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.