On 9 January the London Borough of Camden had to announce that 77% of residents voting in a ballot said "No" to its plan to switch the management of its council homes to a private company called an Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO). Fewer than 7% of all tenants voted for the ALMO proposal.
It was a victory for organisation - the first instance anywhere in the country of tenants mobilising sufficiently to overcome the one-sided pro-ALMO propaganda put out by councils to coerce their tenants into support for such schemes. In Islington, next door to Camden, a similar ballot on a similar plan last November returned an 83% majority for ALMO, because of lack of tenants' organisation against it.
The Blair government has been promoting ALMOs as a more subtle form of privatisation since tenants and trade unionists mobilised to block its original plan of straightforward and blatant transfers of stock from council ownership to the private sector. But an ALMO is likely to be a first stage towards outright transfer.
Campaigners from the national Defend Council Housing campaign are looking to this first victory in Camden to similarly inspire a wave of rejections of ALMOs.
Anti-ALMO campaigners are now calling for the government investment in Camden homes that was promised in the event of an ALMO to be handed over to the council anyway. It seems that the council itself will also now be calling for direct investment without strings - which they would have done six months and several hundred thousand pounds ago if they had taken notice of anti-ALMO campaigners sooner.