Virtually every household in the town is feeling the pinch at the moment.
The costs of goods and services are going up and in a lot of cases the household income is being frozen or even reduced.
Everyone is making cutbacks and everyone is particularly looking to save money on household bills.
The cabinet has been working up an idea for a while now that we are ready to progress with a report to the Cabinet meeting next week which has the potential to save every household in Hartlepool up to £200 a year on their energy bills depending on what tariff you are currently on.
Community Energy Collective Switching is a simple yet very effective way of reducing lots of household energy bills.
It has been working extremely well in Holland and Belgium for a while and a few local authorities in England have started to venture down this path and many more are interested.
It’s dead easy and uses the concept of bulk buying. Residents can sign up to the scheme via the council, our partner company auction the energy contract to a supplier and takes the lowest bid.
Residents will then see how much they will save by switching and are given the choice if they wish to proceed.
The more people sign up, they cheaper it will be and the contract is regularly refreshed and re-auctioned to ensure we have the lowest possible price.
There is an option to team up with other Tees Valley authorities in the future for even cheaper deals but they are at various stages of readiness and we want to plough ahead and get it in place as soon as possible so people can start saving money.
The council will have a big promotional campaign about this because it really is a no-brainer to help people save money.
There is an excellent website run by Martin Lewis called, moneysavingexpert.com, which is full of tips on how to save money on household bills and all sorts of other things. I recommend you look at it anyway but it says very clearly that the best way to keep energy bills to a minimum is to switch suppliers every year.
It does work but anyone who has tried it will know it can take time trawling through various price comparison sites and the actual switch over often leads to extra bills and direct debits being missed etc.
All of this hassle is taken away with the Community Energy Collective Switching because our partner company does it all for you.
There will be a line in the report which mentions the possibility of the council setting up its own energy company in the future.
This is something I have been pushing for since I saw a project in Woking when I visited there in 2004.
The idea is for the council to become an energy supplier in its own right and would be able to undercut the others for residents of the town.
Billing and administration could all be tied in with the council tax bills and make things much easier for people.
Installation and maintenance of solar panels and other renewable energy sources could be incorporated and as technology advances, we could look at building community heating and power stations that would make small housing estates and developments almost self sustainable.
This could be a very real possibility in the near future if the will is there and the project proves to be affordable and worth its while.
If the Government can get its energy policies sorted out and give the private sector some assurance that they will get support, we will start to see some major investment in the energy infrastructure of this country and Hartlepool is extremely well placed to benefit.
The biggie for us is getting a new nuclear power station. We are on the list for one but that means nothing unless EDF are willing to invest.
That won’t happen until our Government come up with a robust nuclear power policy and, getting political for a moment, that won’t happen while the Liberal Democrats hold the balance of power.
My glass is always half full and I’m confident that things will sort themselves out and Hartlepool will eventually get the go ahead for a new nuclear power station.
As well as the jobs it will create and the boost to the local economy, it is highly likely that there will be other spin offs for the town.
Other places have been given the funding to build new leisure centres or new roads.
We could go down the route as well but the proposal I would advocate is for the town to get cheap electricity for at least 10 years. This way, through the council’s energy company, we could ensure that every household in the town is guaranteed the very cheapest electricity for a decade and I don’t think anyone would turn their nose up at that offer.
That is one for the future but in the meantime, we can all start saving money on our energy bills from April through the Community Energy Collective Switching initiative so keep an eye out for further information on how to save money in the near future.