Below is the text of a letter I have sent to the press in respect of the ongoing review of the ALMOs (Arms Length Management Organisation) who have responsibility for the council housing in Leeds.
The Council is looking to change the way it delivers housing services in Leeds (‘Leeds council housing shake up planned’, YEP, January 8), but I have a number of concerns. The two proposed options – either moving to one ALMO, or bringing the whole service back in-house – are fairly sparse in terms of detail, and there is no guarantee that they will result in a better deal for tenants.
The risk is very real that either proposal would see us saddled with an overly centralised organisation that wouldn’t be able to effectively respond to the needs of local people. We all know that different areas of the city present different challenges, so having a structure that is flexible enough to respond to those needs is vital. Yet we have no information on how the local arrangements will work in practice, in either proposal on the table, and without this information it’s hard to endorse the general direction of these plans. There is also the issue of elected member representation on the boards that manage the housing service: it is proposed to concentrate power squarely in the hands of the Executive Board Member, rather than using the wealth of experience and expertise that exists in the city. Such an emphasis on central control is surely counter to the aim of providing services that are responsive and nimble enough to address local challenges.
Overall I wanted to see a more imaginative approach taken with this review, instead of what we have, which has left us with a couple of very narrow, ill-defined options that give little choice to tenants. We need to see much more detail come through as part of these proposals and the consultation process needs to be thorough.