ALMO - what's it all about?

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mac
Friday 8 June 2007 11.11am
Hi everyone

Can anyone explain the pros and cons of an ALMO (Arms Length Management Organisation)? They are considering setting up one in Lambeth to manage properties that are currently managed by Lambeth council. Last night council represenatives were calling at flats where I live to find out whether tenants/leaseholders would support the setting up of an ALMO. They said that the only way that Lambeth would get funding from the Government was to set up one of these ALMOs (apparently they'll get an additional 250 million if they set up an ALMO), otherwise they wouldn't get enough funding to continue the decent housing initiatives. What would an ALMO mean for leaseholders? I've seen a few flyers around with the message 'Say No to ALMO', but I'm not sure why. The council reps seemed quite keen to promote it, saying it was the only way to secure funding into the future - without it there'd be no repairs etc. I'd appreciate any thoughts or insights people on the forum might have as I'm quite confused.
Thanks!
Monday 11 June 2007 8.41am
A concise reply - basically the Government won't give extra cash for improving council properties directly to Lambeth as it thinks an 'outside' body can handle the money better. Tenants will definately benefit as it will mean their property will be brought up to the 'decent homes' standard more quickly than if there is no ALMO. Leaseholders will also benefit from having work done on their property to bring it up to the standard - but they will have to pay for it themselves. If they were not living in ex-council property, one assumes that they would want to keep their property in good order to maintain its value anyway. One bugbear would be that if they had already installed say, double glazing, they would have to pay their share of any installation of double glazing to the block they lived in.
Monday 11 June 2007 9.57am
Southwark abandoned its campaign to move towards ALMOs as there was serious opposition to the proposals. There have been votes against ALMOs in many areas.

Defend Council Housing has some arguments against ALMOs here - http://www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk/dch/dch_ALMOs.cfm
Monday 11 June 2007 5.26pm
If tenants vote against the ALMO then the Govt will have to release the they are witholding - they have to bring all homes up to Decent Homes standards within the next few years. Only approx 30% of homes in Lambeth don't reach Decent Homes (sounds a lot but is actually higher than many local authorities in London).

IT'S not true the money isn't there - the Govt has it to give to a private company, and in many other Local Authorites in the UK, tenants have voted to keep housing management within the Council.
the whole ALMO thing was invented as a sleight of hand to get privatisation through because all over the UK, Council tenants were voting against transfer to Housing Associations which is full-blown privatisation usually leading to massive rent increases and all the other problems associated with having a massive private company as your landlord.
The council are giving out a lot of old flannel about the ALMO not being privatisation. The first stage is the setting up of the management company and at the 2nd, a MASSIVE amount of is borrowed from the private sector. If the ALMO co defaults on repayments, that puts the whole of the hosuing stock at risk of being taken out of their hands (i.e. that's the equity). The govt has been quite clever in that none of (my info could be out-of-date here) the current ALMO's have gone through to 2nd stage so there's not been time to see the experience of this going tits up as this would be detrimental to their agenda of getting every one to vote for ALMO.
The ALMO IS a private company - Lambeth & the govt call it 'not-for-profit' but many of these ALMOs have built up masses amounts of in their reserves and the Federation of ALMOs is lobbying the Govt hard to free up financial restictions (e.g they want to be able to float the co on the Stock Exchange etc etc)
There's also a lot of blatant lying going on about 'tenant representation' as this is a big issue with tenants. Yes there are issues with Councillors, but every 4 years, if they mess up, you can vote them out. It's not a perfect system but it's better than the ALMO system.
Also - anyone can get info from the Council under the Freedom of Info Act as it's a public company- not under ALMO.

