In 10 years of being, ALMOs have proved their worth
Many happy returns
Ten years ago if you’d asked the average person on the street what an arm’s-length management organisation was, you’d have been greeted with blank looks.
But today… well, OK, by and large it would still be the same blank looks, yet while they might not always have got the plaudits they deserve, the 10th anniversary of one of housing’s success stories deserves celebrating,
The facts speak for themselves. Since they were first established in 2002, 69 ALMOs have spent billions of pounds improving half a million council homes. At their peak, 49 were classified as excellent or good by the Audit Commission - a record that blows a raspberry in the face of the best attempts of councils and housing associations. Also, it should be noted that hundreds of thousands of tenants live in better homes as a result of ALMOs’work.
For this reason, it feels appropriate to mark 10 years by flagging up the achievements of organisations that, despite their successes, face an uncertain future. Our ALMOs special relives the highs and the lows, looks at the ongoing achievements of staff and tenants, but also (look away now ALMO diehards) points to alternative routes that some are now taking.
Despite the success, though, it is an anniversary fraught with worries about the future. For starters, many of the remaining ALMOs face similar financial pressures to their parent councils, or indeed because of them. And, of course, there are fewer ALMOs than there used to be. Senior figures in the ALMO movement spoke to me this week about their concerns that councils are shutting them down and taking services back in-house without appropriate consultation with tenants. One whisper suggested a local authority opposition housing spokesperson said he would put up only token resistance to the change in their area, despite being an ALMO fan. Why? Come election time our would-be Machiavelli is sure the housing service will have worsened and is happy to make political capital out of it.
As they approach the next decade years it is important for ALMOs to come up with clear strategy - both nationally and locally - outlining what they have to offer moving forward. Only if they communicate this effectively will we be able to tell a similar success story in 10 years’ time.