Saturday, 28 July 2007

Majority vote AGAINST Lambeth ALMO!

Here are the actual figures provided by the Electoral Reform Society (the most important question as opposed to the leading questions that precede it):

Question 4

Would you support setting up an ALMO for Lambeth to deliver these improvements?

Total number of eligible voters: 30,986

Total number of votes received: 8,385

Overall rate of participation: 27.1%

Total number of spoilt/blank ballot papers: 107

Therefore, total number of valid votes counted: 8,278


Number voting Yes: 3,518 (42.5% of the valid vote)

Number voting No: 3,362 (40.6% of the valid vote)

Number voting Don’t Know: 1,398 (16.9% of the valid vote)

TOTAL 8,278 (100% of the valid vote)

Perhaps Lambeth Council are using a different number system to the rest of us, but I make 40.6% ('No' votes) plus 16.6% ('Don't Know' votes) a total of 57.5%. The 'Yes' votes are therefore a minority of votes cast.

Lambeth's spin doctors are simply lying when they claim majority support for their ALMO scheme.

Lambeth DCH will be campaigning to get the actual result out to residents and to prove to the Government (the DCLG) that residents do not support the ALMO.

Thanks to our supporters for delivering our leaflets and carrying the arguments against the ALMO and for direct investment in Council housing. We fight on.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Can you help with canvassing?

Teams of Lambeth residents will be going around the estates below over the coming days, encouraging tenants to use their vote and say NO to ALMO!

If you haven't been canvassing before, there's nothing to be frightened of! You'll be paired up with someone more experienced until you feel confident enough to approach people on your own. The reception we've had so far on doorsteps is that residents welcome us with open arms and are glad to hear the truth about ALMOs.

Please call Steve on 07944 293854 or email and let us know which days you'll be able to come along!

Wed 4th 6pm
Tulse Hill Estate, Brixton

Thur 5th 6pm
China Walk Estate, Kenningon

Fri 6th 6pm
Notre Dame Estate, Clapham

Sat 7th 11am
St Matthew's Estate, Brixton

Sun 8th 11am
Portobello Estate, Norwood

Mon 9th 6pm
Vauxhall Gardens Estate

Tue 10th 6pm
Streatham Hill Estate

Wed 11th 6pm
William Bonney Estate, Clapham

Thu 12th 6pm
Fenwick Estate, Stockwell

Fri 13th 6pm
Deronda Estate, Norwood

Sat 14th 11am
Canterbury Gardens Estate, Brixton

Sun 15th 11am
Westbury Estate, Clapham

Friday, 29 June 2007

Why you should say NO to ALMO

Lambeth Defend Council Housing public meeting

  • Tuesday 3 July

  • 7pm to 9pm

  • St Vincent’s Community Centre, Talma Road, Brixton (click here for a map)

Don’t vote until you’ve heard both sides of the argument!

Come to our meeting to hear the case against setting up an ALMO and to find out what you can do to help the campaign to stop it.

Austin Mitchell MP, Chair of the House of Commons council housing group, and Lesley Carty from the national Defend Council Housing campaign will be speaking about the national fight to win the “Fourth Option” of Direct Investment in Council Housing.

Click here to download a poster

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Vote NO to ALMO!

The ballot paper that Lambeth Council have issued at ridiculously short notice is confusing to say the least!

The important thing to remember is that it’s only the fourth question that matters. The other “survey questions” will have no bearing on whether the Council forms an ALMO or not – and are not even fair questions anyway!

Make sure you use your vote to say NO to ALMO, and that your friends and neighbours do the same!

If you can, print out some posters and stick them up around your estate!

Saturday, 23 June 2007

ALMO ballot underway - vote no!

Both Tenant and Leasehold Council's voted for a single question ballot. Disgracefully Lambeth Council officers have chosen a four question format. The wording of the questions has not been made available but we will find out soon enough.

