In 2006, Havering Council appointed Homes in Havering (or HiH) to manage its homes. At the time, all councils had to pass the management of their homes over to ‘Arms Length Management Organisations’ - or ALMOs, like HiH, to qualify for extra Government money to fund home improvements.
Havering Council was awarded £62 million of this ‘Decent Homes’ money – which was spent on council homes across the Borough.
During the winter of 2011/12, Havering Council asked tenants and leaseholders whether Homes in Havering should continue to manage and maintain council homes, or whether the Council itself should be responsible for managing and maintaining council homes, as it was before 2006. AWICS was appointed as Independent Tenants' & Leaseholders' Advisor to facilitate this process.
The Council did this because the rules about housing had changed. They no longer needed to have a separate organisation to get ‘Decent Homes’ money from the Government.
The consultation ran over the winter and the Council made the final decision in April 2012. They wanted everyone to have their say. All residents were sent a questionnaire in January 2012 asking them for their views.
The two options were:
Homes in Havering staff worked with the Council to make sure tenants and leaseholders had all the information they needed about the options. Staff went round the borough and attended tenant/leaseholder meetings with all the details. Independent advice for residents who may want to talk to someone outside the Council or HiH was provided by AWICS.
AWICS was appointed to provide residents with access to Independent Advice acting as the Independent Resident Advisor. This advice was provided by Adrian Waite, Managing Director of AWICS. He was in attendance at some meetings so residents could ask questions and seek independent advice.
Adrian Waite could be contaced by:
Whatever the result, many important things would have stayed the same. Here are some examples of things that would not change:
The main change would be that the Board that led Homes in Havering at the time would be replaced by the Council’s elected councillors and senior officers. This would mean that there was one organisation responsible for all aspects of council housing in Havering, rather than two.
If management of housing was brought back under the Council, there would be the chance to merge some systems and processes and save over £300,000 a year to be invested back into frontline housing services. The Council believed this would be more than could be achieved by making efficiency savings at Homes in Havering.
Whatever decision was made, the Council would continue to give tenants a real say in decision making about housing.
One of the important achievements of Homes in Havering had been that more and more tenants had become involved in the running of the services they receive. The Council wanted this to continue, whichever way the decision went. If the service came back into the Council, there would be a new Borough-wide resident body to give residents a direct say in the decisions taken by the Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing – then Councillor Lesley Kelly.
Councillor Kelly said:
“Given the changes in the way the Government allocates money for housing, it’s right that tenants and leaseholders are now asked who they want to manage their homes. We want to hear from as many tenants and leaseholders as possible, to make sure the final decision is the right one for them.”
If residents had any questions for the Council, they could contact the Council on 01708 434343. Alternatively for Independent Advice from AWICS they could contact AWICS as described above. Additionally residents could find answers to frequently asked questions as outlined in the section below.
Council staff went round the Borough to resident meetings to explain the options and answer questions. In addition an open meeting for Council tenants and leaseholders was held on 11 January 2012 at 7.00 p.m. at Havering Town Hall.
Questions1 to 6 cover what would happen if the decision was to bring housing into the Council while questions 7 to 20 give answers that apply whatever the decision.
1. Will residents get a chance to influence the new service if the Council takes over?
Yes. If the decision is to bring housing back into the Council, you would be consulted again in 2012 about what changes you want to see. We would also create a new resident body to advise the Cabinet Member on the running of the service (see question 3)
2. What would happen to the staff if it came back to the Council?
Most of the staff would simply be transferred into the Council. There may be some changes especially where HiH jobs overlap with Council jobs.
3. What would happen to the HiH board? What would replace it?
One of the main changes you would see if the service came back to the Council is that the HiH Board would disappear. It would be replaced by Councillors and the Council’s senior officers. The Council would create a new borough-wide Resident Panel to help the Cabinet Member for Housing make decisions. This would give residents a continuing and growing influence over important decisions about housing.
