Lower Swale Syndicate of Oil Cooperatives, North Yorkshire
The Syndicate has grown out of the Brafferton Oil Cooperative which had around 30 members when I joined five years ago. Since then, through regular notices in the Parish Magazine, posters in the village and word of mouth (not least, by one of our suppliers' tanker drivers!) the Brafferton Cooperative has grown to 170 members and has now been cloned to another neighbouring village a year ago, and three more last month, all centred on Easingwold. In the last twelve months we have ordered 395,000 litres of kerosene.
Each Cooperative has its own coordinator responsible for publicity in its own patch, and for gathering order requirements (every two months) which are then forwarded to the Syndicate coordinator who e-mails or phones a list of suppliers for quotations on the designated day before placing orders on behalf of the individual Cooperative members. Everyone enjoys the same lower price regardless of individual order size (minimum 500 litres) and settles up with the supplier directly within two weeks of delivery. The intention is that the Syndicate coordinator role will rotate between cooperative coordinators to lessen the burden and ensure that the whole exercise doesn't fall apart in the event that one key person is unavailable.
The majority of Brafferton members are on e-mail but inevitably there is small number of predominantly older members who can only be contacted by phone or hand delivered leaflets and an even smaller number who only have a mobile phone number (unwelcome as this puts up the cost of running the cooperative, which is currently free of charge). Wherever possible, members without an e-mail address are encouraged to link up with someone who has. In practice, many members are now ahead of the game and are phoning / e-mailing orders before individual notices go out, in response to the Parish Mag notice. The other cooperatives work on a similar basis.
Where to in the future? If the Syndicate grows further, and there is no reason why not, we will have to look seriously at the possibility of setting up a web ordering facility to lighten the load on coordinators, but this would inevitably have to be supported by a subscription to cover the cost.
Coordinator, Brafferton Cooperative and Lower Swale Syndicate