IT is a scheme that could save Hampshire families up to £200 a year on their gas and electricity bills.

County bosses are setting up a “bulk buying” scheme that will enable customers to combine their purchasing power and get a better deal from utility companies.

It is estimated that individual consumers would save in the region of £60 to £200.

Total savings across Hampshire could reach £25m. It would involve customers agreeing to switch suppliers up to three times a year.

The county council is working with other local authorities across Hampshire to set up the collective energy switching service.

The scheme works when an organisation is appointed to register customers, identifying what their energy use is and then negotiating with energy companies on their behalf to get the best deal as a group.

The county council is proposing to contract an organisation to manage the collective switching service for interested residents at a decision day later this month.

There would be no charges to the customer or any council tax payer for the service, as the organisation’s payment would come from a referral fee paid to the organisation by the energy supplier.

The consumer would simply have to compare the tariff being offered with their current rate and switch if it is a better deal.

Cllr Mel Kendal, deputy leader and executive member for environment at Hampshire County Council, said: “This is good news for households across the county, since it will mean that people who register for the scheme will possibly be able to get their gas and/or electricity at much cheaper rates than if they were buying either service as an individual customer.

“For instance, there are approximately 760,000 households in Hampshire. If two per cent sign up to switch energy supplier through our collective energy switching service, this would give a combined purchasing power of just over 15,000 customers.

“That is a big amount of business for any energy company, so by bulk buying the deal should be better.

“Clearly, the more people who sign up, the more negotiating power we will have – so it is vital as many people as possible register for the scheme.

“Being able to access cheaper energy has the potential to bring significant benefits to those on low incomes, the elderly and families in fuel poverty, which in turn should have a positive impact on their health and wellbeing.”

More details about the scheme and how people can register will be announced at the beginning of April, subject to the agreement, on January 22, to contract an agency to undertake the energy switching work.