As we all feel the pinch of the current government’s cuts alongside rocketing energy and food bills, wouldn’t it be nice to think we could all help each other in these bleak times. We could of course because there is still power in numbers.Just think if all of the people in one village or all of the residents in one street got together how they could negotiate with the corporations. Businesses now nearly always reward a customer if they manage to sign up a friend. A community group could easily negotiate with the suppliers of electricity or gas or broadband to get the best deal possible for all.The same principle could be applied to shopping, everybody knows that buying in bulk is cheaper so would it be beyond the wit of a community group to put their shopping lists together and have a weekly visit to the cash and carry or put in a large order from, say, a Suma catalogue? I was heartened to see recently in a local village a poster encouraging everybody to buy their central heating oil from the same firm and enjoy a discount. If only that went on everywhere.The magazine ‘Which?’ last year set up a scheme encouraging consumers to ‘group buy’ their energy; the consumer group estimated that households were paying £4.1 billion extra collectively because they had not switched to a cheaper energy tariff.
The idea of co-operatives has been around for nearly three hundred years; whether members are the customers, employees or the local community, they share the profits and have an equal say in how the business is run.Getting together and forming a community buying group is using exactly the same principles and,followed through to their natural conclusion they challenge and redesign the very foundations on which old school, last century economic thinking is built.One comment underneath a Guardian article last year highlighted exactly the money saved:” Over £40,000 saved and shared between 100 families in one tiny village over two years – an average of £200 per annum per family! There are hundreds of these groups across the UK and we are doing everything to join up the dots to create truly huge group buying power. It doesn’t matter what they buy – it can be anything from solar panels to rural energy to toilet rolls to security.” The power is within the group.
What’s not to like? It seems a great idea to me and also gives the mega-corporations a timely reminder that they are not doing us a favour by selling us their wares at inflated prices but it is us the consumers who hold the power and have the right to take our money elsewhere.The main problem is of course getting people motivated to change, it is anathema to some people to talk to their neighbours and many would have difficulty in for instance changing their supplier of electricity simply because they have been with then for so many years.That there is no reward for this kind of misplaced loyalty seems to have missed them completely.The only other drawback of course is that all of the organisation could fall at the feet of one person. But with apt co-operation from all, wouldn’t it be worth giving it a go?