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.