Benefit cap changes

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Council tax, Epping, Housing, Loughton, Ongar, Private housing, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your home, Your money

From April 2013 there will be a ‘cap’ or maximum limit on the total amount of benefit that people of working age can receive. Households will have income capped to £500 per week for families and £350 for single people.

The Government will add up how much money you get from a range of benefits including housing benefit and if the total comes to more than the maximum amount allowed your housing benefit payments will be reduced to bring the total income in line with the applicable cap.

How will this affect me?

If your benefits are capped this will mean you may have to pay more towards your rent than you do currently. This is a really important change because if you get behind with your rent you may risk losing your home.
The cap will not apply if you, or your partner or any children you are responsible for, and who live with you, are entitled to working tax credit or receive any of the following

There will be a period where the cap will not be applied for 39 weeks for those who have been continuously in work for the previous 12 months.

The cap will apply to the combined income from:

Council tax benefit changes

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Council tax, Epping, Loughton, Older people, Ongar, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your home, Your money

Council tax benefit is changing from 1 April 2013 in line with national welfare reforms. All local councils will replace it with their own locally run service, known as the local council tax support scheme.

How is council tax benefit changing?

Epping Forest District Council will create a local scheme that is suitable for the area, working within a budget that has been reduced by over £1 million from its current spend.

How will this affect me?

This reduction in funding means we have to make some difficult decisions about who gets financial support and how much. This could mean that from April 2013 people who pay no council tax may have to pay some, and those who currently pay some may have to pay more. We can’t say how your benefit will be affected at this stage or how much you may have to pay.

Proposals for the local council tax support include

  • The calculation of support will be based on 80% of the council tax bill, rather than 100% at present
  • The calculation of support will be based on a maximum of a band D property. This means that anyone of working age that lives higher council tax band, will be calculated as if their property was a band D
  • Inclusion of child maintenance in the calculation with a disregard of £15 per week (per family)
  • The capital limit will be reduced from the current level of £16,000 to £6,000
  • Second adult rebate will not be included in the scheme for people of working age
  • A minimum award of £0.50 per week. This is in line with the minimum award in housing benefit

Pension age people are protected from any reduction to their benefit payments under the new scheme although they may need to pay more if council tax increases.

Housing association appointed to develop new council homes

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Epping, Housing, Housing repairs, Loughton, Ongar, Planning, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Your community, Your environment, Your home

Epping Forest District Council has appointed East Thames Group, a housing association, as development agent to deliver its new council housebuilding programme.

This is thought to be the first agreement of its type, where a council has appointed a housing association to deliver a whole development programme. East Thames will develop around 120 new affordable rented homes on behalf of the council over a 6 year period. The £1.6 million appointment follows a competitive tender process, with most of the new homes being developed on difficult-to-let garage sites in the council’s ownership.

East Thames will provide all the required development, project management and professional building services for the programme. The housing association will undertake initial development and financial appraisals, preparation of planning applications, all resident consultation and liaison and the procurement and supervision of works contractors.

“This is the right approach for us”, said Councillor David Stallan, the council’s housing portfolio holder. “The council has not built any new homes for over 25 years, so we do not have the technical expertise in-house to undertake new housebuilding ourselves. We are very pleased to announce this strategic partnership with East Thames, who we have already worked successfully with over a number years through our enabling role”. “Not only did East Thames submit the most competitive price”, Councillor Stallan continued, “their tender submission was also assessed as providing the best quality. We will continue to facilitate the provision of affordable housing in our district, with all of our housing association partners. But personally, I am looking forward to the day when we are able to build more council homes each year than we sell through the Right to Buy”.

Initially 13 organisations, comprising both housing associations and private companies, expressed interest in tendering for the role, with six shortlisted to submit detailed tenders.

East Thames will also be responsible for formulating the council’s development strategy and seeking investment partner status with the Homes and Communities Agency for the council. If successful, this would enable the Council to bid for grant funding for the new homes.

The appointment is expected to commence in January 2013, with the development of the first sites starting on site commencing in early 2014. The council’s cabinet has also agreed to set up a committee to oversee the housing building programme.

