Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Petition demands council disbands ALMO

More than 1,000 people have signed an online petition calling on a council to disband its arm’s length management organisation.

Islington Council is currently carrying out a review of the management of its 35,000 homes. The council is considering whether to disband ALMO Homes for Islington and bring management in-house, change the ALMO’s role, or transfer management to another organisation.

It has ruled out a stock transfer to a housing association. A decision is expected to be taken in November.

A website, DisbandHFI.org.uk, which has the backing of Islington Leaseholders Association, is calling for the ALMO to be scrapped to improve service delivery and save money. More than 1,100 people have signed a petition arguing for HFI to be disbanded. ILA argues that the ALMO is ineffective, inefficient and unaccountable.

The petition says: ‘Councils across the country are winding up organisations like HFI, recognising that they do not represent best value for public money, and bringing management of council housing back under direct council control.

‘We need genuine accountability instead of token box-ticking exercises to retain HFI, an organisation which does not have residents’ interests at heart.’

The opposition Liberal Democrat group on the council last October called for a referendum on whether the ALMO should be scrapped. This was rejected by cabinet member for housing James Murray and the Labour group.

James Murray, Islington Council’s executive member for housing, said: ‘The petition sets out very clearly the position of those people who signed it. We will take it into account alongside the responses of nearly 3,000 tenants and leaseholders who responded to the council’s consultation on the future of housing management in Islington.

‘The council’s consultation, which will continue into September, has been overseen from the start by a residents panel who have had independent advice on how to run the process.

‘Our final decision will be lead by the views of tenants and leaseholders, in the context of priorities that include getting value for money in difficult financial times and building new council housing.’

Readers' comments (45)

  • "Mr Murray said a residents’ panel will inform the review and ensure residents’ views are heard."
    This is typical of social landlords spin. And what if even with a panel the residents views are not heard? They never say that. The reason there is a petition is that residents want guarantees that their views MUST be heard. It their views are not heard, then has to be made clear in writing who is going to be prosecuted? Who is going to be sacked? Who is going to be charged for not listening to the tenants?
    If these questions are not answered fully in writing social landlords will always fail their tenants because their directors will still go on cashing in their fat salaries and bonues and keep their jobs. Do not fall for any so-called complete procedures or ombudsman because these just do not work in stopping social landlords failing their tenants.

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  • Progressive Solutions Required

    Can anyone confirm if all the petitioners are Islington residents, or indeed ALMO residents?

    It would be a bit rum if any jonny-cum-lightly can decide who someone elses' landlord should be.

    Perhaps the views of the 35,000 tenants should be sought.

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  • Melvin Bone

    I agree Chris. The tenants should have a vote on this. In my area our ALMO had a choice to go back to in house or operate as a Housing Association in its own right. A majority voted to go the HA route and it seems to have been a success so far.

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  • Peter Wicks

    I wholeheartedly support the premise that ALMO and ALL Housing Associations should be transferred back to the people via the local councils of Britain.... given the vote the tenants of these get rich quick private companies would vote YES to the abolition of ALMO's and HA's....the word on the streets is that this could not happen fast enough for the vast majority of ripped off tenants from ALL over Britain....

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  • Islington Thomas

    The petition - submitted under Section 10 of the Local Democracy Act 2009 can only be signed by people from Islington (the relevant LA). It is not only tenants who can sign - just as well too, as this decision also has implications for people on housing waiting lists etc.

    I am all in favour of all 35,000 tenants' views being sought once they are given relevant information to make an informed decision, in which case there would only be one possible outcome - a massive majority calling for HFI to be disbanded!

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  • Progressive Solutions Required

    @Islington Tenant - all well and good, but replaced with what, and what safeguards to be in place to ensure that the issues giving rise to current disatisfaction are dealt with (without extra cost).

    What's the positive side of the campaign?

    For instance - the in-house option means the people who are manageing the housing at the moment stop being ALMO workers and become Council workers again, with the cost savings at the executive level as those in the Council currently setting the agenda would then do so without any 'middle-person' to go through.

    If to another organisation - whom would that be, and why are they better?

    What about breaking the stock up into manageable units to be run by cooperatives?

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  • Melvin Bone

    Mr Wicks. What if the tenants do NOT want to be under council control?

    Would you deny them that as an option?

    Or do you support totalitarianism?

