A scheme that has saved vulnerable Warwickshire residents nearly £200,000 from their energy bills in its first year could be scrapped if it cannot ‘wash its own face’.
Councillors at this week’s Warwickshire County Council resources overview and scrutiny committee voted to extend the Switch and Save Scheme where suppliers take part in a reverse auction with the cheapest winning the contract to supply those who take up their offer.
The project is midway through a two-year trial and 2,600 people have already benefited with the council earning a referral fee for each person who switches supplier.
But a report to councillors explained that the scheme was not yet paying its way.
It explained: “Net referral fee income is gradually increasing but not yet covering delivery costs. Further collaboration with existing and new partners should increase uptake and may reduce the required marketing and communication budget so that referral fee income can eventually cover all costs."
Councillors praised the service with committee chairman Cllr Adrian Warwick (Con Fosse) adding: “I have to say this is exactly the sort of scheme that we as a county council should be working with and it is getting to those people who are hard to reach and saving people, many of whom may be vulnerable, hard-earned money.This is an important scheme to be involved in.”
But there were concerns about whether the scheme would be allowed to continue.
Cllr Judy Falp (Ind Whitnash) said: “I have some concerns on the recommendation that says that if sufficient referral income is achieved to cover the costs to the council then the scheme will continue.
“If we think it’s a good scheme and the referral income isn’t sustained then we are going to lose it so I’m a bit concerned about that. Surely we should support it financially.”
“It would be good if it went to the local community groups which they can’t do at the moment because they haven’t got the ability to do so - it’s chicken and egg. I think it will grow if it can go to more places.”
Officer Jacky Lawrence, who presented the report, explained the team behind the scheme would be able to arrange more face-to-face events if more resources were available.
And Cllr Peter Butlin (Con Admirals and Cawston), the portfolio holder for finance and property, said: “It was always designed to wipe its face - it’s not to create an income but just to cover costs. If it is unsuccessful then it won’t generate an income to sustain it - if you don’t use it lose it.
“I am very keen to promote it and I’ve taken on board what the officer has said. If we can put a little bit of money into the promotion side then I’m more than willing to do that.”