Agenda item

Statements 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.


Gary Cowan, Non-Executive Director Loddon Homes Limited

As well as managing our existing units, our other key focus is working with Wokingham Borough Council and Optalis on the arrangements for the housing management and care provision at Fosters Extra Care scheme. Letting plans are being carefully co-ordinated with WBC, who are having to take account of letting Housing Solutions’ Extra Care scheme at the Birches, also in Wokingham, and how best to re-house Cockayne Court residents, which is due to close at the end of this year.


Promotion of Fosters to make sure all Borough residents and professionals are aware of the scheme continues.  The latest event took place in August where we hosted an event which was very well attended with around 25 professionals attending and we anticipate that this will further spread the word about Extra Care coming soon to Woodley.


The latest business plan has been produced and discussed at our September Board which shows the company has a strong future in meeting its key objectives of providing affordable homes for those in need within the Borough; while also providing a sound ongoing income stream for Council services.


We were pleased to see the new dedicated WBC Housing Officer working on our stock who started in August and we believe that this will help us deliver a service to our existing and new tenants, which I hope will be very good.


We are also looking forward to the recruitment of a Service and Compliance Officer jointly with Berry Brook Homes, to make sure that the Boards can be fully reassured about the services provided by our managing agent to the residents. We are keen to see the post in place as early as possible.


David Lee, Non-Executive Director WBC (Holdings) Limited

I wonder if I could just make a comment on what Gary has said.  I think they have done an excellent job.  There will now be two superb Extra Care buildings in Woodley and I would urge any Member who wants to see round this, especially bearing in mind the problems we had when we wanted to replace the Fosters home, and I think it would be very good to invite anyone round.


Stuart Munro on behalf of Alistair Auty, Non-Executive Director Wokingham Housing Limited

Some good news items I think and some concerning items.  At present Wokingham Housing has 112 homes under construction over 7 sites.  To date we passed over the management to Loddon Homes and Berry Brook Homes of 35 new homes and one refurbished scheme of 3 units.  A further 19 units at Phoenix Avenue have been handed over this week to Berry Brook Homes so we are getting there.  The delays on Phoenix Avenue means that while the majority of the 68 homes will be completed and handed over before the end of October, we will not deliver the last 8 homes until early December, which is frustrating.  We are now applying for full liquidated and ascertained damages (LADs as they are called) to invoice each month which in total is estimated to be between £65-75,000.


Fosters Extra Care which you have already heard about continues to progress well and is on budget.  The contractor Leafields have been let down by the lift supplier, Stannah, who are not fitting the 2 lifts until the end of November.  The development should be complete by mid-October but we will not be able to let the first floor units until the lift has been installed.


As you heard earlier from Richard, 52 Reading Road is progressing well and is on time and budget.  Anson Walk flats continue to progress well, although we have no further information of any additional costs likely to be involved in moving the electrical cable, also found unexpectedly across the site.  Again additional costs will be recouped from the surveying company.  Grovelands has a similar situation with another of these cables again.  Elizabeth Road and Barrett Crescent sites are progressing well and are on time and to budget.  The contract for Norton Road has now been let to LifeBuild following the necessary Board approvals and will begin construction in early November.  We also expect to be able to appoint the contractor for 2 shared ownership homes to be built at Finch Road shortly, as part of the joint venture with Burrwood Development, to build 6 homes on the joint site.  Several future potential sites are currently being considered in close consultation with WBC and the Commissioner.


Anthony Pollock, Non-Executive Director Optalis Holdings Limited

I wanted to inform Council that we have appointed a new Chief Executive at Optalis, Martin Farrow, who started work on 4 September and I am very pleased with his appointment.  I am confident that he will provide the leadership which the company requires during the current project of integrating the service of the Royal Borough with the Wokingham Borough services already being provided by Optalis.  The integration project is on track and I would like to pay tribute to the hard work and commitment of Optalis staff to the successful creation of one organisation through this integration programme.


Finances are on track and we expect a small profit in the current year.  Work is underway publicising the merger of Wokingham and Royal Borough’s Adult Social Care Services and at the national conference in October in Bournemouth we will use the event to publicise the benefits of Optalis delivering services to both councils.  I believe that our experiences and those of other local authority trading companies will lead to at least one other council considering joining Optalis in the future.