Thursday, 30 July 2015

ALMO looks set for chop as cabinet passes decision

England’s largest arm’s-length management organisation is set to be axed despite achieving the best inspection results in the country.

Councillors are planning to scrap Sheffield Homes, which has managed Sheffield Council’s 42,000 homes since 2004 - making it the second major ALMO in a Labour-controlled authority to be brought in-house in a week.

Cabinet members agreed at a meeting last night that the council’s ‘preferred option’ is to move housing management in-house.

The authority will now conduct a non-binding ballot of tenants and make a final decision in March.

The ALMO has been awarded the maximum three-star rating from the Audit Commission three times.

But the report to cabinet said an inhouse service offers scope for significant savings without aff ecting frontline services, and would also bring back direct responsibility between members, staff and tenants.

Another Labour-controlled authority, Islington Council, also wants to bring its ALMO back in-house to save £1.5 million a year. Homes for Islington manages 29,500 properties.

James Murray, cabinet member for housing at Islington, said the savings and the uncertainty over the future of ALMOs ‘tipped the balance’ in favour of a move to in-house management.

The number of ALMOs has fallen from 69 in 2010 managing around 1 million council properties to 60 managing around 860,000 homes across 59 local authorities.

ALMOS were set up from 2002 to access decent homes funding but as these programmes come to an end councils are thinking about alternative housing management options.

The government will shortly publish an update to its 2006 guidance for local authorities with ALMOs. It is expected to stress the need for councils seeking to disband their ALMOs to explain all the options to tenants and provide a transparent consultation process.

Gwyneth Taylor, policy director of the National Federation of ALMOs, said some councils were not involving tenants enough during discussions.

A council spokesperson said: ‘Any decision about arrangements in Sheffield will be subject to a consultation and tenant ballot, which will inform a final decision to be made by cabinet.

‘We expect that a single organisation would be cheaper than a separate one. Further verification of financial assumptions is being undertaken prior to details being published as part of the public consultation.’

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