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Closure was not the council's making

Closure was not the council's making

07 July 2016
Photo of Cllr Julian McGhee-Sumner

It was disappointing to read Coling Lawley’s letter in last week’s Woodley Chronicle (30 June) 'The loyalty of staff was outstanding' claiming it was 'Wokingham Borough Council's mishandling of its financial position with Woodley Age Concern (WAC) that resulted in WAC being faced with no choice but to go into administration.'

This is simply not true. We've supported Woodley Age Concern over many years to provide support to vulnerable people, including both practical and financial help. We also agreed to fund a business case that should have put WAC on a solid footing. Despite assurances to the contrary, WAC came back to the council at the eleventh hour to report that it was once again on the brink of insolvency having been unable to deliver its business plan and seeking further substantial and ongoing financial support that was simply unaffordable for us.

The closure of the service was not an issue of the council's making. Far from 'mishandling' WAC's financial situation, we provided generous support in an attempt to save the service, but despite this, WAC was unable to turn itself around to become a viable business. We leased the land to WAC but they own the building.

I want to put on record our enduring gratitude to the staff at Woodley Age Concern who have always worked tirelessly and professionally to support some of our most vulnerable citizens. The council did its best to find other providers to take on the service but of course it would have been unreasonable to expect staff to stay on in the face of uncertainty, in the event many of them did. We thank them for their years of loyalty and dedication to the people and community they cared for, and wish the outcome could have been completely different for them and for WAC.

There is absolutely no criticism implied of a very dedicated staff team. However in the end so many staff had to leave to find more secure employment that the council had no option but to find alternative care for those attending WAC. I'd like to assure staff and your readers that everyone has been found alternative care arrangements.

Yours faithfully,

Cllr Julian McGhee Sumner

Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing


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