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Council house tenants to be balloted

PUBLISHED: 05:59 26 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:20 24 February 2010

COUNCIL house tenants in Colchester are to be balloted on whether or not the town hall should set up an Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) to run the borough's housing stock.

COUNCIL house tenants in Colchester are to be balloted on whether or not the town hall should set up an Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) to run the borough's housing stock.

Establishing the limited company, which would be run by a board made up of tenants, councillors and housing experts, could open the way to an extra £12.2 million to improve council homes.

If tenants vote in favour of ALMO, all management of housing stock, including repairs, improvements, dealing with rent arrears, anti-social behaviour and sheltered housing would be dealt with by the company.

Employees of the ALMO would not need to be concerned with the council's broad strategy but would instead be focussed purely on housing issues.

The postal ballot will run over two weeks, covering the end of June and the beginning of July. Each tenant will have a vote, whether they live in single or shared properties.

If the tenants vote in favour, the ALMO will be set up in August and will be able to start drawing on some of the £12.2 million allocated to it by the Government in Spring of next year.

Before the referendum a shadow board will be set up to prepare for action if there is a positive result.

In the latest edition of the borough's Housing News magazine, councillors from each of the three major parties promise that setting up an ALMO will improve services, improve tenants' homes and allow tenants to have a greater say in housing matters.

"Setting up an ALMO will mean we have 25% extra to spend on improving homes," the leaflet reads.

It adds that improvements that may come as a result of this are uPVC windows, new doors, kitchens, bathrooms and boilers, improved home security, rewiring, damp proofing and insulation.

But response to the establishment of the ALMO has been varied. Although the town's all-party cabinet backs the plan, some people oppose it.

Former Labour party member and council Labour Group leader Rod Green said: "The way the council talks about ALMO is a bit of a cover up in my view. As far as the tenants are concerned, they currently have a direct line of contact with their property owner through their local councillor and housing officers."

"With the ALMO, this lifeline is withdrawn. They talk about having tenants on the ALMO board but that is just window dressing in my view.

"Given the nature of this Government and its attitude to the private sector, a lot of us think this is simply a prelude to selling off the housing stock at knock-down prices."

Mr Green added: "Historically speaking, Colchester used to run its own bus company. It set up an ALMO made up of councillors and users and the like, but it was eventually sold off to Arriva for £1. It was a prelude to privatisation."


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