Basically there will be Tenants Reps & Leaseholder Reps on the ALMO Board. The Shadow Board has been set up to prepare for the ALMO, and to present it as a done deal. Usually at this stage the ALMO people are sweetness and light to the tenants. However AS THE ALMO IS A PRIVATE COMPANY IT COMES UNDER COMPANY LAW SO THAT ANYONE ON THE BOARD HAS TO SIGN CONFIDENTIALITY CLAUSES TO STATE THEY WILL PUT THE INTERESTS OF THE BOARD FIRST. All across the country, this is one of the main issues that has been really hacking off tenants duped into voting for ALMO under the guise that they will be represented as they are now by Councillors and also their own estate reps etc: these reps and any Councillor who goes on the Board cannot tell tenants if there are issues which will be detrimental to what the Board wants to do business-wise. The Council have put a spin on this but it's fact - if you start going outside the Board telling people information that concerns them, YOU WILL BE BREAKING THE LAW. The Reps simply say 'I can't tell you' - and they can't. It's caused a lot of anger amongst tenants who beleived they would have proper democracy as they were told.

Look at the name itself -ARMS LENGTH MANAGEMENT BOARD. Tenants under ALMO have major difficulties getting information - everyone says it's not their concern, it's someone elses. Definitely check out the DCH website.
Just remember the people in the council promoting it are doing so for their own interests, and are pulling the wool over people's eyes. If they are so interested in democray, why is it that the current Labour Council never mentioned a word of about going for the ALMO bid during the Local Council election campaign? They say they 'didn't know' until they got elected - which is rot - they put the bid in a few weeks later and if you beleive what they tell you.........

Council housing was hard-fought for and we don't want to go back to private housing which is profit driven.
Due to hard camapigning over many many years, the Govt is finally making concessions about Council housing - it's been Labour policy to take housing of Council control, despite the fact that 4 Labour Party conferences have voted against this policy and for direct investment in council housing. The party is meant to set their policy by these conference votes, and the policy group (or whatever they're called) have been locked in negotiation with the leaders of the party to persuade them to accept the vote. Due to the mass of tenants across the country voting to stay with the Council, Gordon Brown is having to respond to political pressure-
http://www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk/dch/statements/dch_emailbroadcast080607.cfm

We're nearly there - don't vote for ALMO and watch those tricky-dicky questions on the ballot paper (it won't be YES / NO, it'll be some crap like 'do you want a new bathroom')
Monday 11 June 2007 6.17pm
It's very difficult to write about this without ranting-
the fact is if local authorities were to borrow money against their (bricks and mortar) assets, the figures would make Brown appear to be imprudent, which is why the govt will not allow LAs to borrow against these assets like any business could.
Many groups are pressing for a 4th option - which is to provide govt. money for investment in social, (commonly owned) housing.
There was no mention of a switch to an ALMO in the Lambeth Labour manifesto in 2006, now Lambeth council is spending tax payers money to encourage residents to vote into a one way permanent change. Southwark residents may have faced a similar challenge, if Labour had won a majority in 2006.
For leaseholders, the bottom line will be higher costs, more akin to those of the private sector.
Monday 11 June 2007 8.40pm
Lambeth Defend Council Housing have produced a "Vote No to Almo" newspaper.

PDF at http://www.lambethdch.org.uk/publicity/LambethDCHBroadsheet-june07.pdf

They also have a blog at http://lambethdch.blogspot.com/

UNISON are against it too: http://www.lambethunison.blogspot.com/. The reps who came to your door were being paid extra to sell you the idea.
Tuesday 12 June 2007 6.57am
I am totally against the sale of council housing, unfortunately I lack the ability to as articulate it so clearly as the above posters. But it has always puzzled me as to the legality of it all, because if you you back to the inception of council housing, when those wonderful ideas of housing the homeless and needy come to fruition where does it say that the property can legally be taken away from the people by various authorities?