Green Flag award for Roding Valley Meadows

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Epping, Loughton, Older people, Ongar, Our countryside, Out and about, Residents, Trees and landscapes, Volunteering opportunities, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

Countrycare and EWT announce the award
Countrycare and EWT announce the award

A flag-raising ceremony took place in November attended by members of Epping Forest District Council, Essex Wildlife Trust (EWT), the Grange Farm Centre Trust (GFCT) and Roding Valley volunteer group.

The group was welcomed by Abigail Oldham, Countryside Manager, Countrycare. Then Patrick Bailly, EWT Warden of the Reserve, explained the importance of the Reserve for nature, wildlife, recreation and education.

The Reserve, in Loughton, is the largest area of traditional river-valley landscape left in Essex. Bounded by thick hedgerows, the herb-rich meadows, marsh and scrub woodland follow the meanders of the River Roding for a mile-and-a-half. More than 200 species of wildflowers thrive in the meadows.

The plant assemblage is so rare that the Reserve was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1986.

Countrycare, EWT and GFCT raise the flag together
Countrycare, EWT and GFCT raise the flag together

Lush hedgerows and veteran trees attract many species of bird, such as woodpeckers and Sparrowhawk. The ponds, river and fen attract numerous dragonflies and birds, such as Kingfisher, Snipe and Reed Bunting.

The Reserve is owned by the District Council and the Grange Farm Centre Trust and managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust.
The Green Flag recognises UK green spaces that are well-managed, sustainable, of conservation and heritage value and of high quality. The Reserve was judged on a searing hot day in July when Patrick Bailly lead a guided tour of the site, impressing the judge with his management methods.
And the flag is up!
And the flag is up!

After the volunteers were thanked for their contribution to making the Reserve the beautiful place it is today, John Hall, EWT’s Chief Executive, Alex Pelican, Grange Farm Centre Trust and Abigail Oldham, together raised the flag.

Refreshments were served in a marquee on one of the Reserve’s meadows where an exhibition about Countrycare and the Roding Valley Meadows was displayed.

Read more about Roding Valley Meadows.

Interested in volunteering? Volunteer with Countrycare.

Read more about the Essex Wildlife Trust.

National Empty Homes Week

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Building control, Chigwell, Commercial properties, Community, Council tax, Epping, Grants, Housing, Local business, Loughton, Ongar, Out and about, Planning, Private housing, Residents, Supporting business, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your home

National Empty Homes week runs from 26 November to 1 December 2012 highlighting the waste of empty properties.

Each dwelling that stands empty is a wasted resource and the council is committed to bringing empty properties back to use.

  • An empty property can cost an owner up to £10,000 a year in maintenance, Council Tax, increased insurance and potential loss in rental
  • They act as a magnet for crime and anti-social behaviour including squatters, vandalism, arson and rubbish dumping
  • Run-down, derelict and abandoned properties bring down the appearance of a neighbourhood and give a sense of decay and decline
  • The house next door to an empty property may be devalued by as much as 10%

We can help owners of empty properties by giving advice and information and also by offering financial assistance.

Report an empty property

If you know of an empty property and want to make us aware of it, please complete the online form.

If you would like to discuss any property or issue relating to empty homes call the Empty Property Officer on 01992 564706. All calls and information received will be treated in confidence.

Read more on empty properties.

New super fast broadband available

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Business, Chigwell, Epping, Grants, Housing, Local business, Loughton, Ongar, Out and about, Residents, Supporting business, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home

Residents and businesses can now benefit from a new super fast broadband service thanks to the FibreWiFi Broadband Service provided by Buzcom.

Orders are now being taken for the new service which covers most of the Epping Forest district, with homes and businesses able to access speeds of up to 50 Mb.

FibreWiFi logoAll enquiries about the coverage, pricing and features should be sent to FibreWiFi

Epping Forest District Council provided assistance to help enable the network.

Youth Plus in Ongar win Youth Project of the Year Award 2012

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chairman, Civic events, Councillors, Epping, Loughton, Ongar, Our activities, Playschemes, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community

Epping Forest Youth Council organised the third Youth Project of the Year Award at the Civic Offices in Epping on 30th October.

YPOTY Award Winners 2012
YPOTY Award Winners 2012

The evening was a celebration of youth work and voluntary work for the benefit of young people in the community. The Chairman of Epping Forest District Council, Councillor Brian Rolfe, presented the awards and commended the work of all the youth projects across the district.

