Liberal Democrat Councillors are extremely concerned about the additional costs of OPTALIS – the Wokingham Borough Council owned company that provides adult social care to the Borough’s residents. A Special Council Executive Meeting was held on 28th March at which councillors were asked to approve a £50,000 injection into OPTALIS to help balance its books for the year 2012/13.
The Liberal Democrat representative on that committee, Cllr Prue Bray, said: “The residents of Wokingham are being asked to provide £50,000 to make Optalis’s balance sheet look better than it really is. The Conservatives claimed that this is entirely normal and the extra equity could have been provided when the company was set up. But they didn’t anticipate the need for it then. Things don’t seem to have gone as well as they thought, and it has become necessary to out more money in to avoid a poor credit rating affecting Optalis’s ability to win new business. I find this deeply unsatisfactory. The council-owned limited companies are supposed to make money for the council, not cost us more.”
Noting that Optalis had recently parted company with its finance director, Cllr Bray continued “This should have gone to the full council meeting for a decision, encouraging debate and showing transparency. Instead it went to a committee of only 6 councillors. There was a full council meeting only last week. The excuse given as to why the item did not go to that meeting was that the council did not know in time that the equity injection was needed. I find that deeply worrying, as it would mean Optalis had almost reached the end of its financial year before it realised it was going to need a helping hand. Surely it should have been obvious earlier?”
Councillor Bray voted against the recommendation. The Liberal Democrats will continue to scrutinise the limited companies and to demand greater transparency on their activities.