Breaking news……..Hillingdon ALMO to come back in house

Yes you have read correctly.

Only last week , Barnet UNISON shared with its members the news that Ealing ALMO was failing and Ealing Council were looking to privatise it.

Last week we announced that Hillingdon Council were considering bringing the ALMO in house

Today we can confirm Hillingdon Cabinet Committee made the following recommendation
That Cabinet agrees:
1. To instruct officers to carry out a tenant and leaseholder test of opinion on dissolving Hillingdon Homes and bringing the council housing services back in house.
2. To instruct officers to report back to Cabinet for a final decision on the future of Hillingdon Homes as soon as possible once the test of opinion has been completed.
To view the documents which went to Cabinet click on this link$$ADocPackPublic.pdf

To view the agreed minutes click here$$$Minutes.doc.pdf

There are some significant comments made in the report which members and residetns may be interested to read. With Future Shape very much in everyone’s minds the following makes interesting reading.

“There would also be significant financial benefits to tenants by returning to the council.”

“Financial considerations are also a driver in testing resident opinion for the return of the landlord service to the council. Significant savings are likely to arise which can be used to fund service improvements. Potential savings from the costs of governance of the ALMO are likely to be in excess of £300k per year”

“While the ALMO vehicle has enabled the council to achieve the decent homes standard and improved satisfaction ratings from tenants and leaseholders, there is no over-riding strategic value in continuing to maintain this method of operation. It is also increasingly evident that the vehicle in itself has not been significant in the achievement of excellent standards of service.”

“Any future plans for the council housing services will look to build on the advantages of this involvement. The “freedoms and flexibilities” for ALMOs that were promised by Government have, however, failed to appear.”

“The review of council housing finance has now been published by the Government. One option allows local authorities to buy out of the national HRA subsidy system and finance the maintenance and management of housing stock via rent (and other income), re-investing according to local need. It is not expected that the review will lead to any new specific benefits regarding ALMOs.”

“Although originally there was potential to exploit the ALMO as a delivery vehicle of the council, the case for retaining the ALMO has now been weakened. Local authorities have been offered many of the freedoms that were previously offered only to ALMOs, for example, bidding for Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) social housing grant to develop housing. In addition, the government has now announced that local authorities are able to retain the rental income from homes they buy, build or bring back into use, to invest in new housing. This had previously been a major advantage of the ALMO.”

“In general terms it is also clear that the ALMO vehicle has not been a sufficiently useful model in furthering the wider objectives of councils. Where initiatives of this nature have been developed (e.g. the development of Hillingdon Homes Direct to procure private sector housing for the council) the government’s financial regulations meant it was unable to compete on equal terms with Housing Associations and was therefore not financially sustainable.”

“Maintaining the ALMO as a stand alone vehicle involves a strong duplication of effort in a number of areas, most significantly, governance, strategic direction, performance management and communication functions.”

“In the absence of an ALMO, the council will have complete control over the in-house housing management service and will be able to introduce an improvement programme to meet the council’s corporate standards and ultimately further develop services to residents.”

“Returning the landlord service to the council’s direct management would allow Hillingdon to maximise the potential of the contact centre as well as greater integration with adult social care. It is likely this will deliver substantial benefits to the tenants and leaseholders of the council.”

“TUPE costs are also likely to be minimal if, as envisaged, the terms and conditions for Hillingdon Homes’ staff have not deviated significantly from those of the council. However, this would need to be investigated in more detail.”

It is clear that senior officers have done theor homework and recognised the ALMO has had its day.

Barnet UNISON will be pushing that a similar exercise takes place for Barnet Homes.