Youth Councillor Ella Foster said, “One of the main issues we hear is there isn’t anything to do for our age group so, once again, the Youth Council set about locating local youth projects to put them on the map.  This year we found 16 youth projects running in the district. ”

Youth Councillors personally visited 14 of the 16 youth projects over a three month period. Ella  explained, “When visiting each youth club, we assessed the atmosphere in the centre, the opportunities to learn; we looked at the location, disabled access and street lighting. All of these factors we feel are important for young people. Where possible, we then returned to each project to meet with staff and discuss our findings. This was really helpful as it gave us the opportunity to feed back and listen to their future plans”.

Winners trophies were awarded to three projects for their outstanding youth work. They were; third place, The Box in Epping,  secondly place “We Don’t Do Bored” in Waltham Abbey and first place went to Youth Plus in Ongar who were formally crowned the ultimate winner of the Youth Project of the Year Award 2012. Youth Plus also won the award in 2010!

Five projects received a 5 star ‘Centre of Excellence’ Awards: XL Youth in Buckhurst Hill, Fusion in Loughton, The Box in Epping, We Don’t Do Bored in Waltham Abbey and Youth Plus in Ongar.

Healthworks in Waltham Abbey, Limes Farm Youth Centre in Chigwell, Theydon Youth in Theydon Bois, X Bus in Debden and the mobile Youth Bus each received a 4 Star award.

The Loughton Youth Centre in Loughton, ignite , St Mary’s Church, Loughton, New Images WAY 2000 in Waltham Abbey each received a 3 Star award.

The Space in Loughton won a 2 Star award. 

Youth Plus YPOTY Winners 2012
Youth Plus Youth Project of the Year 2012 Winners receiving their trophy from Chairman, Brian Rolfe

Brenda Rugeley from Youth Plus thanked the Youth Council for the amazing award and for organising a really inspiring evening; “We all really enjoyed meeting everyone tonight and learning about other projects. It has been a re- energising experience! We all so enjoyed the evening when you visited us at Youth Plus and our members had the opportunity to talk to you, show you around, and tell you about our group. Young people with learning disabilities can often feel isolated from other young people and in the community, and cannot easily access the activities that other young people do. Youth Plus was set up 13 years ago to help to address this situation. We now have a membership of 125 young people who have an opportunity to make friends and with the support of parents and volunteers they can arrange to take part in activities that they would normally not be able to do.

Everyone here is welcome to come over to the Ongar Youth Centre to see what we do. We would also love to have you come and do a spot of volunteering for us. We would be pleased to keep in touch and join in with any of the other groups in anything that is going on. We are so thrilled with this award.”

Youth Councillor Jaymey McIvor said “Youth Plus in Ongar is an excellent centre for young people with learning disabilities, they run an extensive programme of activities for their members, they are involved in their local community and develop opportunities for their members to engage and embrace them. They rely on volunteers, so please contact Youth Plus if you are interested in volunteering with this group.” 

Youth Councillor Catie Barry  went on to explain “Our map promoting all youth projects in the Epping Forest district has been updated for 2012, and this is available from schools, libraries, clubs and Epping Forest District Council Information Points. You can also download a copy of the map by clicking on the image below:

Business Briefing hot off the press and brimming with news for local businesses

Written on . Posted in Abandoned vehicles, Animal welfare, Buckhurst Hill, Building control, Business, Business rates, Chigwell, Commercial properties, Community, Conservation and listed buildings, Doing business with the council, Drainage, Energy efficiency, Epping, Grants, Gypsy and traveller, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Loughton, Media, Noise, Older people, Olympics, Ongar, Planning, Regulations, Residents, Supporting business, Travel, Trees and landscapes, Waltham Abbey, Working with the council, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

The October 2012 edition of ‘one business briefing’ is available. Produced by EFDC, One Epping Forest and local partners the briefing provides information for businesses and those looking to start up in business in the Epping Forest District.  The briefing  is designed to report on  business funding opportunities/access to finance, business support, workshops/events for business and local economic development initiatives.

