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12 December 2013

Community Switch launches in Liverpool with scheme to cut social housing tenant bills by up to £370 a year

Press Release 12th December 2013

Energy switching business Community Switch has been launched to provide social housing tenants with the chance to cut energy bills by up to £370 a year.

The new business, which has taken office space in Old Hall Street, Liverpool, was backed with an equity investment of £250,000 by The North West Fund for Energy & Environmental, managed by 350 Investment Partners. It also benefited from advice and support from Liverpool Vision, the city's economic development company.

Community Switch has already secured agreements for three-year deals with registered social landlords (RSLs) Wigan and Leigh Housing, Salix Homes in Salford and Blackburn-based Twin Valley Homes, which together are responsible for a total of more than 40,000 properties.

Other RSLs throughout the North of England are in a strong pipeline of business due to agree similar deals with Community Switch in 2013 and early 2014.

Community Switch has recruited 10 staff in telesales and intends  to add another five employees before March 2014 to take its workforce to 15 with plans for further recruitment throughout the year.

The business is providing its service in partnership with energy supplier Utilita Energy and Energy Helpline, an independent price comparison service.

Patrick Berry, the managing director of Community Switch who has been instrumental in a number of major regeneration and energy projects, said the service was targeted at social housing tenants because:

  • rapidly rising energy costs disproportionately affected people on low incomes;
  • the same group of people were adversely affected by welfare reform;
  • the likelihood of fuel poverty affecting the vulnerable increases;
  • the likelihood of landlord debt increases with rising energy bills.

Research by Community Switch showed that switching levels among social housing tenants were low because most switching services were online and many tenants did not have internet access and because they include a greater proportion of vulnerable groups including the elderly and those with long-term health issues.

Community Switch addresses the issue of internet access by working with landlords to proactively contact tenants.

He added: "Our USP is that we provide this service to social housing tenants via the trusted source of their landlord. We provide a full and transparent service with Ofgem accredited services and website and very much look forward to helping tenants to cut energy bills by up to £370 a year."

Revenue for Community Switch is generated by affinity payments from the energy supplier
being switched to by a tenant - meaning there is no cost for the landlord.

Mr Berry added that the systems employed by Community Switch were "robust and compliant" with business practices approved by energy watchdog Ofgem.

He said: "Our team is here to provide help for those that want it without the need for pushy sales techniques." For example, all scripts used by telesales staff are Ofgem and distance selling regulation compliant and all calls are recorded.

He said Liverpool Vision had introduced him to Liverpool City Council for help with recruitment and training, organised meetings with property agents to secure office space and provided details of local businesses for IT support and website design.

Jonathan Bryers, partner at 350 Investment Partners, managers of The North West Fund for Energy & Environmental said: "We are delighted to be backing this entrepreneurial and innovative approach from Community Switch.  We believe there is a real and very timely opportunity to deliver material cost and energy savings to social housing tenants in the North West at a time when energy prices are only likely to increase over the long term". The North West Fund is financed jointly by the European Regional Development Fund and the European Investment Bank.

Max Steinberg, chief executive of Liverpool Vision said: "Community Switch is providing good quality jobs and a valuable service to communities and is an organisation my team has been glad to assist.

"I am also very pleased that they have chosen Liverpool to locate their operation where I am sure they will find a city that matches their ethos and ambition."

 


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