To receive any statements from the Directors of Council Owned Companies.
Alistair Auty, Non-Executive Director of Wokingham Housing Limited
This is an update from Wokingham Housing Limited. When the Chairman of WHL last reported it was to notify Council that planning had been obtained for the Eustace and Fosters’ sites. These are progressing with Eustace moving towards the selection of a contractor and Fosters going through the detailed design phase. Construction starts at Eustace in late August and is scheduled to last for 75 weeks and Fosters in November. We have an additional six applications in planning with others in the pipeline, though smaller than the two flagship schemes these account for 31 units. Thus by the end of next year we could have as many 133 units built, under construction or identified. Our existing MD Robin Fielder will be standing down at the end of May and after a detailed recruitment process we have his replacement Bill Flood contracted to start on 18 May. Robin has been an excellent MD and we may be fortunate enough to have him serve as a Non-Executive Director on the Board of our subsidiary Loddon Homes. On that front our consultant David Williams is guiding the Board through the process of applying for registered provider status. This is an important phase. If we can achieve this we will have the ability to potentially secure grant funding for future affordable housing schemes from the Homes and Communities Agency. I should just point out, on the Fosters front this is the second extra care facility in Woodley. Finally the Chairman of WHL attended an Audit Committee meeting earlier this year to discuss matters of governance. All Directors are committed to keeping regular dialogue with its key shareholders.
Anthony Pollock,Non-Executive Director of Optalis
I am speaking in my capacity as Chairman of Optalis, our social care business. I am pleased to report that we are ahead of budget for this year by some 38% and that cash flow is well under control. I am also pleased that we have contributed to our Council savings for next year and we are contributing £250,000 towards the Commissioner’s savings targets. We are making significant progress in connection with recruitment of more staff because we need them in order to be able to expand the business. We are doing a lot of work with recruitment. Our staff retention is better than similar businesses in the Borough. On the business development front we have won a contract to provide extra care housing support in a neighbouring borough and we are also advising a Labour council somewhere in the north of England on the setting up of a local authority trading company. So we are using the lessons that we have learnt to generate extra income and we are also working with the Commissioner of Wokingham Borough Council in connection with other services that we night assist the Council with. We have been working particularly in the last few months in developing our partnership working with the Commissioner and his team and it has been working particularly well and I look forward to that continuing.