Saturday, 26 May 2012

Oil Buying Groups, the Office of Fair Trading Report, and the involvement of WHICH.

On Wednesday in Westminster the message was clear: Remote Communities need special attention. The OFT were in Westminster, where they gave a taster of their upcoming report into Remote Communities - which featured Hexham and the Upper North Tyne so significantly. Publication is expected in a month. It will look not just at fuel but at all aspects of rural living, including access to public and other services.
Separately, I recently received a helpful report by Mike Murray, who runs the North Tyne valley oil buying group.
His report is fascinating:
"You probably know that there are now six groups in this area (at Allendale, Hamsterley, Haydon Bridge, Humshaugh, in the North Tyne valley and at Slaley.) The groups probably have 700 or 800 members. Members are mainly householders. But a number of farmers, churches and village halls, a pub and several SMEs are members. It is likely that several thousand people now benefit from the work of the buying groups. Each group has a co-ordinator. The co-ordinators stay in touch and have recently been able to consolidate monthly orders. Last week the group at Humshaugh ordered some 18 500 litres. Earlier this week the remaining groups ordered some 90 000 litres. In the past four months we have taken our business to three different suppliers. In addition to the six groups there are three potential groups in the area. I called on a potential group at Scots Gap earlier in the week. And I have been exchanging messages with a potential group at Capheaton. These two potential groups are now in touch and will, I think, see if it may be wise to work as a single group. I am off to Haltwhistle next week to talk to a potential group there. Any new group in the area would be welcome to consolidate orders."
I cannot praise the work of these pioneers of people power highly enough. To watch their enthusiasm and work to battle the iniquity that is fuel poverty [which is 24% in the North East] is very impressive.

The effect of this consumer led revolution is not lost on the wider world and I am pleased to say that I have been working with the magazine "WHICH", who are also behind the Big Switch campaign, to see if we can share good ideas and both spread the message on oil buying to a global audience, whilst also tackling an attempt at a larger purchase of electricity supply - which seems a natural extension and expansion of the oil buying groups efforts. These plans have been delayed by the demands of day job, but I am resolved to tackle the work with WHICH very shortly and will report back.