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Royal Borough adult services transfer to private company Optalis

Adult services run by the Royal Borough transferred to a private company today (Monday), with one councillor suggesting it could be ‘the model for the future’.

Adult social care centres operated within the council will now be run by Optalis, which was  wholly owned by neighbouring Wokingham Borough Council.

The Royal Borough has now paid £771,302 for a 45 per cent stake, and will gain an extra five per cent within the next two years.

A total of three councillors – MJ Saunders, John Story and Eileen Quick – will sit on the board of Optalis’ holding company with three from Wokingham, and the chairman position will rotate every two years.

Cllr David Coppinger (Con, Bray), the lead member for adult services and health, said today that those relying on adult services would not experience any disruption, and would benefit from the move.

He was shown around Boyn Grove Community Resource Centre, in Courthouse Road, with Wokingham’s council leader Keith Baker (Con, Coronation), the current chairman of Optalis Cllr Anthony Pollock (Con, Shinfield South), and the managing director of Optalis, Mette Le Jakobsen.

With the transfer of staff ‘we can invest in different and more services,’ Cllr Coppinger added.

He said: “We can offer our staff better opportunities in terms of training and in terms of promotion.

“They (Optalis) will bring different experiences and knowledge.”

He was confident that Optalis would expand further, and believed another council would look to bring its services into the business ‘in about two years’ time’.

Though he would not name an authority, he said councils were ‘looking at us very closely because this is potentially the model for the future.’

Cllr Keith Baker (Con, Coronation), said: “It is a major step in our long-term ambition, which is to move to ultimately become a Berkshire-wide company owned by all Berkshire authorities.”

He said having adult services in a private company allows it to operate without ‘potential restraints the local authorities have’, including regulations and cost.

By merging, the councils will not need to compete for the best staff and Cllr Baker echoed Cllr Coppinger’s comments that ‘local authorities are watching us’.

Mette Le Jakobsen said it was ‘a brilliant day’ and because Royal Borough staff transferring from the council to Optalis would be doing the same job, she was not concerned about the increase of the company’s size and scope.

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  • ConcernedMaidenheadResident

    16:04, 20 April 2017

    David; you talk about public scrutiny. Can you explain why you personally signed off on the commissioning of domiciliary care services from CareWatch at a time when you should reasonably have known that they were (and still are) under investigation by the CQC persuant to evidenced concerns about adult social care patient safeguarding concerns. I can substantiate that evidence of this has been passed to your office; it is curious that you failed to act in the face of overwhelming evidence of misuse of rate payer funds. Optalis or no optalis, I can again substantiate that elderly frail patients (ratepayers all their lives) have been left without visits (and therefore medication and assisted bathroom visits) over the ~4 month period to 15/02/17. I passed this evidence to your office, and you again failed to act. I ask you to announce a full investigation into the procurement decisions antecedent to the retention of CW as a preferred RBWM supplier and the disbursement of public funds to this end, and to offer to resign if your office is found to be negligent in any way. The elderly citizens of Maidenhead deserve better than you (on the basis of your conduct in this specific matter). You must fix this, and then stand aside. Your apathy on this matter (and perhaps misconceived belief that this will just go away) is unsettling. Do you have the moral courage to reply here?

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  • Ben Coe

    16:04, 07 April 2017

    Which raises the question, if this service, along with others, works best at a county level, just why did the Conservatives shut down the county council?

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  • Pursuer

    09:09, 04 April 2017

    No doubt this transfer will end up costing the RBWM rate payers more than is currently paid. Private companies always seem to work out more expensive, and given many media reports of private companies performance failures this must be a cause for concern

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    • David Coppinger

      12:12, 04 April 2017

      This company is a Local Authority Trading Company. Its only shareholders are RBWM and Wokingham Council. The move has been made to give a better service to residents and enable us to sell services and bringing the profits back to residents. Cllr David Coppinger

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