Tuesday, 02 September 2014

In the article on decent homes achievement ‘100,000 council homes will still be non-decent in 2015’ (Inside Housing, 3 September), it was interesting to note that eight out of the 10 authorities listed with the worst decent homes record were arm’s-length management organisations.

It was, therefore, somewhat surprising to note the comment attributed to Gwyneth Taylor: ‘The real issue is why those authorities which said they could achieve decent homes with their own money are still in the same place as where they started.’ This presumably referred to the two retained councils which were also on the list of shame.

I believe both of these councils made it abundantly clear that once their residents had rejected a move to transfer their stock or form an ALMO, they could not achieve decent homes without additional funding, which was rejected by the previous government.

Surely the real issue is why necessary additional funding was denied to retained councils which needed it simply because their residents wished to retain a more accountable model of housing management.

The Association of Retained Council Housing was established to articulate this cause and I am pleased to confirm that decent homes achievement among its membership - which includes the largest stock-retained councils in the country - shows that more than two-thirds of its members have 5 per cent or less non-decent stock.

The performance of the stock-retained sector in achieving value for money through its decent homes programmes has not gone unnoticed. When the Public Accounts Committee reviewed the decent homes programme, it found that ALMOs had spent substantially more per unit than stock-retained councils. Nor could the Communities and Local Government department identify any additional value.

The PAC went on to question whether the decision to deny stock-retained councils access to additional funds has had a negative impact on value for money.

Clearly there will continue to be variances in performance within both stock-retained and ALMO councils. But it is encouraging that we appear to have moved away from the unfair allocation of resources based purely on an ill-informed ideological view that one model was inevitably superior to the other.

I am further heartened that a fair self-financing settlement will allow stock-retained councils to remain a viable long-term model for the delivery of excellent housing management services to our residents alongside other options.

Indeed in terms of offering accountability and value for money it seems stock retention may become an option which is increasingly attractive.

Brian Reilly, deputy director of housing (Wandsworth) and vice chair of the Association for Retained Council Housing