NEIL Litherland, former housing director and deputy chief executive at Camden Town Hall, looked crestfallen in those heady days back in the mid-noughties when council tenants rebelled against plans to shift control of their homes to an outside body. He had failed to convince residents that setting up an Almo – an arm’s length management organisation, a new Labour invention to take over the running of the entire council stock – was a good idea.
In a ballot, more than three-quarters of tenants said they preferred to keep a democratically accountable landlord: the Town Hall. It was all rather awkward for Mr Litherland’s team, who had spent £500,000 on material and promotion ahead of the local referendum. A ‘shadow board of directors’ was even created to oversee the project.
Fast forward half a decade and Mr Litherland was confirmed last week as interim chief executive at Lambeth Living – the Almo which took over council housing in that borough. Unlike Camden, Lambeth took the plunge and set up an Almo. Like Camden, large sections of the property portfolio still do not meet the decent homes standard.
The tenants, it seems, were damned if they did sign up, and damned if they didn’t. Labour’s manifesto pledge to bring all council homes up to that decent homes standard was left broken.