RESIDENTS could benefit from cheaper gas and electricity bills after Blackpool Council signed up to a new scheme to tackle fuel poverty.
Blackpool is one of the first councils in the country to join the project which aims to negotiate lower gas and electricity charges with energy companies on behalf of householders and businesses.
It comes after soaring bills have left some folk unable to afford to turn their heating on.
A report by the Energy Bill Revolution group in June this year found a quarter of homes in Blackpool South and more than a fifth of homes in Blackpool North and Cleveleys are suffering from fuel poverty.
Householders are facing increases of up to £266 a year on fuel bills as tariffs they signed up to in the past 18 months expire, leaving them on their energy supplier’s standard tariff.
But Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn hopes the new scheme will help break the cycle of fuel poverty.
He said: “Not a day goes by without a story in the news about fuel poverty and energy prices. Our residents are facing these challenges on a daily basis and this is a practical way of helping them to save money.”
With 14 councils, including Blackpool, having joined forces to create what is the UK’s first ever collective energy switching scheme, there is the potential to create a bargaining unit representing more than 1.9 million people.
To participate, residents will register their details, giving their current energy usage figures for gas and electricity.
The scheme will work by means of a reverse auction where energy suppliers will be invited to bid the lowest price to supply the energy.
The move has been welcomed by community leaders. Barbara Thomas, vice-chairman of Blackpool Senior Voice, and chairman of the Claremont Residents Association, said many people were struggling to pay their bills.
She said: “There are many elderly or disabled people and families in Blackpool who find it difficult to afford their gas and electricity charges. Some have medical conditions which mean they need a warm house. Yet bills are going up and up all the time and it is terrible.”