Comment: By working together we can cut rural costs

Oil co-operatives can save residents' money.
Oil co-operatives can save residents' money.
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POCKETS of resistance to the increasing cost of living are being formed across rural parts of Yorkshire, in particular in the areas of fuel and energy.

Volunteers have been banding together to form oil-cooperative schemes which can alleviate some of the financial pressures and strains of purchasing fuel in readiness for colder weather, and Rural Action Yorkshire is highlighting their efforts as part of our ‘52 (Almost) Painless Things Your Community Can Do’ campaign.

We want the campaign to empower rural communities to try new things and share experience and knowledge with others. This applies as much to improving the cost of living as it does to improving the quality of life in isolated areas. It’s a well-known fact that living rurally can mean higher fuel prices, higher bills and a higher cost of living overall. Where villages are situated off the mains gas grid and are geographically-isolated, heating homes becomes a major issue in winter months when oil prices increase as the temperatures drop. Oil-cooperatives, ‘number 7’ on our list of 52 Things, are just one solution we have come across in our work.

In Dalton and Gayles, two neighbouring villages in Richmondshire, one such co-op is helping people to stand on a more equal footing with the rest of the UK. Their cooperative is led by volunteers Linda, Carole and Clare, who initiated the scheme when they realised many people - especially older people - were struggling to afford the prices for oil and wished to save money for themselves.

They’d also noticed a pattern of ‘misplaced loyalty’ where local people were buying from the same suppliers, under the impression that they’d get a good deal.

Linda, one of the coordinators, told us: “I was paying more for my oil than my friend was, even though we bought from the same supplier and received our deliveries on the same day. After I retired, I did some more research into the area and contacted Rural Action Yorkshire, who sent out an expert to tell us more about oil cooperatives and how we could set one up.

“It was invaluable support as we were provided with standard documents, for things like membership agreements, from another oil co-op who had gone through the same process.”

After ascertaining interest from other residents and nearby villages, the Dalton and Gayles co-op has now been running for several years with considerable savings for locals.

To illustrate the benefit, a member would have saved £221 if they’d ordered the minimum 500 litres with each of their orders since the co-op began.

When considered alongside the fuel and running costs saved by reducing the amount of trips needed to deliver the oil, and on the carbon emissions this saves, the economic and environmental return is much higher. Linda estimates that the co-op has saved over 300 tanker journeys so far.

With autumn fast approaching and poorer weather ahead, we’re encouraging communities to prepare now for fuel costs.

We face a cost of living crisis alongside growing public cuts, and where communities have found ways of dealing with this, it’s important to share this knowledge with others. Dalton and Gayles is one of many co-ops around Yorkshire and is testament to the resilience of rural communities everywhere.

Leah Swain is chief officer of Rural Action Yorkshire. For more details about the ‘52 Things’ campaign, visit www.ruralyorkshire.org.uk