RESIDENTS in Sunderland are being urged to save money on energy bills.

The collective switching scheme allows people from across Sunderland and other communities in the UK to join forces to negotiate cheaper deals and save money on energy bills.

The scheme has already been successfully trialled in a number of areas across the country, where people have seen average savings of around £169 a year.

Sunderland City Council is introducing the scheme in response to rising energy prices and an increase in the number of people living in fuel poverty.

Councillor Paul Watson, Leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “One of our roles as a council is to protect the most vulnerable people in our communities.

“More than 21 per cent of people in Sunderland are living in fuel poverty. Every winter we hear tragic stories of people dying because they can’t afford to turn on the heating so this is a really big issue for our city and it’s one we’re committed to tackling.

“High energy bills impact on us all. Anything that helps cut the amount we’re paying for our energy bills has to be a good thing and the more people sign up, the higher the potential savings.”

Collective switching brings together people who want to switch and providers into one ‘auction’. Energy providers then bid for their business by offering the best available prices.

Residents interested in joining the scheme can sign up online at www.sunderland.gov.uk/collective-switching or by calling 0191 520 5551 .

The sign up period runs through until Monday June 9. Registration is easy and free, but people will need a copy of their most recent energy bill to complete the process.

Once they have signed up, the council’s collective switching partner iChoosr does the rest. They will gather all the registration details together and invite the energy companies to come back with their best prices for energy to everyone in the scheme.

People who have signed up will receive details of the new tariff and exactly how much money they could save by switching if they accept the offer.

It’s then up to them to decide if they want to go ahead with the switch or not. There is no obligation to accept and no cost if they decide not to go ahead.

Anyone who decides that switching isn’t for them this time round, will be able to sign up for future auctions later in 2014 and 2015.