The 'test of opinion' PPCR organised for the United Residents Housing ALMO (a mini-ALMO comprised of several Tenant Management Organisations*) had the following questions:
  1. Have you heard about United Residents Housing (yes/no/don't know)
  2. Are you aware that URH will not affect your tenancy or lease - you will remain a tenant or leaseholder of the Council? (yes/no/don't know)
  3. Do you know about the improvements that URH intends to make to homes on your estate and to the estate in general? (yes/no/don't know)
  4. Would you support setting up URH to deliver these improvements? (yes/no/don't know)
  5. Have you got any other comments about URH?
  6. Would you be prepared to let URH contact you at regular intervals to find out what you think of URH and your RMO and the services they both deliver? (yes/no/don't know - if yes please supply your contact details)
These were clearly leading questions. There is a clear implication that only supporting the creation of URH will result in improvements. Needless to say URH has not delivered any improvements and has asked for it's inspection to be delayed until July 2008 (at least a two-star performance rating is needed for the extra funding to be made available).

I think we can expect a similar 'ballot' for the current Lambeth wide ALMO.

Given the shifting national political picture, with all six Labour deputy leadership candidates supporting the fourth option of direct investment, and Gordon Brown saying he has an 'open mind' on the issue, a moratorium on all proposed stock transfer, PFI and ALMO schemes would be best.

In the meantime every vote against stock transfer, PFI and ALMO proposals is a further nail in the coffin of government's attempts to privatise social housing.

Lambeth DCH urge all residents and leaseholders to vote against the ALMO proposal and to join us in our campaign for direct investment in council housing.

* Blenheim Gardens RMO, Loughborough EMB, Roupell Park Resident Management Co-operative and Waltham RMO

Thursday, 21 June 2007

What do leaseholders in Streatham think?

At a meeting on Tuesday 19 June eleven Streatham leaseholders patiently listened to representatives from PPCR (Lorane Ophelia) and Lambeth Council (David Thompson and Gabriel Brown) present how the proposed ALMO would be of benefit to them.

Or not, as it turned out.

The meeting invite, authored by Peter Redman--Divisional Director, Housing Management and Property Services--sought to assure us of the key principles Lambeth will adopt:
  • Leaseholders will have a say in investment plans.
  • We will always consult with you before incurring costs.
  • We will work with you to ensure that any investment you make contributes to adding value to your dwelling.
  • We will investigate ways of offering you the benefit of bulk discounts on the supplies and contracts we use
  • We will provide easier ways for payment for those on the lowest incomes
Upon questioning Council officers could not support these claims. Taking the points one at a time:
  • We already have a say in investment plans through existing democratic structures: our local Residents Associations, Area Forums and Leasehold Council. At present leaseholders can refuse internal works. Any future ALMO will only follow the statutory consultation process for exterior works (e.g. roofs and windows).
  • As above, officers confirmed that only the legal minimum (so-called 'Section 20 Notice') statutory consultation process will apply.
  • It is unlikely that roofing and window works would significantly add to the value of leaseholders dwellings (buyers kind-of expect a wind and water tight property).
  • Would anyone VOLUNTARILY invite Lambeth's contractors into their homes to replace a kitchen or bathroom?
  • There will be no improvement to the current payment regime; a strange mixture of incompetence (no attempt at collecting money) and legal threats and bullying. The maximum twenty-four month installment plan will remain and leaseholders will continue to sell-up or arrange expensive additional credit (if they can get it).
So there we have it. More lies and half-truths. Absolutely no benefit moving to the ALMO. Just a recipe for more cost, secrecy (sorry that information is 'commercially sensitive') and buck-passing.

Vote no, stick with Lambeth and join the campaign for the 'Fourth Option' of direct investment. At a national level all six Labour Party deputy leadership candidates support the Fourth Option and Gordon Brown reportedly has 'an open mind'. Let's keep fighting!

Friday, 8 June 2007

Lobby Cabinet on Monday

Lambeth Council's Cabinet are meeting on Monday 11 June. The ALMO is top of the agenda.

Join tenants and leaseholders from across the borough in demonstrating outside the Town Hall — show the council that we are not going to stand for two-stage privatisation of council housing!

Click here to download a poster for the lobby.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

New Lambeth Defend Council Housing broadsheet published

A new four-page newspaper has just been published by Defend Council Housing, explaining why tenants and leaseholders in Lambeth should vote NO to ALMO. Click here to download it.

If you would copies to give out to your neighbours and friends, please get in touch and we'll send some to you - our contact details are at the bottom of the page.

