RESIDENTS in Burnley could receive a reduction of between £150 and £200 in their energy bills under an ambitious new council initiative.

Rocketing energy costs unveiled by the country’s major suppliers have left many households facing major headaches with their gas and electricity bills.

Town hall bosses in Burnley are now drawing up a scheme, called community energy switching, which could see utility payments drop significantly.

They would be one of the first councils in the country to offer residents the scheme, which has already proved successful in Oldham.

One survey showed there were almost 7,250 Burnley homes facing fuel poverty, 8,330 in Pendle, and 5,420 in Rossendale.

Under the moves, customers are signed up in bulk, so a comparison company can stage a ‘reverse auction’ with an energy supplier.

Residents would then be signed up for a fixed period, prob-ably a year, and should benefit from a reduced price for their gas and electricity supply.

There would be no need to get a new meter, or new equipment at home.

Council leader Coun Julie Cooper said: “Our challenge will be to get as many people signed up as we can.

“People who don’t even necessarily live in the borough can join the scheme and benefit from the savings.

“We have been looking at other schemes in Oldham and they are hoping to make sav-ings, on average, of between £150 and £200 per year.”

A similar scheme in Oldham has seen around 8,000 people sign up. Council chiefs in Burnley say ‘savvy’ customers, who may have already switched their suppliers, could only benefit by smaller amounts.

But those who are not so clued-up about changing energy companies would reap the largest rewards.

The pilot scheme will be marketed with the switching company iChooser. An initial £5,000 budget is being estab-lished to promote the scheme, and an application will be made to the Department for Climate and Energy Change for extra funds. The company selected by the Burnley authority has already developed switching projects in Belgium and Holl-and, where around one million consumers are involved.