HOUSEHOLDERS are being urged to start the New Year in economy mode by slashing their fuel bills by up to £250.

Wigan Council is enouraging residents to join a ground breaking collective energy switching scheme that could mean massive reductions to the cost of heating their homes.

They can register interest in the collective bulk buying scheme, launched on January 2, by visiting or calling 0800 009 3363.

A similar scheme run by Oldham Council in the autumn attracted more than 8,000 takers, with many households saving hundreds from their annual bills.

The project was so successful it is now being repeated, with people from across Greater Manchester invited to register their interest in combining their purchasing power.

Under the scheme, the group then enters a ‘reverse auction’ and gets a cheaper deal together on gas and electricity from energy companies.

Residents just need to produce a copy of their current energy bill to register an interest before the scheme closes on January 28, and anyone who enters will receive an offer for a new rate which they do not have to accept. The scheme is also open to residents who use pre-payment meters.

Although the scheme will be targeted directly at people living in Greater Manchester, it will be open to anyone in the UK to join.

Lord Peter Smith, leader of Wigan Council, said: “We fully support this initiative. High energy bills have been a matter of concern for some time and here is an opportunity for people to take positive action to reduce the amount they pay. I’d encourage residents to seriously think about signing up for the scheme.” Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council and chairman of the Greater Manchester Low Carbon Hub, said: “There are more than 200,000 households in Manchester who are in fuel poverty, struggling to heat their homes this winter, and this switching scheme will make a huge difference to the lives of residents by enabling them to knock hundreds off their household bills.

“The more people who come forward, the more they could save from their fuel bills, and residents don’t even have to accept the offer so they have literally nothing to lose by registering.

“Energy switching is still relatively new in the UK, but in many parts of Europe it is now common practice, and I believe this scheme will demonstrate once again how this makes a lot of sense for anyone who doesn’t like paying over the odds to keep warm.”