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  • Sexton

    Don't be too hasty to go back to the Council, if you do not want the ALMO for any reasons, go for the plan B, but do not go back to the council whatever happens....

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  • So 1,100 people have signed a petition saying they want HFI abandoned. With 35,000 homes, I guess you're looking at a total number of tenants around 85,000. So far, about 1.3% want HFI disbanded, assuming they are actually tenants....

    Hardly overwhelming support is it?

    The statement "I am all in favour of all 35,000 tenants' views being sought once they are given relevant information to make an informed decision" shows how many of these campaigns work - a few people who consider themselves the intellectual superior of their fellow tenants start a campaign, prepare the propaganda THEN bother asking what anyone else thinks.

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  • Peter Wicks

    You have missed the point Mr Bone....my local HA stole the roof over my head for £8.4k!!! when the market price was £140k.They took over 6200 homes at the same bank loan give away price....then when we applied to buy our home the greedy b*stards wanted to sting me for £130k(three months after it became a HA)....cos if you think this OK then God help and save us from greed....and vested interests...

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  • Rick Campbell

    RTB prices rocketted here too apparently Peter .. but I don't know that from personal experience.

    About 3 years prior to ballot, the then Council, went on a selling drive and RTB sales went sky high.

    Pre-transfer, our Council made it plain that they would be looking at disposing of properties such as sheltered schemes, groups of bungalows to existing housing associations.

    Transfer, ALMOs and stock retention all have different attractions and all will have advantages and disadvantages.

    Our stock transfer ballot was on a first past the post system and if the abstentions were counted as NO then it would have been a NO by 104 or so votes.

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  • This petition is really based on a very partial premise. In fact at the last count 15 ALMOs have had their management agreements with their LAs extended whilst only 5 have been taken back in-house. HFI is accountable through its Board on which sit a majority of residents and to the council. With 30% of homes in the borough owned by the Council the LA will certainly take account of local views. The ALMO has also improved performance across the board and raised tenant satisfaction from 41% to 72% during its span, whilst building new homes, vastly reducing costs and increasing tenant participation, so there is a very strong case for saying more of the same please!

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  • Progressive Solutions Required

    Paul Davey seems to have some compelling arguments, and so far none of the petitioners appear to be coming forward with postive alternatives. The only positives expressed are from those directly in the know!

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  • Rick Campbell

    Peter, am I right in thinking that part of the 'discount' price was due to the fact there was a sitting tenant and the new organisation took on board that they'd fund the improvement programme?

    As for the price they wanted from you .. you were the sitting tenant and so the discount wouldn't apply but the RTB discount would?

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  • Peter Wicks

    The improvement plans were funded by the government of the day Rick and the NO vote campaign were denied all information about the addresses of tenants and a general clamp down on all info was imposed...plus the YES vote used the services of a shadowy American organisation that guarantees victory for the Yes campaign!

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  • Peter Wicks

    You may think that TPAS is for the tenants....not on your life...they use Orwellian tactics and mind control tricks to control tenants minds.
    For the betterment of landlords....stupid best tenant awards and freebies for the winners...and all the time they are gaining total control of your minds...some freak PhD from the USA has made a mint out of this. Check it out and see how far the freaks will let you travel into their dens....

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  • Ernie Gray

    One wonders what the views of the Federaion of Islington Tenants Assoication is concerning this. Sounds like it is time to appoint a consultant with a watch to help the Council and HFI tell the time............... groan.

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  • Eric Blair

    Tangentially, it seems all too easy for a group (any group!) to set up an online campaign to lambast organisations it disapproves of. I wonder how much weight this really carries. Just because X number of people sign an online petition, does this really mean they are justified in their views?

    I like the idea of 'clicktivism', but sometimes it seems to go too far. Why can't we all just get along? It all seems rather negative... Instead of dismantling organisations, why not campaign to build a community centre, raise funds for a local charity or set up a voluntary group to engage (rather than enrage) local yoof? Just an idea...

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  • Peter, I genuinely don't understand. You say the market price was £140k and they then offered it to you for £130k. How does that equate to greedy?

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  • Progressive Solutions Required

    Eric is right - the IH campaign to get Tom to buy a round of drinks was highly supported, but on-site Nanny Tom has still not delivered!

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  • Rick Campbell

    Sancho -- perhaps a Right to Aquire discount as RTB discount is £26k I think.

