Associations are the ideal way to empower residents, says BRA

There is no need for any more officials to carry out a government agenda.

Read in BRA's newsletter about: Duke of York Development / Heathrow - Third Runway / Mothers' and Toddlers' Group at the Grove Centre and more.


Labour is planning to go far with the idea of empowering communities (the name used this time is "public realm"). The controversial principle of foundation hospitals would be applied to key parts of the public sector. Mutual organisations elected and controlled by the local community would run schools, libraries, parks, social services, leisure facilities and so on. The proposals are part of the new Pamphlet produced by the Fabian Society, Labour-affiliated think-tank, and are set to be at the heart of Labour third term.
But is it what the community in Hammersmith want? Brackenbury Residents Association says that there is no need for any more elected or appointed officials to carry out a government agenda. According to BRA, associations are the ideal way to empower residents.

What BRA says:
"Our view is that we are reluctant to support central government extending its reach and its powers. An association, such as ours, is the ideal way to empower residents. We have no political axes to grind and we can target issues that are of real concern to our neighbours and ourselves. Too often politics can impede our progress and empowerment.

We do not need any more elected or appointed officials, especially those chosen to carry out a government agenda. We would need convincing that representatives would not end up doing the council's administration.

Any scheme is highly likely to be directed towards certain goals by the government. Unless a scheme was genuinely decentralist, it would only serve the
government agenda, rather than local community needs."

Read also the the first of series of articles and interviews: HF Partnership and Crime Reduction Superintendent, Simon Corkill, says that "the police can only succeed if local people are engaged", but there is lack of interest. Elections are not necessarily on the menu to increase locals' involvement: "There must be a separation of the executive and the politics". What is needed, according to him, is a debate about a citizen's responsibility."


When the local reality spoke louder

A commission made up of 19 tenants, 4 leaseholders, a councillor and an independent chair, challenged central government rules. In April, after six months of consultation, the borough's tenant-led independent Housing Commission has recommended unanimously that the council should retain its homes under the council's management. This is instead of setting up an arms-length company or transferring homes to a housing association, the two options preferred by Government.
Councils must show how they will bring homes up to a decent standard by 2010 and have to look at options for the future ownership and management of council homes. The borough's investment gap, between estimated available resources and the cost of bring homes up to the decent homes standard by 2010, is around £70 million.

The government has given three options for raising the cash needed for repair: selling off their homes to a housing association; raising money under the private finance initiative; or extra government subsidies if they run their homes separately from council control under an arm's length management organisation (Almo). But the Commission concluded that the council's housing department should be given the extra resources.
Hammersmith and Fulham has a unique case to make because it has the only housing service to achieve a top 4/4 rating in the Government's Comprehensive Performance Assessment AND the Audit Commission's '3 star' inspection rating. Because of this, the Housing Commission argues that the council should receive the same investment allowance it would receive if it set up a 3 star ALMO (arms length management organisation).


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