If we stopped willy nilly mass immigration and only allowed people to apply for council housing after a few years of living and working here we may not have such an urgent need for housing especially in our beautiful countryside.
And I'm waffling again completely off the original thread sorry..:-(
But have just been reading articles saying we need another 100,000 built every year just to keep up with the demand.
Wednesday 13 June 2007 7.35am
There, as people can see, two sets of strongly held views. A few months back someone I know who was leading a campaign to get at least a tenant vote on the transfer of Lambeht Housing stock to an ALMO. He took me through what seemed like an amazing catalogue of smoke and mirrors. I didn't understand all of it, but was convinced that there were not enough hard financial facts to make a reasoned decision.

(Yes there is Government money available, though I understood that the Decent Homes deadline had somehow slipped from 2010 to 2015. And Doon Street, see another thread, may be an example of what happens when a Council transfer land to a community organisation.)

So in the end it probably is a choice between the devil you know and the devil you dont. I understand that Wandsworth tenants voted overwhelmingly for the devil they knew, and similar has happened elsewhere in London (Camden was the first if I remember corectly.)

I think it is unrealistic to think that if tenants dont vote for an ALMO there will be no Governemnt money....EVER. Indeed there are already signs that the door is reopening for Local Authorities, at least those with proven housing management skills, plus potential scope for bringing external investemnt via forms of Special Purpose Vehicle or Joint Venture.

What I dont understand is why a vote is limited to tenants. Public housing stock is owned by all of us. As are the pieces of "spare land" that surround them. As a member of the property owning middle classes, it seems daft that our land is being transferred to some new and unproven organisation with the help of a Government carrot. A lot of the north Lambeth stock is poorly built and coming to the end of a (short) life cycle. The sensible option would be a policy of refurbishment where appropriate and rebuild where not. Given the higher densisites now being built, the rebuild should be able to finance the rest and a few community facilities besides. And "we" would keep ownership.

As importantly the Council, who retains responsibility for housing the homeless, would keep control of nominations to housing when it becomes vacant.
Wednesday 13 June 2007 10.40am
sarah2 wrote:
I didn't understand all of it, but was convinced that there were not enough hard financial facts to make a reasoned decision.

yes it's all OK unless you ask a qustion that probes the shallow gloss - then the eyes glaze over and you get 'the line'- the people promoting it just repeat standard glib answers like 'there will be more tenant choice'- New Labour-speak which is superficial and flies in the face of FACTS.
Wednesday 13 June 2007 10.51am
sarah2 wrote:
What I dont understand is why a vote is limited to tenants. Public housing stock is owned by all of us. As are the pieces of "spare land" that surround them. As a member of the property owning middle classes, it seems daft that our land is being transferred to some new and unproven organisation with the help of a Government carrot. A lot of the north Lambeth stock is poorly built and coming to the end of a (short) life cycle. The sensible option would be a policy of refurbishment where appropriate and rebuild where not. Given the higher densisites now being built, the rebuild should be able to finance the rest and a few community facilities besides. And "we" would keep ownership.

As importantly the Council, who retains responsibility for housing the homeless, would keep control of nominations to housing when it becomes vacant.

Leaseholders of Council property can also vote.

IT'S ALL ABOUT NEW LABOUR'S MATES IN BIG BUSINESS GETTING THEIR HANDS ON OUR LAND - IT'S PRIME REAL ESTATE! AND THAT'S ALL ALMO IS ABOUT IN A NUTSHELL but it's dressed up in a load of drivel!

As for your last point - I wholeheartedly agree - Lambeth has a very high waiting list - 10,000 at least, with the housing stock diminishing by 10% annually due to Right To Buy.
Under the ALMO, all housing management would get transferred to the company.

Just to clarify - at Stage 1 of ALMO, the released is only to bring homes up to Decent Homes so only a minority of properties in the borough will immediately benefit - i.e they will get new roofs, bathrooms and kitchens if needed. So people are being asked to hand over all control to ALMO for that.

In Southwark ,where the residents voted against privatisation, the Council are brnging homes up to Decent Homes standard with Govt - they will release it, it's just a question of sending them a message that we don't want ALMO.
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