Council believe energy bills scheme could help 10,000 Norwich households save money
Plans to help win cheaper energy for as many as 10,000 households in Norwich as part of a collective bargaining scheme have been revealed.
Details of how Norwich City Council hopes it can help residents saves as much as �200 on their energy bills per year were announced at the launch of the Norwich Big Switch and Save scheme at City Hall.
It was claimed the scheme could help to prevent as much as �10m leaving the Norwich economy every year.
City council leader Brenda Arthur and fellow Labour councillor Bert Bremner - both members of the city council's cabinet - gave further information about the project, which was announced in mid-September.
The council is working with a company called iChoosr, which has been involved with over one million people switching providers in Holland and Belgium.
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Mr Bremner said a household is defined as 'fuel poor' if it is paying out more than 10pc of its disposable income to heat its home adequately.
The University ward councillor said the city council estimates that 17pc of households within the city boundaries are' fuel poor', which equates to nearly one in five.
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The city council has now opened registration for the scheme, which will be open until Sunday, November 25, ahead of an 'auction' with energy providers on Monday, November 26.
Mrs Arthur said: 'Only last week energy providers told us they are going to increase their prices by 8pc. So the launch of this scheme today is really timely, in the hope people will be able to access cheaper fuel in time for the winter.
'Average earnings in Norwich are lower than in the rest of the region so Big Switch and Save is meant to help those people who are facing fuel poverty and on lower incomes, but it is to help everybody.
'If we have a good take up this could mean millions of extra pounds in the Norwich economy.'
The scheme aims to use people power as a bargaining chip to negotiate a lower energy deal with energy providers.
Registration is free and there is no obligation to take up the deal that is negotiated. Following the auction emails will be sent announcing the deal on or around Friday, November 30 and people will have until Wednesday, December 19 to decide whether to switch.
People who don't use the internet to register have until Friday, November 16 to complete their registration and will then have until Friday, December 14 to make the switch.
Mr Bremner emphasised that there is help for people who cannot register online and said councillors would be encouraged to help people in their wards with the process, as well as information leaflets being distributed.
He said: 'Most people have not switched since the deregulation of the energy markets in the late 1990s and many may be paying more than they necessarily need to on their energy bills.
'As a community leader we feel we have a duty to work to decrease fuel poverty amongst our residents.
'We hope that the lasting legacy of this process is to demystify the process for our residents so that they not only save money on their bills but have the confidence to go on and switch their utility bills.'
A number of community organisations, including Voluntary Norfolk, local housing associations and the Norfolk Older Peoples' Forum are helping to spread information as well, and had representatives attend the launch to ask questions.
The city council is one of just a handful of councils in the country to have started a collective switching initiative and will auction alongside the Labour National Group and Unison as it tries to get a better deal for Norwich residents.
It was also said that pre-pay card and key users will be able to join the scheme, unless they are over �400 in debt to their current energy supplier.
While walk-in service to register for the process will be available, although people will need to pre-book a slot.
- To register for the scheme, go to www.norwich.gov.uk or for other ways to register call 0344 980 3333.
- Do you think the scheme is a good idea? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or email email@example.com