|Council Announces New Plans for Council Housing|
Scheme to take back control met with scepticism by insiders
Hammersmith and Fulham Council has announced plans to close H & F Homes and bring the borough's council housing back under its control.
This move will affect over 17,000 tenants and leaseholders, who will be consulted about the proposals over the next two months.
H&F Homes is what is called an arms-length management organisation, or ALMO, which was set up in 2004 to run the £230million decent homes programme, which aimed to renovate around 15,000 homes.
The council says that now the decent homes programme is nearing completion, returning the service to the council is the best option for residents. It claims it could also mean savings of up to £400,000 a year in back office costs - money which could be used to repairs and maintenance.
All residents will be contacted and can have their say on the plans during August and September, before a final recommendation is made to the council in November. Tenants and leaseholders can have their say by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 020 8753 4621.
Despite this consultation however, the council's plans - the latest in a raft of cost-cutting measures including proposals to sell nine council buildings - are already causing controversy among experts in the housing industry.
A story about the plans in Inside Housing, a publication for professionals in social housing, prompted a number of sceptical responses.
One reader commented: "The shame of social landlords, playing football with their residents all the time. Getting them into almos when they like it and then getting them out of it when they also like it."
Another pointed out: " H&F Homes was established in June 2004 after tenants and residents voted to create an arms length management organisation, or ALMO, to release decent homes funding.So they voted for it. One tenant one vote. Not sure they get a chance to vote about going back though..."
And a third asked the question: " If £400k is there as a saving, who's been over-charged for 6 years?"
This reader added: " I hope that tenants will be given a range of options - conversion to RSL, Direct Management, Tenant Management, Cooperative Ownership - so that a real and informed choice can be made. A ballot is a must."
However, the proposal was defended by Harry Audley, Chair of H&F Homes, who said: "Our job is to provide the best possible quality housing to our residents, and we believe this move in challenging financial times would be good news all round.
"Residents will still be served by our dedicated staff and the change could lead to a bigger focus on key areas such as caretaking and repairs."
H&F Council's Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Lucy Ivimy said: "Bringing H&F Homes back in-house means that we can focus the resources we have on delivering an even better service to tenants and leaseholders rather than wasting that money on unnecessary costs.
"Over the past two years there have been improvements in the way services have been delivered to tenants and leaseholders while we have controlled the amount of money leaseholders are charged. Our absolute priority as a Council is to make sure that continues."