Council housing to come back under Town Hall control

CABINET members have voted not to renew the Town Hall’s contract with Newham Homes after residents backed a move to return to council control.

From next April the management of the borough’s council properties will revert back to the Town Hall after six years of being in the hands of an Arms-Length Management Association (ALMO).

A Newham Homes spokeswoman said: “We will be working closely with the council over the next three months to ensure all services are transferred smoothly. Tenants and leaseholders will continue to receive the same high level of service.”

Chair Richard Gooding added: “We are rightly proud of the high-quality services we have provided and developed over the last five years. This has been recognised by an independent inspection carried out by the Audit Commission. In May, we were awarded a good two-star rating with excellent prospects for improvement. A number of our services were awarded the highest rating possible.”

But residents clearly did not agree with more than half surveyed by Town Hall officers supporting the transfer of 16,000 council properties and 5,500 leaseholder homes back to the local authority. The main reason for this was dissatisfaction with the services provided by Newham Homes. Some residents felt having services return in-house would “result in a fairer system of housing allocation, improved customer services, improved community safety and an improved repairs service”, officers reported.

Nine per cent of residents, however, questioned the council’s ability to provide high-quality services.

New freedoms granted by the coalition government to councils previously only offered to ALMOs have also changed the Town Hall’s thinking on the matter. This include allowing local authorities to hold on to rents and directly invest the cash in new housing, and being able to bid for Decent Homes funding.

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Cllr Andrew Baikie, executive member for housing, said: “It is simpler, more efficient and more effective for the housing management service to be returned to the council. Significant savings are likely to arise which can be used to fund service improvements.

“We can cut duplicate costs – and the biggest benefit for tenants and leaseholders would be that customer services, neighbourhood management and community safety would be provided by one organisation.”

Discussions are currently under way with staff at Newham Homes and trade unions about the transfer.