Agenda item

Statement from Council Owned Companies

To receive any statements from Directors of Council Owned Companies.


In accordance with Procedure Rule 4.2.24 the total time allocated to this item shall not exceed 10 minutes, and no Director, except with the consent of Council, shall speak for more than 3 minutes.



Anthony Pollock – Chairman of Optalis Ltd


I would remind Members that on 3rd April 2017 the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead became a shareholder in our local authority trading company, Optalis, when it transferred its adult social care services into the company. This is the result of much work by our Council Officers, Directors and managers of Optalis and Members of this Council over the last 12-15 months.


It is a vote of confidence in the vision we had for Optalis when we set it up 6 or 7 years ago. We have successfully transformed the company from being a local authority department to a partner of choice for a neighbouring Local Authority. Consequently the company is now jointly owned by Wokingham Borough and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead with an operating budget of about £40m, which I expect to increase further by the end of the municipal year. 


As colleagues will remember, since its inception Optalis has been delivering provider services to residents in Wokingham Borough and more recently sought and won contracts with other local authorities: Bracknell, Oxfordshire and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead for specific provider services and the company has sought to establish a foothold in the private sector. 


The new partnership has resulted in Optalis, providing the full array of adult social care services for the Royal Borough, as well as provider services for Wokingham, contracted work in Slough, Bracknell and Oxfordshire and a limited level of private work. This array of service provision places Optalis in a unique position as the only local authority trading company providing statutory adult social care services.


The company has revised its vision to accommodate this new development and set three strategic objectives. All of which align with both Councils’ ambitions for delivering services which meet residents’ needs. The strategic vision is that Optalis will be a bigger and more resilient Social Care Company, which has the flexibility to deliver a wider range of high quality services to residents, with the capacity to cope with increasing local demand, the efficiency to cope with diminishing resources and to be capable of further significant growth.


Over the next three years the focus will be on:


      Providing high quality adult social care services to residents of the two Boroughs;

      Delivering adult social care services that provide greater value for money but without compromising the quality of care;

      Growing the business by looking for other local authority partners.


As Councillor McGhee-Sumner stated, the company is currently recruiting a permanent Chief Executive, who will work with the two Councils to deliver our shared Vision, whilst seeking to draw more local authorities into the partnership. 


Current financial results are on target for the first quarter with planned extra care projects which are coming on line in October within the agreed timelines. These projects are Birches and Fosters which are brand new Extra Care facilities in Wokingham and Woodley. 


Alistair Auty – Wokingham Housing Ltd (WHL)


Mr Mayor, I am pleased to advise that the new Board of WHL is taking shape, with a new independent non-executive director having joined at the start of this month, to complement the MD, Bill Flood, and I as the other Board members.


Reiterating what Councillor McGhee-Sumner said earlier, I am also pleased to advise that Fosters, which will deliver 34 extra care homes and be managed by Loddon Homes, is on target for completion at the end of October as planned and to budget.


The Phoenix Avenue development is part way through completion, with 22 of the 68 homes already handed over and the others scheduled to be completed and handed over in phases between now and the end of October.


In total there is construction on-going at 7 WHL development sites across the Borough. Planning approval has also been secured for at an additional 4 development sites which will see a further 26 affordable homes delivered.


The first phase of Gorse Ride, which will see up to a further 44 affordable homes, is due to go to the Planning Committee in the near future.


Mr Mayor, it is a testament to the staff and Council officers that in total, WHL are anticipating the delivery of 118 affordable homes within the Borough during this financial year.


Finally, I would like to extend my thanks to Councillor John Jarvis and, particularly, to Councillor David Chopping for their contribution to WHL. I look forward to working with Councillor Chopping as Chairman of Berry Brook Homes, the new Council-owned company which, I am sure, will go from strength to strength.


Cllr David Chopping – Chairman of Berry Brook Homes Ltd


Before I start my update, I would like to make a comment on Andy Couldrick’s departure. I sat on the Personnel Board which appointed him as Director of Children’s Services and again when he became Chief Executive. He was the ideal candidate for both jobs. As Members we have to say a big thank you and wish him well in his future career.


My update is a report on behalf of Berry Brook Homes Ltd which is the Council’s new housing company. I will also make a few comments on behalf of Councillor Cowan relating to Loddon Homes.


It is some 8 years since we started down the road to put together a Housing Investment Company. My original idea has grown from an idea on a single sheet of paper into a £30 million group of companies, building homes for Wokingham residents.  Not just houses and flats for letting to those on the housing list but also building the Special Needs properties we could not, otherwise, have provided. Members will be aware that we now have residents moving in to their new homes, into quality properties that will provide for them well into future decades. Much more is to come.


Schemes are going through the various planning, contract and building stages and our current register of some 118 units should double in the next few years. We have the first Local Authority owned “for profit” Registered Provider and I am particularly proud of that achievement, as well. This company, Loddon Homes, is independent of Council control and operates within the required Homes and Communities Agency framework. In line with these guidelines I have stepped down from the company. There are two new independent directors and Councillor Kaiser has joined the Board. We wish them all well.


Whilst WHL, the original company, will carry out the initial development and construction work, they will pass on to Loddon any properties where grant aid is involved. The new company Berry Brook Homes, will be responsible for the management and future benefit of other developments.


This company will also have a majority of independent Non-Executive Directors, in Robin Roberts and Derek Cash who have already joined the Board in order to help us get up to speed quickly and deliver our objectives. We feel we now have a strong and experienced Board.


The first Berry Brook Homes Board meeting has also taken place with a number of key issues discussed and progressed in ensuring arrangements for governing and managing the company. We have a lot of work to do.


WBC Housing Services is to have a dedicated Housing Officer for Local Housing Company (LHC) work and, when employed, will enable us to manage everything effectively. Similarly, as the housing stock grows we will need to employ suitable staff to meet the opportunities coming our way as the Council becomes more commercial in its approach to the businesses.