North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb praises community bulk-buying schemes
A Norfolk MP joined rural campaigners in promoting the power of community buying schemes to help village economies and reduce pressure on the heating budgets of isolated homes.
The Norfolk Rural Community Council (NRCC) hosted a meeting at Colby and Banningham Village Hall to discuss the benefits of its Thinking Fuel initiative – a domestic bulk-purchase scheme for oil, run in partnership with agricultural buying group Anglia Farmers.
The scheme aims to use the combined negotiating power of lots of people to secure cheaper fuel for its members, with proceeds also being used to support community development services.
In just over a year, it has attracted 1,400 members across 40 communities in Norfolk, and produced an average saving of 11pc during the last twelve months, against average market prices.
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb encouraged people to join the NRCC scheme, or one of the many individual village buying groups which are emerging throughout the county.
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He said: 'It has immense value. The bottom line is that you can get discounts of between 9-11pc on your fuel bills. For an average household that's about �120 per year which, for houses on low income, is quite an important saving.
'We heard from one chap who runs a scheme in Aylmerton which has saved something like �30,000 in four-and-a-half years for about 120 people. It is a remarkable saving and there is no down-side, really.
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'The power of numbers is very clear and it shifts the balance in the direction of the consumer – particularly with fuel. There is a lot of concern about the amount of profit the fuel companies are making, and this is a way of getting fuel at a lower cost.'
Mr Lamb said collective buying schemes could be particularly important for those in rural areas who often face higher energy bills because of the lack of mains gas.
'The figures show something like 61,000 homes in fuel poverty in Norfolk, and those figures are already out of date,' he said. 'This is a way of making a difference to people which could be very important in terms of being able to heat their homes this winter.'
Jon Clemo, chief executive of Norfolk Rural Community Council, said: 'For the scheme to have grown so quickly shows that it is really striking a chord – particularly where it is allowing us to reach some of the most vulnerable people who are under the most pressure.
'It has also opened our eyes in terms of the potential for more community activity, and where we can take the scheme from here.
'There is a huge interest in bulk-buying renewables, other utilities and office equipment for our members, and we are also looking at how we might be able to help specific groups like parish councils by negotiating things like the servicing of dog bins. The possibilities are endless.'
-For more information on Thinking Fuel visit www.norfolkrcc.org.uk/thinkingfuel or call NRCC on 01362 698216.