Community oil buying scheme spreads wider

A GROUP oil buying initiative is spreading across Northumberland.

The scheme started off in a rural part of the county five years ago when a few families came together to save money by pooling their individual orders.

As word of mouth spread and more residents got involved it became the North Tyne Group and its success spawned quite a few others across the west area such as Allendale and Humshaugh.

Now hundreds of people not connected to the mains gas grid are benefiting from paying a lower price for domestic heating oil as well as red and white diesel through the bulk purchase.

And among the newcomers in September was the Bolam Group, which is going from strength to strength. It currently has 45 members and they recently managed to achieve their best saving to date.

Co-ordinator Jim Grant said: “Being able to get this oil at a reasonable price is making a big difference, particularly for people with smaller tanks who don’t have lots of income and need to top them up in the winter.

“Through word of mouth and notices in parish newsletters, numbers have steadily increased and we have been able to save about 5p per litre a month, although this month we managed to get 10p off each litre.

“If we keep growing then we may get to the stage where we are responsible for our own order. It would be useful if we could get a base somewhere and if members of the group could take it in turns to do the administration.

“I always stress to each person who joins that deliveries will come from different oil companies, so they won’t receive the same driver each time.”

Each month, local co-ordinators will ask their members by email if they would like to make an order. They put together a total and inform the regional oil buyer, Mike Murray.

He then seeks a quote from four or five companies and chooses the best deal. He gives the people who have asked for oil all the details about the negotiations and tells the supplier each name, address, phone number and access specifics.

The supplier then contacts those on the list individually to confirm order requirements and arrange direct payment.

Mr Murray was one of the founders of the North Tyne Group and he has spoken about the initiative at a session of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee.

He said: “There are currently nine groups who collaborate for oil orders and the total monthly amount is now over 100,000 litres – on one occasion it was 170,000. The majority goes to households and the rest is delivered to village halls, churches, pubs and small businesses.

“The scheme is helping hundreds of people living in rural villages and the savings they are making means that more money is being spent within their communities.

“I’ve been impressed with how quickly the Bolam Group has progressed, it’s going from strength to strength. When you look at how things have developed over the last few years, I would certainly say that there is the potential for more of these groups to become established in rural Northumberland.

“The co-ordinators are unelected and unpaid. We decided they were necessary because they know the people living in their community and can effectively spread the word about their group.”

There is no membership fee to join a group, although no financial advice can be given about oil purchase arrangements.

For more information about the initiative, call Mr Murray on 01434 240587.