Friday, 9 January 2015

Wokingham Conservatives call time on openness and transparency

In 2011 Wokingham Borough Council created Optalis, a company that provides care and support services to older people and adults with a disability. Since then the Liberal Democrats have demanded transparency and openness for local taxpayers from the council owned companies. There has been some progress on improving openness but now the Conservatives have taken a giant step backwards.

Cllr Prue Bray, leader of the Lib Dems said “As Optalis is funded by Wokingham’s taxpayers and is used by vulnerable people in our community, it is important that its activities are open to scrutiny. The Lib Dems have consistently shown that the governance, transparency and reporting by all the Wokingham Borough Council owned companies is simply not good enough. At least in the past as opposition councillors we have been able to have 6 monthly briefings from Optalis and anything we were told in confidence we always kept confidential. Now suddenly we have been told by Keith Baker, Leader of the Council, that he has decided these briefings will no longer take place, and that he will determine when they can start again.

It makes us wonder why. What is there to hide? According to Companies House the managing director left Optalis at roughly the same time Keith banned us from having briefings. Could the two things be connected, do you suppose?

It is not acceptable that the Leader of the Council can simply choose to block access to the council owned companies to suit his own agenda.

The Lib Dems have always been worried that the companies’ activities could be hidden from the taxpayer. Now it looks like our concerns were justified.”

[Ed - Apologies to readers, this press release was added to the website late.]