The October edition highlights a new training grant available from Essex County Council which is available to businesses but those eligible must be quick as the grant is only available from now until March 2013. The briefing also highlights specific support available to manufacturing and construction businesses in the Epping Forest district.  If you are looking to set-up in business the briefing directs individuals to support being offered by HMRC, including its free and informal workshop sessions held in Epping.

Read the October 2012 edition – One Business Briefing

If you would like to receive future editions of ‘one business briefing’ directly to your email inbox please email vwillis@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

2013 Citizens of the Year campaigns are underway

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chairman, Chigwell, Civic events, Community, Epping, Loughton, Older people, Ongar, Our activities, Out and about, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council

Epping Forest District Council Citizen of the Year 2013 poster

The search is on to find the Epping Forest District Council Citizen of the Year 2013 and Young Citizen of the Year 2013.

Do you know someone who has shown outstanding courage, or has done something of great benefit to you or your community?  Perhaps someone who has shown extraordinary commitment, energy and effort in their particular field or towards achieving a particular goal?

If that person is a resident of the district, why not show your appreciation and nominate them for Epping Forest District Council’s accolade, a Citizen of the Year Award?  The Citizen of the Year 2013 and the Young Citizen of the Year 2013 will receive their awards at the Annual Civic Reception in March 2013.

The Young Citizen of the Year Award is presented annually to a young person, aged 11-18, in recognition of an exceptional contribution to the Epping Forest community.

Youth Councillors Jaymey McIvor and Sam Cascarina promoting the Young Citizen of the Year campaign poster

If you know someone who fits the bill and deserves to be recognised, fill in a nomination form and make sure it reaches the Civic Offices by Friday 30 November. 

The forms can be obtained at Council Information Desks at Epping, Loughton or Waltham Abbey and Buckhurst Hill Parish Council Information Centre, or by contacting Pat Seager at the Civic Offices on 01992 564427 (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday only) for the Citizen of the Year or Di Butler on 01992 564365 for the Young Citizen of the year. Alternatively, you can download each of the forms using the links below.

 Download Young Citizen of the Year 2013 nomination form

 Download Citizen of the Year 2013 nomination form

Older people’s day

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Epping, Housing, Loughton, Older people, Ongar, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your community, Your home

Celebrate “older people’s day” with Epping Forest District Council

You are invited to visit one of our sheltered housing schemes on Monday 1 October 2012.

The UK’s Older People’s Day coincides with the UN International Day for Older Persons. The day is a national celebration of the achievements and contributions that older people make to our society. It is a great way to build new relationships between people of all ages and bring together the local community.

As part of the celebrations, events are being held at nine of the Council’s sheltered housing schemes. You may know somebody who lives in one of our schemes, or maybe you are thinking about sheltered housing for yourself (or someone else). Perhaps you’d just like to celebrate with us. Come and join us, you will be very welcome at one of our events, whatever your reason.

  • Coffee Morning at Barrington Close Centre, Barrington Road, Loughton IG10 2AX from 10am to 12 noon
  • Bingo and Afternoon Tea at Buckhurst Court, Albert Road, Buckhurst Hill IG9 6BD from 2pm to 4pm
  • Bingo and Afternoon Tea at Chapel Road, Epping CM16 5DS from 2pm to 4pm
  • Afternoon Tea at Frank Bretton House, Bansons Way, Ongar CM5 9EY from 2pm to 4pm
  • Tea and Cakes at Jubilee Court, Ninefields, Waltham Abbey EN9 3JB from 3pm to 5pm
  • Tea, Cakes and Tombola at Jessopp Court, Shernbroke Road, Waltham Abbey EN9 3LF from 2pm to 4pm
  • Tea and Cakes at Leonard Davis House, Kiln Road, North Weald CM16 6BS from 2pm to 4.30pm
  • Cream Tea at Parsonage Court, Rectory Lane, Loughton IG10 2BB from 2pm to 4pm
  • Games and Afternoon Tea at Pelly Court, Hemnall Street, Epping CM16 4NA from 2pm to 4pm

There will be a small charge for refreshments, all proceeds go to the residents of the sheltered schemes and will be used to fund communal activities.

We hope that you will able to attend and help celebrate the contribution older people make to our communities.

For further information please contact Epping Forest District Council, Older Peoples Services Manager on 020 8508 8596.