Bulk buy and save - oil plan

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Banding together to bulk buy heating oil could help hundreds of villagers secure cheaper fuel and fend off the recent price hikes.That was the verdict of one woman, behind a pioneering syndicate scheme in Upton, near Acle, to help villagers get a better deal.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Banding together to bulk buy heating oil could help hundreds of villagers secure cheaper fuel and fend off the recent price hikes.

That was the verdict of one woman, behind a pioneering syndicate scheme in Upton, near Acle, to help villagers get a better deal.

Hilary Hanbury set up the initiative back in 2000, but with the cost of crude oil topping $100 a barrel, she said there was more interest than ever in the concept. Such has been the enthusiasm that she would like advice on starting a website detailing how others can get up and running.


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“Since the New Year, we have had quite a few emails for all over the country asking about it,” she said. “I just feel it's something that people want to run with and I'd like to see if other villages feel the same.”

Initially around 15 villagers singed up to the scheme but now there are more than 80 households taking part. Villagers sign an agreement to take part and there are five order points throughout the year.

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“We've been going since 2000,” she said. “I did feel there was a need for people in smaller villages that do not have access to other forms of heating.

“We are able to get a better price for our oil, we can save between 2p and 4p a litre and it's much better than having lots of lorries coming through the village.”

Fuel syndicates are not unique to Upton, but Mrs Hanbury, who also works full-time as an adult education advisor, said other villages should join forces to reap the rewards.

“It's not just about the saving, it's also about the environmentally friendliness of it,” she added. “If you have got everybody ringing up you may have 10 to 15 lorries coming whereas we've got two or three. That's good for the environment and for the companies because it's saving them fuel.”

But she said the parish council had not been overly helpful - a fact which had already sparked debate in the parish newsletter.

“We try to hold an annual general meeting and we asked that as we were doing something for the village if the parish council would pay the cost of hiring the village hall, but they wouldn't.

“We now have 80 households in the village and we've had three extra people in the last week. I couldn't take anymore on and now I have a friend who helps takes the orders.

“It's open to anybody who wants to join, and I have quite a lot of elderly people who ring me. We don't take on any businesses because we feel they get their own preferential rates.”

Most of the ordering is done via email and since the scheme has been up and running she has developed a competitive range of fuel supplier contacts keen to do business with the syndicate, which helps push the prices down.

“It's not me haggling, they want the order,” she said. “Their eyes tend to pop out when I ask for a quote for 35,000 litres. It's good for everybody really.”

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