfe has put forward the motion to SDC.

She told The Observer: "With ever-increasing energy costs more and more people are finding it difficult to meet their bills.

"There's a real opportunity here for the council to help people cut their bills. This is a scheme that many councils across the country are bringing in and it has the full support of government ministers.

"It would be nice to think that the council, rather than always asking residents for money, could offer something back."

As winter fast approaches, the major suppliers are again putting up their bills, which is set to add between £65 and £130 to the typical household bill of about £1,300.

If SDC agree to set up a community energy scheme, it would provide publicity, but an agency, such as Wellesbourne-based energy charity Act on Energy, would look to secure the best bulk buying deal for interested households.

Act on Energy has already joined forces with SDC and the NHS to offer rural residents the chance to set up their own mini oil-buying clubs to help them save on fuel bills.

The initiative, funded through an SDC and NHS grant called Healthy Stratford, aimed at helping people live healthier lifestyles, operates in the same way as community energy schemes, with a village or wider community coming together to negotiate a better oil price from a supplier than individual members could achieve.

Act on Energy chief executive David Jullien said: “Oil buying clubs work on the basis that more demand equals better prices. As with many things in life, the more you buy the greater discount you can command.

“From the last survey we carried out for SDC, 42 per cent of homes across the district are not connected to the mains gas supply and are therefore heated by oil and other expensive fuels.

For further details visit www.actonenergy.org.uk/energy-and-fuel-buying-clubs or call Act on Energy on 0800 988 2881.

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