You can also download some Vote NO to ALMO posters. Print one out and put it in your window to show your support for the campaign!
Download poster 1
Download poster 2
Download poster 3

Friday, 25 May 2007

SLP: Letter of the week

The letter below won the "Letter of the week" award in today's South London Press. Yet another example of the shocking intimidatory tactics council officers will sink to in order to deny tenants their right to have a say in the future of their council housing.

I have been a council tenant all my life.

I am opposed to the arm’s length management organisation (Almo) taking over our homes.

I went to a recent meeting about the Almo, organised by the Clapham and Stockwell area forum.

I was handing out Defend Council Housing leaflets which explain why we are opposed to the Almo.

I was shocked when one of the Lambeth council officials at the meeting asked me whether I was a tenant and which estate I was from.

It is appalling that when tenants question council policy we are quizzed about who we are and where we live.

I work in retail and my wages are nowhere near enough to buy my own flat on the private market.

The housing boom is only benefiting estate agents and property developers.

Council housing is like a dirty word to the Government, but where do they expect working-class people to go?

Council tenants are here to stay and I say we have got to make our voices heard by voting against the Almo.

Karen L, Lambeth council tenant, Clapham

Friday, 18 May 2007

SLP: Residents speak out against the ALMO and Kazantzis talks rubbish

Today’s South London Press contains four stories about Lambeth Council’s plans for an ALMO. Their “Word on the street” column features interviews with six Lambeth residents from four estates.

Four of those residents are strongly against the proposed ALMO, saying that the council is democratically accountable whereas an ALMO would not be, and because council housing has a proven track record. Even one resident who said he would vote for the ALMO criticised the council for not providing residents with full information to make an informed choice. We say that there should be a fair and balanced debate, with equal funding to both sides of the argument.

The other tenant who said he would vote for the ALMO said he would do so because it can’t be any worse than the council. We say that although the council’s housing service is bad, it will be even worse under an ALMO! Just look at Lewisham, who formed an ALMO last year – their housing service is now facing massive cuts because the government hasn’t given them the extra funding they expected. There is an alternative to ALMO, which will deliver the extra funding our homes need: it is Direct Investment in council housing.

Elsewhere in this edition, Councillor John Kazantzis has the cheek to suggest that a “tiny minority of people, many of whom are not even Lambeth residents” who oppose the ALMO. If he actually came to a Defend Council Housing meeting, or talked to the thousands of residents across the borough who have declared their support for our cause, many of them committing to deliver our leaflets and hold meetings on their estates, he would see that it is not a “tiny minority” of residents who oppose the ALMO, but the vast majority.

What’s more, he claims that we are “hell-bent on wrecking the democratic process and denying tenants and leaseholders their chance of massive investment in their homes”. This is the same man who has used whatever underhand means he has at his disposal to silence the anti-ALMO voice and who for so long tried to deny residents the right to even have a ballot on whether they wanted an ALMO or not! It is only because of intense pressure from residents and staff that the council have caved in and agreed to hold a ballot on the ALMO. Now residents have a chance to show the council exactly what they think about two-stage privatisation.

We too want massive investment in council homes – but not at the price of risking the future existence of council housing for us and for future generations. Residents must unite in fighting for the Fourth Option. There is intense pressure on Gordon Brown to find a solution to Britain’s housing crisis and a real possibility that a change in government policy will allow councils to directly invest in their housing stock.

The aggressive, demeaning tone's of Kazantzis' "contribution" to the ALMO debate is a fine demonstration of how low our own elected councillors will stoop in order to try to undermine those who want a far and balanced debate on the real issues. Don't they realise how pathetic they look?


Following intense pressure from residents and staff, the Labour Group on Lambeth Council have finally conceded that a ballot will be held to determine the future of Lambeth’s council housing.

Previously they were saying that there would only be a “test of opinion”. The Council’s about-turn is testimony to the effect of the campaigning work of Lambeth Defend Council Housing, who have been calling for a ballot since the ALMO proposal was first launched last July.

We don’t yet know when the ballot will take place or what the question – or questions – on the ballot paper will be. We must put pressure on councillors to ensure that the questions are phrased in a fair and honest manner.

