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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