THE GOVERNMENT has admitted that its Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMOs) are a staging post towards full privatisation of council housing. ALMOs were introduced by the government in the face of opposition from tenants and trade unionists to the handover of council homes to housing associations and private companies.
Homes would still be owned by the local council, and run by a council-controlled but organisationally separate outfit - the ALMO. Campaigners argued the plan was a halfway house towards privatisation. The government denied this. But its top civil servant in charge of local councils' housing finance has now let the truth slip.
Wendy Jarvis is the head of local authority housing finance in the deputy prime minister's office. She gave an interview in the 13 June edition of Inside Housing magazine where she was asked if ALMOs could be opened to private finance. She answered, 'In principle there is no reason' why they couldn't be. Jarvis argued that after necessary preparatory work setting up ALMOs, 'we will go out to the relevant private sector partners.'
This should be a spur to campaigners to step up the battle to defend council housing. A key fight is shaping up over Camden New Labour council's plan to set up an ALMO in the north London borough.
This could assume the kind of central significance in the ALMO battle as the tenants' ballot in Birmingham did over straightforward privatisation plans. A statement that compares ALMOs to foundation hospitals in the NHS and calls for direct investment in council housing is winning wide support in Camden. Some 43 tenants reps, councillors, and former councillors, have already signed the statement.
The Camden campaign also plans to distribute leaflets, hold meetings and campaign stalls over the summer to put their case for no vote in the ballot.
For more details of where battles over privatisation and ALMOs are looming, plus campaign materials, go to www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk