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.


It was moved by Councillor Keith Baker and seconded by Councillor Gary Cowan that, in accordance with Procedure Rule 4.2.12 (q), Procedure Rule 4.2.24 be suspended to allow Councillor David Chopping to address the Council for five minutes.


On being put to the vote, the Motion was declared by the Mayor to be carried.


Councillor David Chopping, Chairman of Wokingham Housing Ltd

I would like to make a joint statement on behalf of Wokingham Housing Ltd and Loddon Homes.


Development progress continues on our main sites and also on the small sites where building and preparation work has already started at Grovelands, and the two sites at Reading and Norton Roads.


Our biggest frustration remains around the delays at Phoenix Avenue, where weather problems in January mean that phases 3, 4 and 5 will now not be ready until the end of August. While phases 1 and 2, which are weather tight, will be ready in May 2017, the delays are a disappointment, but not unanticipated. The main impact remains the delays in new residents being able to move in to their new homes. Negotiations with the contractor and Employer’s Agents (that’s the quantity surveyors acting on our behalf) should substantially cover any theoretical financial losses. Despite the delays, the project does remain within budget. This is a constricted site and I reiterate that practical problems with access, supply and weather were anticipated.


Fosters is still on time and to budget and we still anticipate handover in the Autumn.


Progress at 52 Reading Road to build a replacement facility for young care leavers, to replace Seaford Court is not only on track with planning permission granted in February, but we have already agreed terms with LIFEbuild, with the contractors becoming responsible for the site this week. All of this urgency has been to secure the £300k of Government grant awarded to the project by the Homes and Communities Agency. The build contract needs to be in place and demolition work started before the end of March 2017, so we have complied! The scheme also needs to be completed by end of March 2018.


This shows what can be done when there is an effective co-operation between all the interested departments of the Council, the Planning Department and good contract systems. I say well done to all concerned!


Decisions have been reached as to the composition of the Housing Companies, partly to meet HCA rules, and partly to simplify management, tax and other financial arrangements. Loddon will answer directly to Holdco, instead of being a subsidiary of WHL, and will hold and manage all properties where Government grants are involved. There will be a new Housing Company, wholly owned by the Council, that company to handle all Social and Affordable properties where Government grants are not involved. WHL will continue to handle all development and construction related work. WHL will also deal with open market sales projects and be involved in any Private Rented Sector homes through a wholly owned subsidiary depending on the details in the proposed Housing White Paper.


On many of our other sites we are either progressing planning applications or tendering the build contracts. This will deliver our next pipeline schemes to house local people. There are also a number of other sites across the Borough where we are working-up detailed business case, to see whether they are viable to take forward to achieving the necessary Board and Council approvals before putting in planning applications.


For the future we are looking forward to the opportunity to start the Gorse Ride redevelopment, plans for which are just starting to come into public consultation with a meeting with all the immediately affected residents taking place last Tuesday. This could be really exciting, and show what local initiative can achieve.


We continue to look for more sites, and thank those Councillors who have come forward with ideas. So I will finish with my usual plea of…More Please?


Councillor Anthony Pollack, Chairman of Optalis Ltd

Many of you know that the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead will be transferring their adult social care services to Optalis and taking a 45% shareholding in the company at the beginning of April. I’m looking forward to the opportunities which the merged business will provide for both Councils, enabling them to continue to provide first rate adult social care within the financial envelope constraints predicted to be available over the next few years. 


I am confident that the Local Authority Trading Company (LATCo) model developed by Wokingham Borough Council over the last five and a half years will provide a sound basis for the expanded company and I look forward to the innovation that I believe will come from the combination of Wokingham Borough Council and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, which will provide a sound basis for other Councils to join Optalis later, either as new shareholders transferring their adult social care services, or as commissioners of services, either in part or in whole, through service level agreements. 


I think this is an exciting prospect and I look forward to it immensely.