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Managers 'tearing their hair out' over ODPM delay...
Managers 'tearing their hair out' over ODPM delay

By Mark Smulian

Housing specialists have predicted the government will have to extend the 2010 deadline for councils to meet the decent homes standard because Whitehall wrangling has delayed funding decisions by a year.

Councils had expected to start bidding for extra cash to meet the standard last autumn, either through an arm's-length management organisation or by transferring homes to a housing association.

However, bids were delayed after the Treasury put back its next three-year comprehensive spending review to 2007. This meant it was reluctant to agree commitments beyond next year.

Deputy prime minister John Prescott has now announced a May bidding round for councils, but housing experts think this will see local authorities running into delays.

Gwyneth Taylor, policy manager of the National Federation of ALMOs, said: 'I think they will have to move the 2010 deadline because there will not be enough time left to meet it.

'It would be more sensible to spread out the spending and get it done right.'

The delay means the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister cannot approve bids until the autumn, which in turn will delay the tenant ballots required for transfers.

Joanne Kelsall, the National Housing Federation's transfer manager, said: 'Councils I speak to are tearing their hair out over this.

'They have started campaigning among tenants on transfer and are scared they will lose momentum.

'The 2010 deadline will have to be extended.'

There are some 44 councils waiting for permission to transfer, and 23 that want to create an ALMO.

Furthermore, existing ALMOs have become exasperated by the ODPM's failure to clarify their future.

ALMOs operate under contracts to their parent council to deliver the standard, and some have completed this work.

They want to continue as specialist housing managers - possibly with freedoms and flexibilities - not be reabsorbed into their council.

One ALMO director said: 'We are becoming increasingly frustrated with the delay.

'ALMOs have become the star performers of social housing but the government appears to listen to the moans of dinosaurs who want to see a return to old style housing departments.'

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