Now is the real crunch time for the campaign. Over the coming weeks we will be going round estates and town centres, talking to as many residents as possible, letting them know they have a chance to safeguard the future of council housing in Lambeth if they VOTE NO TO ALMO.

If you can help us, whether for an hour, a day or every day, get in touch! Our contact details are at the bottom of the page.

Why not download our new leaflet and distribute it on your estate?

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Lambeth staff offered overtime to “sell” the ALMO

Lambeth Council is offering all its staff the chance to earn a phenomenal £18 an hour on top of their regular salary to go round to residents homes and convince them how great the ALMO is!

This is an outrageous use of council tenants’ rents – money that should be spent repairing our homes, not bribing staff to promote a privatisation scheme which would spell the end of council housing as we know it.

If the ALMO is as great as Lambeth Council would have us believe, surely staff would be going out of their way to sing its glories to residents without having to be paid such a huge amount? In fact, even with this massive bribe, there has been little interest and the Council has had to extend the invitation to staff outside the Housing department, including agency workers.

Maybe the Council will now get the message: tenants don’t want the ALMO, leaseholders don’t want the ALMO – and staff don’t want the ALMO!

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Lambeth staff ordered to remove anti-ALMO material from TRA noticeboards

Not content with telling its staff to remove posters from around estates (see earlier story), Lambeth Council has told staff at a special meeting of all caretakers across the borough that they are to remove any anti-ALMO publicity from TRA noticeboards!

These noticeboards are reserved especially for use by Tenants’ and Residents’ Associations as they see fit. By encroaching on them the Council are sending a very clear message that they don’t care what residents – or their elected representatives – think. Their actions smack of desperation and dictatorship. They want to censor us because they know that once residents know the truth about their ALMO they will reject the idea outright.

Never mind the fact that many TRA noticeboards are locked and the council doesn’t have a key… Staff at one Area Office immediately called a meeting with their manager expressing their distaste for the instruction they received from management and refusing outright to impinge on the rights of residents – a reminder that staff and residents are united in this fight to prevent the privatisation of council housing.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Councils to be allowed to build new homes

The Daily Mirror reports today that local authorities may be given permission to build new council housing when Gordon Brown becomes prime minister. Click here for the full story.

We have been telling Lambeth Council all along that this is not the time to be pushing an ALMO. Housing is a big political issue and it is certain that there will be changes in government policy in the coming months.

Pressure is growing for the government to give money directly to councils to invest in their housing stock, without requiring one or other form of privatisation.

It is not too late for the Council to admit that they were wrong to propose an ALMO and to shelve their plans. In fact residents would respect them more for having the guts to admit that they were wrong. If councillors stubbornly insist on pursuing an ALMO which is bound to fail, they could face political disaster.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Shadow Board "elections" votes counted

The votes for the elections to the ALMO shadow board were counted yesterday in the Town Hall. Lambeth DCH had been saying that it was ridiculous to hold elections when it was not even sure if Lambeth would get permission from the government to form an ALMO, and that the elections were meaningless since those on the shadow board would be bound by company law to act in the interests of the ALMO private company and not to represent residents views. We called on tenants not to vote in these sham elections, or to write "NO TO ALMO" across their ballot papers. Our campaigning clearly had a significant effect, since despite the long election period and the large number of candidates standing, turnout was less than 10%, with 10% of ballot papers spoiled.

During and after the count, Lambeth DCH activists were protesting on the steps of the Town Hall (click here for a photo) and talking to passers-by about our demand for a ballot, and the campaign to win the "Fourth Option" of direct investment in council housing.

Following the protest there was a well-attended public meeting of Lambeth DCH in the nearby Vida Walsh Centre. The meeting heard from Carol Swords, a DCH campaigner from the Ocean Estate in Tower Hamlets. The battle to stop privatisation on her estate has gone to Judicial Review and may go further still down the legal route. Her message to us was never to give up, to keep fighting, and to think of the campaign all the time, talking to everyone we know about it.

A UNISON member from Lewisham Council reported on how an ALMO had been pushed through there and how it had been a disaster. Since the council had not achieved the 2* status necessary to draw down extra government funding - a situation that is a very real possibility for Lambeth's ALMO - there have been £10 million of cuts. The capital programme budget had been slashed from £10 million to £3 million, reorganisations had meant more redundancies and staff had been given ridiculously high targets and even downgraded. In an ALMO, he said, the factor that drives everything is money, not service to residents.