4. Who would run the service if it comes back into the Council?
The day to day running of the service would be by Council Officers.
5. Could some services be combined with Council services to save money?
Yes, we believe there would be some scope for cutting out duplicated services and making savings.
6. Will there be any more money to spend on housing services?
Our calculations show the saving from bringing the management back to the Council would be at least £300,000 a year. Any money saved would be ploughed back into better homes and services for tenants.
7. Will I still be a tenant / leaseholder of the Council?
Yes, whatever happens you will remain a council tenant or leaseholder.
8. Will my rent or service charges be affected?
No, your rent won’t go up or down as a result of this decision - any annual changes to rents or service charges will be the same whoever manages your home.
9. Will this affect my tenancy or lease?
No, your tenancy/lease will not be affected.
10. Will there still be money to improve my home to the Decent Homes Standard?
Yes, the amount available to improve homes in the Borough will be the same whatever you decide. The Council would carry on with the programme of home improvements.
11. I live in a Tenant Management Organisation estate. What will it mean for me?
The Council strongly supports the TMOs and if the service came back into the Council, they would continue as before.
12. Will this affect my rights?
No, all your rights including your right to buy would be the same.
13. Would there be any change to the landlord’s repairing obligations?
No, there would be no change.
14. What about service standards and customer care?
The Council would adopt the same targets for service standards and customer care as HiH. This will include things like answering the phone and replying to your enquiries
15. I am a joint tenant. Will I be able to give my opinion separately?
Yes each tenant and leaseholder will be sent a questionnaire. Joint tenants and leaseholders will get one each.
16. Does the Council need the Government’s permission to bring housing back into the Council?
No, the Council does not need permission.
17. Who makes the final decision?
The Council’s Cabinet will make the final decision probably in April 2012, taking into account the views expressed by tenants and leaseholders.
18. When would a change be made?
If the decision is to continue with HiH, then a new agreement with them will be confirmed straight away. If the decision is to bring housing back into the Council, it will take a little longer. We would expect to see the job done during 2012.
19. Can I get independent advice?
Yes, please see the section above on “Advice for Residents” for more information.
20. Is this a formal ballot?
We are carrying out what the government calls a” test of opinion”. This is less formal than a ballot and will cost less to run, but it will give a clear result. The test will be run by an independent organisation, not by the Council or HiH.
During the consultation, a total of 48.3% of responding tenants and leaseholders expressed the view that they would prefer for the management of Council houses and flats to move back in-house to Havering Council.
The results are from the independent Electoral Reform Services that carried out a test of opinion survey into tenants' and leaseholders' preferences for the future management of their homes.
The survey concluded that 32.1 per cent believed that it should remain with Homes in Havering and 19.6 per cent indicated they did not have a preference. Overall 5,832 people sent in a valid questionnaire - 39.4 per cent of all tenants and leaseholders.
The opinions expressed by residents formed the basis of a report to Havering's Cabinet, that made the decision on the future management of the housing service.
Councillor Lesley Kelly, Cabinet Member for Housing, said:
"I'd like to thank all of the tenants and leaseholders who have taken the time to provide their views and let us know who they would like to manage their homes in the future.
"Residents have indicated that they want the housing service to be provided by Havering Council. This is not a criticism of the work that Homes in Havering has done but we simply no longer need a separate organisation to access the funds from the decent homes programme."
It was anticipated that £300,000 per year can be saved by moving the management of the housing service back in house - all of which will be reinvested in Council homes. A report was presented to Havering's Cabinet on 21 March 2012AWICS is pleased to have been able to facilitate this process.
Below are some useful documents used during the consultation that you may want to download and read:
More Information about Independent Tenants' & Residents' Advice
If you would like to know more about what AWICS can offer as an Independent Tenants' & Residents' Advisor, please click HERE
To make an enquiry about our Independent Tenants' & Residents' Advice service please contact Adrian Waite at firstname.lastname@example.org or 017683-51498