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  • Rick Campbell

    The more I think about Peter's £130k, the more confused I get -- probably with not having personal experience and especially as we, the housing association tenants, are paying for the improvements.

    In order to become debt free, the Council flogged off an estate of 543 low to medium high rise council flats (one-thirteenth of the then stock) and just over 80 housing association properties were built in their stead -- 130 plus private properties too -- with some at £330k plus.

    The council was merrilly auctioning off properties (not a cheap place to buy isn't Macclesfield and its environs) that would cost a lot to bring back to relet standards. Strange though, until it persi=onslly impinged on a LibDem's councillor's ward was this policy even challenged and then only because the repair costs were scrutinised (no little thanks to some mouthy tenant or other) and found to be grossly innaccurate,

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  • How many of the replies here are from Islington Residents?
    It should be noted, that whilst resources do not allow this petition to be posted through every Residents door, this petition is what Islington Council should have sent out, but didn't because it would give them the answer they do not hear.

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  • Peter Wicks

    Sancho...they were GIVEN 6200 houses for £8.4k each and the HA paid £52million with a loan from Fred the Shred(RBS)...the REAL market price was £140k per house...but the council let them have them at the bargain price of just over 8k each!!!!!!never asked the tenants if they would like the roof over their heads for a song....but the HA asked me to pay £130k some three months later if I wanted to buy.....Dick Turpin would be proud of these crooks...believe me..this is common up and down Britain....now you can understand why our rents have gone through the roof...greed rules everything..

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  • The post from Services not Politics was clearly written by someone working for homes For Ilington! I don't know where the statisitic that 72% are happy with HFI Services comes from but as an ISLINGTON resident since 1994 I am confident when I state that the majority of people living in Islington council housing are very frustrated by the poor level of services and the arrogant attitude from HFI Senior Management. The reason the petition is growing is because people are becoming aware that ALMO's are not good value. For example an audit stated that HFI Spent in 10/11 £74m on its running costs in contrast to £24m on actual repairs. There are widesread complaints about the huge costs for repairs and major works that are neither competative in the open market for builders, but low in quality. However the big concern for all Council Tenants in Islington and beyond should be the "Open Public Services" white paper which finsihes the consultation process in November 2011, as reported in this paper. If it becomes law, thsi would enable ALMO's to become Housing Associations and for the people of Islington the end of Council Housing. Most people do not feel the fact that HFI has residents on their board implies community involvement as none of the directors ever consult local people and are bound by company law not to criticise HFI. At least if HFI ws disbanded and housing came inhouse, decisions about peoples homes would be accountable to the elected councillors.

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  • To 'Islington Leaseholder', perfect reply.
    Anyone reading this forum, should perhaps Google the islington Tribune and include HFI in the search and see how many letters and features there have been from disgruntled Residents living in properties managed by HFI.
    Whenever HFI publish a % of how happy people are with their services, this is from an extremely small group of hand chosen people, not all HFI managed properties, if it were there would be a completely different response.
    HFI had their chance to prove their worth and have failed miserably.

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  • Apoica

    "Service not politics" is indeed a HfI employee or so-called "board member". The stats come straight from their version of Pravda. And are about as believable. The username was created today and this was the first and only post. Bit desperate isn't it?

    Islington is not a very political borough unlike say Hackney and Camden. So 1000 names plus on a petition is actually pretty big news around here. In the final analysis a ballot of all tenants and leaseholders - in exactly same manner as the ballot that created the ALMO in the first place - is the only sure fire way to get a consensus on this. Of course the original ballot was chock full of "yes to ALMO" propaganda but I guess that was inevitable as a "no" answer would have meant £253m of DHS funding not materialising. HfI has some extremely competent technical staff, nearly all of whom transferred over the council. It is also some completely appalling housing management staff, again nearly all of whom transferred over the council. Overall things are better than before but with £253m to throw at the problem it would indeed be surprising if they were not.
    IH has covered various stories about ALMOs being forced into becoming HAs by the Localism Bill. Nobody in Islington was HfI to become a HA. LSVT to HA has been a disaster for all concerned. The real question is, I guess, if LBI doesn't take HfI back in house, will Central Government then force HfI (and other ALMOs) to become a HA?