We left the meeting energised and more convinced than ever of the need to stop the ALMO being formed, and determined to do everything we can to prevent that nightmare scenario from becoming reality.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Labour party meeting says NO ALMO

Last night saw an open meeting organised by the Larkhall branch of the Labour Party. More than 80 people attended – Labour Party members, tenants, leaseholders, Lambeth staff and interested members of the public. Estates from across the borough were well represented.

The meeting heard from two speakers in favour of the ALMO – Steve Reed, leader of the council and Pete Redman, Interim Divisional Director – and two against – Kate Hoey MP and Jean Kerrigan, Chair of Brixton Area Forum.

The meeting put pressure on Steve Reed to grant residents a ballot on the ALMO, but he said that the Labour Group had still not made up their minds. He said that the Fourth Option does not exist and never will. Kate Hoey replied that there was no better time to fight for the Fourth Option, with a new prime minister about to come in who may have different policies, and with more and more tenants across the country voting NO to privatisation. Rather than spending a million pounds setting up the ALMO, if Lambeth were to spend this money on campaigning for the Fourth Option, fighting alongside other local authorities, there is a real chance that a change in government policy could be won.

Of the speakers from the floor, not a single one had a kind word to say about the proposed ALMO. People were outraged that the council would not give residents a vote on whether they wanted the ALMO and that they were stifling debate by tearing down opposition posters and refusing to fund those who were campaigning against the ALMO. Few appeared to believe the line that an ALMO would provide a better housing management service and that it was not privatisation. The point was made that council staff do not support the ALMO and would prefer to remain with the council.

A particularly impassioned speech from Ted Knight, former leader of the council, said it was a nonsense that a Labour council would try to push through this first step to privatisation without even giving residents a vote. Council housing something which you would normally associate with the Labour Party, yet they are taking this step to destroy it.

It was clear from the meeting that Lambeth residents are not going to be fooled by the council’s spin, that they feel strongly about the future of council housing and that they are prepared to fight to defend it. Above all, they demand that they be given the final say in the future of their council housing. A ballot would be the only fair, democratic way to achieve this.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Council orders staff to remove DCH posters

The South London Press have run the following story today, alongside two others about Lambeth Housing.

Housing vote posters pulled
“Say NO to ALMO” messages upset Town Hall

This is the poster council chiefs don’t want you to see. Caretakers on estates across Lambeth have been ordered to replace them with those supporting the council’s attempt to transfer the running of its housing stock.

Lambeth has made a bid to central government to create a private company, known as an Almo (Arms Length Management Organisation) that would be able to draw up to £200million in funding to improve homes.

But critics say the move is a step towards privatisation of council services and the money should be found elsewhere.

In an email seen by the South London Press, Almo project co-ordinator Roneeta Chand asks her staff to check caretakers have put up posters supporting the council and removed those from opposition group, Defend Council Housing.

She writes: “We have noticed that there are still a few Defend Council Housing posters around the borough, demonstrating opposition to the Almo and providing residents with misl;eading information.

“Can you please see that these are removed as a matter of priority.”

Ms Chand sent out 410 pro-Almo posters to estates around the borough last week.

Unison rep Heenal Rajani of Lambeth’s Defend Council Housing group, said tenants needed to be balloted on the issue after an “honest and open debate”.

He said: “Defend Council Housing would never dream of removing the council’s posters.

“Lambeth residents have a right to know that opposition to the Almo exists and a right to hear both sides of the argument.”

A council spokeswoman said: “It is a nonsense to suggest that Lambeth council does not allow residents access to independent and non-biased information about the proposed Almo.

“These posters sites are for the sole purpose of the council or for other organisationswith council permission only.”

She said the council had a policy allowing official union material on designated staff noticeboards and that the Defend Council Housing posters did not fall within the bounds of the policy.

She said people wanting more information about the Almo should call 0800 317 066.

The following Friday’s edition featured two letters responding to the article, one from Lambeth Defend Council Housing and one from UNISON.