I’ve written before about how Consumer Affairs Minister Ed Davey is one of the Liberal Democrat ministers getting messaging right, packaging up different policies in a coherent liberal narrative, but this month has also seen the launch of an important new – and liberal – initiative by him, the Buy Better Together Challenge.
Launched in conjunction with Co-Operatives UK, the challenge is designed to encourage communities to get together to buy together:
The idea is a simple one – and an old one. When people club together, they can get things cheaper. Or afford better quality … Perhaps my favourite scheme is the ‘R Shop Bulk Buying Project’ based in Parkwood, Maidstone. The idea for the project came from a local mother who wanted to create something that made shopping both cheaper and easier – especially for the most bulky items like nappies and potatoes. With many local families not having cars and the estate being a good bus ride away from a supermarket, easier cheaper shopping caught on. Run from a community room in the local primary school, local families have cut their weekly shopping bills by up to 30 per cent.
Research by the Department of Business suggests that the greatest impact is likely to be amongst the poorest sections of society, with collective purchasing offering the option of improving living standards by providing access to cheaper and better essential goods. A very useful knock-on benefit, hard to quantify but to be valued nonetheless, is on the quality and strength of local communities, with people interacting more with their neighbours as a result of taking part in common schemes.
A £60,000 fund is available to support new schemes. Details are on the BIS website, including how you can apply for a scheme for your own community.