Wokingham Council hands social care to new company
The responsibility for social care in Wokingham will be handed over to a private company as the council takes steps to commission more of its services to outside bodies.
Wokingham Borough Council has proposed the creation of an adult social care Local Authority Trading Company in a bid to save £4.6 million over the next five years.
If the plans are approved the responsibility for adult social care provided services will be transferred to the council owned company, called Connect Community Care.
Services which will be transferred over to the company include long and short term domiciliary support, learning disability community-based day services in Wokingham, Earley and Woodley, the Wokingham Borough Employment Service and the Sensory Needs Services.
It will also take on accommodation-based support including Westmead Day Centre in Rances Lane, Wokingham, Oakfield Court Supported Housing in Barkham Road, Wokingham, and Fosters Older People’s Home in Woodley.
The council cut its social care provision to only serve elderly or disabled people with “critical” needs in 2007.
Councillor Anthony Pollock, executive member for finance, said: “One of the advantages of moving our social care into a private company is it mean we can provide services we cannot provide at the moment.
“We regularly have people ringing up wanting services from the council which they do not qualify for and so we cannot provide, like home care for example or dementia care.
“But by shipping it into a company we can. It also means we can talk to neighbouring councils about some of the things in social services that we might be able to provide to them.”
The council will provide an initial investment of £276,000 to Connect Community Care to set up the company, but it is expected the company will generate £11.5 million in turnover in year five.
The council is moving towards a system where it outsources more and more services to private companies.
The council’s waste services are already contracted out to a private firm.
The council has experience of launching its own limited companies from last year, when it used its Wokingham Enterprise Limited to purchase land in Peach Street in Wokingham town centre.
This land will be regenerated under a joint project the council is carrying out with developer Wilson Bowden. The limited company will manage the assets from the regeneration to create profit for the council.
Cllr Pollock said commissioning of services was being used by the council to help make savings following the 14.3 per cent reduction in its revenue support grant, the main grant from central government.
He said: “An example of a service we have already commissioned is bin collection. Basically we used to run it and owned all our own lorries and it was quite difficult. We have now got a contract and we wouldn’t even consider taking that back.”
The council’s chief executive, Susan Law, said handing over social services to Connect Community Care would allow the council to act as a watchdog to ensure the services are delivered to a high standard.
She said: “We are very concious about not reducing standards and not reducing quality of care that is provided.”