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  • Islington Thomas

    An update on the petition - now over 1,200 signatures and counting… For those who don't consider 1,200+ responses sufficiently representative: about four years ago, Homes for Islington dispatched 16,000 free post returns asking residents to tick two boxes (in reference to closing two area housing offices) - there was a total of 8 responses. They selected which offices to close based on those 8 replies (only two of which were returned by the stated deadline!!!).

    Those who quote "% satisfaction" are clearly as authorative on the subject of life under HFI as Manuel from Faulty Towers was fluent in English.

    Given the many constraints on the petition, accessing the internet and being about to confirm by email; finding it on the Council's website and hoping that your post code is not one of the many not recognised by the database, 1,200 signatures represents a significantly greater number who, based on their REAL LIFE EXPERIENCES of HFI, share the views and objectives of the petition.

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  • To Martin Rutherford, " Thank you".
    The whole suggestion that the campaign to DISBAND HOMES FOR ISLINGTON is political expressed by the title "SERVICE NOT POLITICS" is totally misleading. It is not political to campaign to protect ones housing and demand value for money. The DISBAND HFI campaign has been signed by councillors from the majority of different political parties, and the campaign is not attached to any political party. If only one of our political parties nationally or locally, had the guts to support Council Housing we would probably not have needed to start the petition in the first place!

    All we want is to have well managed, cost effective and affordable housing. Anyone who lives in Islington knows that is not what we have in Islington and will not be blinded by clever statistics. For the money spent to date we could have achieved so much, but instead subcontractors charge eye watering amounts for minor work, which they only reason they get away with it is because not enough people are actively examining bills and tenants do not have the right to request to see how their own money is spent. We can't rely on our polititians anymore. We need to all start taking responsibility ourselves in shaping the future of our housing.

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  • Only One

    Peter - re: valuations I refer to to EUV-SH not market value. Although what this has to do with Islington I'm not sure!!

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  • Melvin Bone

    'mind control tricks' Mr Wicks it sounds like you think you were up against the Jedi...

    I wonder how many of the 1200 on this petition actually are tenants of this ALMO...

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  • Islington Thomas

    To Melvin Bone: Islington Council will have the data pertaining to signatures not displayed on the webpage. This data will include the full addresses and post codes - the Council should be able to answer your question. My guess is that it will be COUNCIL tenants currently suffering under the ALMO who will have signed. However, I believe that all of the borough's stakeholders (including homeless persons and people hoping to be allocated a home) are also entitled to express their views to the Council - would you disagree with this?

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  • Rick Campbell

    Am I to take it then, that there are concerns amongst those who sign the petition that they could be 'got at' for signing -- or am I seeing spectres where none exist?

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  • Yes- it i the case that there is a risk that people will be targeted for signing or organising the petition. There have been cases of censure which I won't go into on this forum. I know of at least two people who want to sign it, but are frightened to do so.

    However there is such thing of freedom of speech, and I think the main reason why the petition started up was because people were very dissatisfied with the wording of Islington Councils consultation, and very concerned about the proposed "open public services bill" white paper. At the end of the day if there was not a problem there would not be a petition and people would not be signing it - standing up is never easy, but lying down and taking whatever is thrown at us is worse!

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  • Rick Campbell

    I take on board what you are saying Islington Leasholder, thank you for the info and good luck.

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  • Thanks Rick, I appreciate your comments. Stable housing should be the base for a successful economy. Regretfully the Govt seem hell bent on eradicating council housing and pushing up costs for housing all over the country, which will impact on people in low paid jobs. The assumption that everyone in council housing is on benefits is not true. Regretfully people who get paid less have to work longer hours to cover costs and have less time to stand up for themselves so a vicious circle is the outcome.

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  • Islington Thomas

    It seems that some contributors above seem to question whether the petitioners are from Islington, actually council residents, or not well informed, in which case you might find the following list of who the signatories include a bit reassuring:

    > All but one of the 12 Directors of the Federation of Islington Tenants Associations
    > Every Director of the Islington Leaseholders Association
    > Two Doctors
    > Four former HFI Board Directors
    > Every candidate (except Labour) in the recent St Peters Ward by election
    > Five elected (Islington) councillors
    (1 x Labour, 3x Liberal Democrats, 1 x Independent)

    And as an update on the numbers, the petition is now well over 1,257 and still climbing…

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  • Rick Campbell

    I find it reassuring that both yourself and Islington Leaseholder are committed so much to the cause which is designed to ultimately benefit those who may not feel able to speak up/sign the petition.

