Energy prices have soared over the past year creating significant financial pressures on many organisations, not least the humble village hall. These are buildings run almost entirely by volunteers for the benefit of the local rural community, providing what is often the only space for clubs, events and even local services. But their aged construction and not-for-profit modus operandi left them vulnerable to the energy crisis.
In response to growing concerns, ACRE asked Utility Aid to support a survey of village halls which asked management committees about their use of energy, the impact of rising prices and the support they need to become more energy efficient. Nearly 900 responses were received demonstrating the scale of the challenge with 1 in 10 halls claiming to spend over half of their income on heating and electricity. The information helped ACRE make the case for greater financial support and specialist advice to be made available to village halls whilst Utility Aid made contact with groups that said they would welcome advice managing their energy usage.
The Business Charity Awards 2023, hosted by Third Sector, provides recognition of what this project has achieved. To date, 148 rural community buildings have been supported to move to new energy tariffs giving them greater budgetary certainty. The government has introduced an energy bills discount scheme for non-domestic consumers. And ACRE is now administering a £3 million grant fund for village hall improvements, to which 64% of applications submitted have been concerned with increasing energy efficiency.
Speaking on behalf of Utility Aid, William Campbell, Commercial Director said, “We’re thrilled to have been shortlisted for this prestigious award alongside some really big players such as ITV, OVO Partnership and the John Lewis Partnership. Our ongoing corporate relationship with ACRE has enabled us to reach out and support village halls in a more targeted and informed way. It’s also spurred on new commercial offerings such as our remote Discovery Document Service which is virtually connecting customers with expert in-house assessors who can make recommendations for reducing energy consumption and starting a Net Zero journey.”
Deborah Clarke, ACRE’s Village Halls Manager said, “Working in partnership with Utility Aid has not only increased our capacity to put the energy concerns of village halls on the radar of policy makers, but it has also added value to our Village Halls Advice and Information Service, operated across England by members of the ACRE Network. Helping management committees save energy whilst contributing to Net Zero is one of our top concerns and we will continue doing everything we can as a charity to make this happen.”
‘Helping England’s rural village halls respond to the energy crisis’ is nominated for the award of ‘Best Project’ along with other entrants such as a televised concert held to raise funds for humanitarian relief in Ukraine and a partnership that’s produced online resources to support parents in laying the foundations for a healthy, happy family life. An awards night is being held in London on Wednesday 10 May 2023 to announce the winners.
Notes to editors
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ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) is a charity speaking up for and supporting rural communities. It is the national body of the ACRE Network, England’s largest rural grouping of community support charities which together reach over 35,000 community groups annually, and lever in over £34 million each year in support of initiatives that equip people with the knowledge, skills, and connections needed to improve their local community. Through a network of skilled advisers, ACRE coordinates a nationwide information and advice service for village halls.
Utility Aid is the UK’s leading energy broker for the not-for-profit sector, dedicated to ethical energy provision. They specialise in supporting village halls to find the best deals in a simple, transparent, and compassionate manner. Utility Aid provides a range of services for their customers including invoice validation, Net Zero and carbon reporting, bespoke quotations, and access to a dedicated account manager. Utility Aid deal with all supplier queries on customers’ behalf.
The Business Charity Awards are about showcasing the remarkable partnerships between outstanding corporate and not-for-profit organisations and celebrating their achievements.