Socialist Worker

Defend council housing

by Alan Walter
Issue No. 1866

CAMDEN COUNCIL is trying to set up an Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) to take over its housing. ALMOs are a two-stage strategy to privatise council housing and Camden's Defend Council Housing is waging a campaign to stop the plan.

The election of a 'shadow board' to run Camden's ALMO company is the latest chapter in this conflict between the council and its tenants. The shadow board elections have been a farce, and a deliberate attempt to undermine democracy. Despite this, significant numbers of tenants sent a clear anti-ALMO message back to the council.

The council had been forced to concede tenants a ballot in November so that they could decide whether they wanted an ALMO or not. But the council then tried to pre-empt the whole process by holding an election for tenant members of the board long before the main ballot. With total contempt for the democratic process, the council then organised a deliberately low-key election in the first three weeks of the summer holidays, refusing to release information about the candidates or to hold hustings meetings.

This is an appalling way to conduct an election for people who hope to be responsible for administering millions of pounds of public funds. Defend Council Housing publicly invited the candidates, through the local press, to respond to a series of questions on their policies-and not one replied.

This means that the vast majority of tenants have no idea who the candidates are, where they live, or what policies they stand for. They weren't even given their full names.

Only 12 percent of tenants in Camden cast a vote for a candidate-the vast majority refused to give credibility to the process. Camden Defend Council Housing's strategy was to encourage tenants to write 'No to ALMO' on their ballot paper, and 732 did so, despite the fact that by the time we got the message out to tenants most of them had already binned their ballot papers.

In one district where a candidate stood on a clear anti-ALMO platform he was elected with an overall majority of the votes. The results of this election show that the shadow board has no mandate to represent tenants and the council has no mandate to pursue its plans to set up an ALMO.

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Article information

Sat 30 Aug 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1866
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