SOCIAL enterprise Co-Wheels, which runs car clubs in East and South Oxford, Cowley and Headington, has won a top award.

The company has been named a Social Innovation Pioneer by corporate consultants Deloitte.

Co-Wheels is one of 12 businesses throughout the UK picked because it provides a clear and measurable social impact.

It now has several hundred members in Oxford with 18 cars in different parts of the city and says Oxford is one of its most successful areas. Any profits are ploughed back into expansion.

Ellie Grebenik, regional development co-ordinator for Co-Wheels, said the organisation planned to use the funding to expand its work running car-sharing schemes in new locations in Oxford and nationwide.

She said: “We put an additional car in Marston on a temporary basis and that’s going really well, so we are looking to expand in Marston.

“We are also hoping to get an electric car to put in East Oxford, if the funding comes through.’’ The organisation, based in Newcastle, was approached in 2008 by residents in East Oxford who were keen to set up a car-sharing scheme – partly to ease parking pressure in the narrow streets.

They wanted to encourage motorists to ditch their vehicles and share one instead, to save money and reduce traffic jams.

Members only use the car when they want to and only pay for the miles they drive, instead of the usual ongoing costs of keeping a vehicle.

On average, Co-wheels says, one shared vehicle results in removing around 15 private cars and their emissions from the roads.

Now Co-Wheels will join Deloitte’s Pioneers Programme, which was recognised with a Big Society Award in 2013.

Co-wheels director Richard Falconer said: “We are really delighted to have been selected on to the Pioneers Programme.

"We hope that the programme will give our social enterprise access to really powerful resources and the right connections for us to assess new business opportunities in the future within our sector and to use as a platform from which we can grow and expand our social enterprise.”

Fellow director Pierre Fox added: “Co-Wheels was created in order to reduce the dependence on the car ownership by providing a practical alternative.’’

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