Manchester residents could see their energy bills cut by up to £150 due to a new joint initiative from councils across Greater Manchester.
The ten local authorities will establish the dedicated Collective Energy Switching programme on an initial one-year basis, which encourages people to join together in a collective bulk-buying group.
People are being urged to sign up to register their interest in the scheme, and the group will go to auction in January next year to get a cheaper deal on electricity and gas from energy companies.
Speaking at Oldham College to launch the scheme this week, Edward Davy MP, the Education and Climate Change Secretary, said: “I am delighted that ten local authorities across Greater Manchester have come together so that they can help people across the region to save money on their energy bills.
“With energy prices going up I think everybody wants to see how they can cut their bills, so I would urge people across Greater Manchester to look at this fantastic scheme and consider signing up.”
The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) programme will build upon work undertaken by Oldham and Rochdale Councils’ Power to the People scheme which has already signed up 800 residents to go to auction on November 26.
The news comes after surging energy costs have led to calls from charities, consumer groups and local authorities to urge Greater Manchester residents to take control of their fuel bills.
EDF’s double-digit price rise last week made it the latest big energy company to announce gas and electricity price hikes, following British Gas, Scottish Power and npower.
The move was widely condemned, raising concerns that the recent round of energy price rises would put further pressure on already squeezed household budgets.
Commenting on the price rise, Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, an impartial comparison and switching service, said: “This is the final hammer blow for energy bills this side of Christmas.
“Consumers now face a winter of rationing their energy usage – many will be forced to turn their heating down or off for fear of the impact of these hikes.
“Some households are already performing a juggling act to balance budgets and keep their heads above water and the added pressure of the latest round of energy rises may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”
Recent national research carried out by charity, Elizabeth Finn Care, found that nearly two-thirds of those surveyed are uncertain if they can afford their fuel bills this winter.
Malcolm M Tyndall, Director at Elizabeth Finn Care, said: “These results were collated just before recent price hikes so it can be reasonably expected that the numbers of those concerned will be even more dramatic just a few weeks on.”
Mr Tyndall explained that it was crucial to raise awareness of the fact that there are things people can do cut energy bills and stay warm this winter.
Councillor Nigel Murphy, Manchester City Council’s executive member for the environment, said: “There are more than 200,000 people in Manchester who are in fuel poverty and struggle to heat their homes to a comfortable level so we’re doing all we can to make residents aware of the help that’s available to them. “
Manchester also hosts the Get Me Toasty campaign, which provides free insulation for homes, while Manchester City Council run the Manchester Eco House in Miles Platting where residents can go by appointment to get free and impartial advice about making their homes more energy efficient.
Another option is to switch energy providers to take advantage of a lower tariff.
Anne Robinson explained: “There are still some competitive fixed price plans available that will protect consumers from price hikes for the next couple of winters.”
If consumers take control of their bills right away and manage their energy usage efficiently, they can defend themselves from these winter price hikes.”