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LEEDS TENANTS TO BE BALLOTED ON FUTURE OF HOUSING SERVICES

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Almost 70% of council tenants in Leeds want their homes to be managed by arms length companies - a step which could...
Almost 70% of council tenants in Leeds want their homes to be managed by arms length companies - a step which could lead to a£350m cash injection for council homes across the city.

The findings of a major consultation carried out by the council's housing department will now lead to all council tenants across the city being balloted on the proposals to change the management of housing services - part of the biggest shake-up ever to affect council housing in the city.

As part of the consultation that took place in March 2002, a total of 22,000 tenants either returned a questionnaire by post or completed a questionnaire over the telephone. A total of 70% of these tenants supported the Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) option, with 24% opting for 'don't know' and 6% 'no'.

The move to hold a ballot comes after members of Leeds City Council's executive board meeting yesterday gave their approval for the setting up of six ALMOs on the proviso they get tenant support. This recommendation falls in line with proposals made by the six area housing panels to improve local housing services.

The ballot will see tenants from 70,000 council homes being asked to vote 'yes' or 'no' to the question such as 'do you want an arms length management company to manage your home?'.

The DTLR will announce whether or not the cash injection of£350m for the proposed ALMOs has been approved later this month. This money would be used to bring all homes in the city up to the 'decent homes standard' by 2010.

If the scheme goes ahead, the six ALMOs could be in place by 1 January 2003.

Cllr Keith Wakefield, executive member with responsibility for housing, said:

'The figures speak for themselves - there has been great support so far for the 'arms length' option for the management of council homes in our city.

'We are extremely pleased that people are seizing the opportunity to help mould how housing services are managed in the future. But let there be no question - tenants will have every opportunity to express their views. Before any significant changes are put in place, we need to be confident that these recommendations have the demonstrable support of local tenants, and the ballot will be one means of enabling us to do this,' added Cllr Wakefield.

Notes

Set up in the summer of 2001, the area housing panels were created to make key recommendations about the long term future for council homes in the city. They are made up of local tenants, councillors and independent professionals with a local interest.

After lengthy consultations with tenants, the area housing panels recommended to the executive board that the best option would be for six 'arms length management organisations' to run housing services across the city.

This would involve the council splitting its housing stock into six geographical areas - south, east, west, north west, south east and north east. The arms length companies, effectively six smaller local housing organisations, would then run the housing service in those areas.

They would concentrate on landlord services with tenants having a greater role in the management of their homes. Their aim would be to improve the delivery of local services, access more cash to improve housing, give tenants greater powers and improve customer satisfaction. The council would continue to set rents and tenancy rights would not be affected.

TENANTS IN LITTLE LONDON GET SECOND CHANCE TO HAVE THEIR SAY

Leeds City Council's executive board members have considered the evaluation of the recent Public Private Finance Initiative (PPFI) ballot result for Little London and Woodhouse, which resulted in tenants voting 'no' to£45m investment in their area.

In March, the council's executive board agreed that it was vital to find out why the scheme had been rejected by tenants. Evaluation and analysis was then carried out to reassure the council that tenants were fully aware of the consequences of rejecting the investment and to establish sound reasons as to why a majority of tenants were not convinced that this is the best way forward for the local area.

After further analysis, officers have found that although 53.9% of tenants in Little London and Woodhouse voted 'no' and 46.1% voted 'yes', there was a clear distinction between the Little London area and Woodhouse area. The analysis showed that although the majority of tenants in Woodhouse voted 'no', the majority of Little London tenants actually voted 'yes' to the scheme. This established that the tenants in Little London supported the PPFI Housing improvement proposals.

After the ballot all tenants were asked to complete a post ballot survey giving their views on what the council should do next. 71% of responses said that they thought the council should try to retain a modified version of the PPFI scheme so that the money on offer was not lost.

Officers also analysed responses from tenants who voted 'no' and found that, despite the council's assurances, tenants were concerned about rents and job losses in the area. Some tenants reported they felt pressurised and alarmed by some of the anti PPFI campaigning tactics and literature.

Subject to further information being provided, members of executive board yesterday directed officers to produce a modified scheme for the Little London area and to hold a new ballot for tenants in Little London area only (this would not include tenants living in Woodhouse area). If Little London tenants vote 'yes' to the scheme this could potentially open the door for significant improvements in the area.

Improvements could include new kitchens, bathrooms, PVC double glazed windows, doors, new efficient heating systems, improved insulation and improved security. There would also be investment into local playgrounds, car parking and shops.

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