    I am glad that numbers are rising, and as I said to your compatriot, good luck.

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  • Hi Rick

    Thanks for your comments, but unfortunately I am not reassured myself because just because we have a petition there is no committment that the petition will be listened to or acted upon. The article this thread comes on ends with a politian stating that tenants will be heard. Unfortuntely the panel who will decide on our behalf are chosen by the Council and not residents -The onyl fair way would be a proper ballot with wording agreed between resident reps and council staff, but alas Islington Labour to date have no plans for such a ballot of a fair playing field.

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  • Islington Thomas

    Hi Rick, I echo Islington Leaseholder's thanks. The petition closed with 1,368 signatures. this is more than six times more that any e-petition conducted on LBI's website. Incredible as it may seem Islington require 8,000 signatures in order to concede to a 12 minute debate at a full council meeting - that's 8% (for a small London Borough) of what is required to trigger a debate of Parliament! The Council leader has been written to and asked to explain the rationale behind this – we await with eager anticipation and will keep you posted.

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  • Rick Campbell

    1,368 signatures is a good start, perhaps that number might attract some publicity, which in turn might encourage others to sign a 'hard-copy' petition to present to the council?

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  • Petition nuts/bolts apart, for many it’s the huge HFI fantasy bills taxpayers, tenants & leaseholders are hit by which gives the patience to manage to sign this e-petition. ‘Fantasy’ as not properly identifying, separating out costs whopping Borough bills are divided, sub divided down by HFI into leaseholder bills including much they have no benefit of nor are legally financially responsible for. How can any such expenditure be properly scrutinised, controlled, accounted for? Akin to choosing a new coat but being charged by the shopkeeper for most of the other shoppers’ various purchases too with the threat you will be prosecuted if you don’t pay.
    That such management might stroll into the building/development arena fills most with despair. Even when putting aside the documented costly serious damage to buildings, the unnecessary works whilst under HFI’s stewardship.
    There’s a word for knowingly demanding money with threats when you know it’s not due – slips my mind. Those shivering during winter nights, their heating turned off by HFI probably have other words too.

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  • This debate is clearly part of bigger issues in Islington as to why it has been created, of which I have no specific knowledge.

    Yet it seems strange that the petitioners appear to forget that if HFI is brought back under full council control it will still have the same employees by virtue of TUPE.

    One of the ironies of the whole stock transfer bandwagon was that tenants willingly voted (and logically correctly) to transfer as this freed up the DH money and so their properties were able to be maintained and updated as they should have been, but were not allowed to be, in the first place. New kitchen, bathrooms etc. Yet when the same tenants saw that the staff were exactly the same they got a shock.

    The calls to bring back the service in-house is this in reverse.

    The DH money will have been well spent (not the same as spent well please note) and so tenants may have had upgrades to their properties but will still face the same constraints on day-to-day issues as they did when it was council run.

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  • Jack Davies points out staff transference under TUPE. Abolishing HFI (a Ltd Company), returning functions to the Council restores responsibility and information access fully with/to Councillors. They too should sleep much better. Right now Councillors have the legal/electoral responsibility without either the full control, knowledge they should have. HFI’s audits are not the wide, more comprehensive financial audits which Council itself is rightly subject to as spenders of taxpayers’ monies. (HFI’s audits are commercial audits.) Jack D comments on tenants voting for HFI. The then leaseholders (third housing stock) voted but their votes were not, not counted in. Yes, lots of shocks in Islington & quite a few following the recent PricewaterhouseCoopers special investigation results: eg lack of proper HFI monitoring of PFI work; leaseholders heavily overcharged. Jack’s right, there’s lots of issues behind the conclusion stated in the Petition. Serious, costly and highly detrimental issues. Am surprised that Councillors went for an ALMO, no matter how many £millions were dangled, their position is like driving blindfolded a gigantic coach and horses with no reins. Astonishment too that Council gave HFI virtually carte blanche to take over all Council’s contracting capabilities. All would be quiet were the results OK but sadly it’s quite the reverse.

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  • My question is simple one,if the la's had done such a good job,why up and down the country did tenants vote to leave and form housing assc?maybe it had a lot to do with what had gone before NO INVESTMENT IN HOMES some memories are so short.

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