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.


John Jarvis, Non-Executive Director Wokingham Housing Limited

Firstly Wokingham Housing Limited.  Phoenix is now progressing on schedule.  The developers, Hills, have been onsite for three months.  The excess debris left after demolition has all been removed.  Drainage issues have been addressed and building works have started.  At the last count foundations have been dug for about 80% of the site and groundworks are progressing well.  Anyone looking over the fence will see that the footings are rising above ground level already.  We receive regular photos and these will be added to our website when it goes live in the next few days.


Fosters has taken a major leap forward with the contract following the tender process awarded to R J Leighfields, a Swindon based contractor.  This has come in below our estimated bill costs of £6.1 million at £5.96 million.  Leighfields are expected to be able to start onsite in April 2016 and the development timetable is programmed at seventy four weeks, delivering the completed scheme by September 2017.  At start onsite we will be able to claim 50% of the HCA grant of £1.4 million, hitting the grant claim target we agreed with the HCA.  When Fosters commences together with Phoenix, WHL will have over one hundred homes onsite being constructed for residents to start moving in from early 2017.


Our small sites programme has been progressing well with the first three sites included in our small contractor framework tender for quotation.  This will further add to the pipeline of homes WHL is working on and delivering for local people.  We continue to also seek planning permission for other small sites on Council owned land and hope that more small sites would be tendered through our framework and will be starting onsite during 2016.


Lastly we are beginning to work up schemes that will provide much needed private rented homes in the Borough and hope to progress at least one private rented sector development project late in 2016.


Gary Cowan, Non-Executive Director Loddon Homes Limited

The Loddon Homes application to register as a for profit registered provider with the Homes and Communities Agency is still ongoing.  Feedback received from the Home and Communities Agency largely revolves around concerns about the interpretation of Loddon’s interpretation of independence from the Council.  We are working hard to satisfy their concerns and as a result we have made some minor amendments to our submission which we believe will satisfy them.  Additional extra advice indicated that the registering of Loddon Homes as a profit registered provider, that is a difficult word to use, will provide the Council with the maximum flexibility going forward by taking into consideration the future government housing policy as it evolves.  The work to build a business policy and procedures and processes also continues with further policies agreed at our branch March Board meeting.  We are also working on developing our new Loddon Homes Business Plan 2016/17 and hope that should be completed next month. 


Loddon continue to work with Wokingham Housing Limited on both existing schemes like Phoenix Avenue and Fosters but also on potential other schemes.  We are aware of the Government’s changing policy and the need to fully understand the implications of this before any final decisions on where schemes best fit in the future, and I will keep the Council fully informed as I get more information.


Anthony Pollock, Non-Executive Director Optalis:

My report on Optalis for the last few months.  I would like to highlight the following successes by Optalis since my last report at the November Council meeting.  We have had another successful year both financially and operationally and I would like to pay tribute to Mette Le Jakobsen who is the Managing Director of Optalis and has been instrumental in leading the delivery of this success.


Optalis is the Council’s provider of last resort in respect of adult care services.  This means that when a situation occurs where a service has broken down or a service provider has withdrawn from a contract or has ceased to trade for financial reasons that Wokingham Borough Council would instruct Optalis to step in immediately and provide the service on a temporary or permanent basis.  This saves the Council from having to seek a new provider through a tendering process which can take a number of months whilst it has to step in itself to ensure the continuation of service to vulnerable residents.  Optalis being the provider of last resort therefore ensures a seamless continuation of the service to residents.  Yesterday the Council called upon Optalis to step in and take over the services provided by Woodley Age Concern who went into administration this week.  In fact I think I have heard they have gone into liquidation.  Optalis has deployed senior managers yesterday and today to ensure that the service to vulnerable residents of Woodley was maintained and the Council continues to discharge its responsibilities.  We even do things in Woodley.  I am very pleased that Optalis has been able to step in efficiently and effectively thus demonstrating the value of its role as the Council’s provider of last resort.


In connection with new business the company has recently been awarded a new five year contract for its services with Wokingham Borough Council.  The company has been awarded an extra care housing scheme in Abingdon by Oxfordshire County Council and I am pleased to see that Optalis continues to widen the number of local authorities who use it as a service provider.  The company continues to provide consultancy services to other local authorities who are seeking to set up their own local trading companies and this shows the high regard with which the company is held in the adult social care market place.