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The North of England’s gas distributor, Northern Gas Networks (NGN), has won the Community Initiative of the Year category at last night’s Utility Week Awards at the Grosvenor Hotel in London.

The Warm Hubs initiative is a pioneering community project, in partnership with Community Action Northumberland, that aims to help residents facing the misery of fuel poverty, isolation and loneliness.

The hubs provide warm, friendly places, staffed by volunteers, where customers living in vulnerable situations, usually in areas that aren’t connected to the gas network, can go to socialise, get warm, have a hot meal and access information, advice and referrals to relevant support.

20 Warm Hubs are now thriving in Northumberland and more than 1,000 residents attend each week during the winter months. The self-sustaining scheme has also attracted around £750,000 in funding from external sources and 200 volunteers have been trained to support.

Tom Bell, Head of Social Strategy, Northern Gas Networks, said: “We are over the moon that the Warm Hubs initiative has been recognised in this way against some tough competition.

“Fuel poverty is a problem throughout our region so we launched our Warm Hubs scheme to reach out to those residents who are living in uncomfortable conditions and struggling to keep warm. It’s an honour to hear that the scheme has been recognised as we have a further four hubs planned for Newcastle City Centre.”

Christine Nicholls, Community Development Officer for Community Action Northumberland, said: “We’re delighted that the scheme has been recognised by Utility Week. Warm Hubs provide friendly, cosy places where local people can go to socialise, stay warm and get a hot meal. They are a simple but effective way of bringing people together who otherwise may become isolated and lonely, and struggling with heating their homes. ”

The Utility Week Awards aim to recognise excellence across the industry and reward organisations that have achieved outstanding performance in the last year.

NGN was also shortlisted for their carbon monoxide poster campaign in partnership with SGN, Wales & West Utilities and Cadent. Although, Wessex Water were crowned winners, the entry received outstanding praise from the judging panel on its quality and outcomes.

Anyone that smells gas or suspects carbon monoxide should call the National Gas Emergency Service immediately on 0800 111 999. This line is in operation 24-hours a day, seven days a week.