Council Partnership Aided Beacon Status Bid

Written on . Posted in Emergencies, Uncategorized, Your council

The Beacon SchemeStrong partnership working between Essex County Council and Epping Forest District Council played a significant part in the County Council`s `Beacon Status` award for Emergency Planning earlier this year. The close links were tested briefly last week as Loughton High Road was closed due to a gas leak. The Beacon Scheme was established by the Government in 1999 to identify local government excellence and best practice.

All Councils are now required to play an enhanced emergency planning role since the introduction of the Civil Contingencies Act in 2004. Essex County Council and Epping Forest District Councils have complimentary arrangements for responding to emergencies. They share emergency planning staff and expertise, and run test exercises together aimed at ensuring the best possible combined response.

Loughton Gas LeakCouncillor Mrs Syd Stavrou, Community Wellbeing Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council said: It is often the Police or Fire Service that leads in emergency response but Councils can be called upon in very important supporting roles. We never know exactly what the next emergency is going to be so we plan in terms of the services we can provide such as rest centres, building control advice or public health expertise. We also have vehicles and machinery that can be put at the disposal of the emergency services as well as small stores of items such as sandbags.

In the last few years we have been called upon in situations as diverse as an unexploded war-time bomb, floods and fire. We were on standby during the fuel blockade to help ensure essential services continued to be delivered and formed part of the nation-wide response to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth in 2001.

A great deal of our recent planning and training has centred on the role we would play during a Flu Pandemic, during which Epping Forest District Council and Essex County Council would support the Health agencies. Separately, every agency continues to take terrorist threats extremely seriously and we also plan for man-made emergencies too.

Councillor Mrs Stavrou added: We were very pleased to be recognised by Essex County Council as a Beacon Partner for Emergency Planning. It reinforces the strong partnership working that has existed in Epping Forest for many years. Mercifully, the emergencies to hit the District in recent years have been relatively small scale but people will remember the scenes of the fuel storage fire in Buncefield, Hertfordshire and the Korean cargo jet airliner that came down a few miles north of us in Uttlesford just a few years ago. Whatever, the future holds we must be prepared.

Scrutiny Recommends Webcasting Continuation

Written on . Posted in Councillors, Democracy, Meetings, Your council

Overview and Scrutiny is recommending the continuation of webcasting at Epping Forest District Council. Members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee received a detailed report from Democratic Services Manager Simon Hill on Thursday 2 August 2007 setting out the success of the pilot scheme which has seen viewing figures increase to around 2,000 a month since the introduction of webcasting a year ago.

Click here to watch the webcast

Councillors heard that although a relatively small Council in comparison with many others, Epping Forest District Council now achieved some of the best viewing figures of any local authority in the Country. The integration of webcasting with other forms of communication such as The Forester and local press, as well as embedded links throughout the Council website have helped to encourage residents to access a range of content. In addition to Council meetings, staff have made a number of other projects available online including video of the Celebration of Faith, Civic Awards, school projects produced in partnership with the Council`s Leisure Service and an energy efficiency DVD provided by Environmental Services.

Simon Hill giving a detailed report on how webcasting works

The Council has also made webcasting available to the West Essex PCT for consultation on their new district-wide strategy and is working on more projects with local schools and Epping Forest College.

Mr Hill reported that other councils were watching the development of innovative webcasting projects at Epping Forest District Council as examples of best practice to follow.

The webcasting cameras and broadcasting equipment are leased to the Council by a company called Public-i. Public-i also provides the streaming facilities that allow the Council to place webcasts on the Internet. Funding of £17,000 for the pilot stage had been provided by Central Government but following evaluation, the Council must now decide whether to continue funding the equipment itself.

Simon Hill giving a detailed report on webcasting viewing figures

Councillors of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee strongly supported the continuation of the project. There was general agreement that the pilot had been extremely successful and was likely to grow in the future. The Committee agreed to recommend to Cabinet that expressions of interest be sought to test the value of the Public-i service and that the Council should continue to build on the success of the pilot.

Councillor Richard Morgan Chairman of Overview and Scrutiny thanked Simon Hill for the hard work and enthusiasm both he and other Council staff had shown in bringing the pilot project forward.

After the meeting Councillor Morgan said: We can`t under-estimate the potential value of webcasting. Local Government needs to re-establish its links with local people. We need to make ourselves accessible and accountable. People lead busy lives and we can`t expect them to turn up in their hundreds to every Council meeting. Webcasting has already proved able to overcome that barrier. We now have virtual audiences of hundreds of people at some of our meetings which can only be excellent news for local democracy.

Loughton Alderton Notice of By-election

Written on . Posted in Democracy, Elections, Your council

Epping Forest District Council

Election of a District Councillor for the Loughton Alderton Ward

Notice is hereby given that:

  • An election is to be held of one District Councillor for the Loughton Alderton Ward.
  • Forms of nomination may be obtained at Civic Offices, High Street, Epping, Essex CM16 4BZ from the Returning Officer who will, at the request of an elector for the electoral area prepare a nomination paper for signature.
  • Nomination papers must be delivered to the Returning Officer, Civic Offices, High Street, Epping, Essex CM16 4BZ on any day after the date of this notice but no later than NOON on Thursday, 2 August 2007.
  • If the election in contested, the poll will take place on Thursday, 30 August 2007.
  • Applications, amendments or cancellations of postal votes must reach the Electoral Registration Officer at Civic Offices, High Street, Epping, Essex CM16 4BZ by 5 pm on Tuesday, 14 August 2007.
  • Applications to vote by proxy at this election must reach the Electoral Registration Officer at Civic Offices, High Street, Epping, Essex CM16 4BZ by 5 pm on Tuesday, 21 August 2007.
  • Applications to vote by proxy at this election applied for on grounds of physical incapacity, where that physical incapacity occurred after 5 pm on Tuesday, 21 August 2007 must reach the Electoral Registration Officer at Civic Offices, High Street, Epping, Essex CM16 4BZ by 5 pm on Thursday, 30 August 2007.

Dated 25 July 2007

Ian Willett
Returning Officer


Loughton Alderton Notice of Casual Vacancy

Written on . Posted in Democracy, Elections, Your council

Epping Forest District Council

Casual Vacancy
in the Office of Councillor

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN under Section 87(2) of the Local Government Act 1972 that a casual vacancy exists in the office of District Councillor for the Loughton Alderton Ward of the District of Epping Forest.

Any elector from Alderton Ward who will require a postal or proxy vote for the by-election is strongly advised to register as soon as possible as election day is likely to be in late August when many people may be on holiday.

Further details of polling day will be circulated to electors over the coming weeks. Any electors from the ward already registered for postal / proxy voting in the current year, need take no action as they will automatically receive full details.

If any elector from Alderton Ward wants to check their position, they should contact the Elections office by telephone on 01992 564 411.

Dated 16 July 2007

Ian Willett
Returning Officer


Returning Officer Reviews Elections

Written on . Posted in Democracy, Elections, Your council

Councillors expressed their desire for a traditional late night count following elections within Epping Forest District. Members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee received a report from Ian Willett, Returning Officer for the Council setting out a number of issues raised in a review of the May 2007 elections.

Several Councillors argued in favour of a return to late night counts after recent elections counted on the day after polling. Mr Willett explained that since a change in legislation, polling stations were now open for an extra two hours between 7am and 10pm. He was concerned that after such a long day, finding sufficient volunteers willing to continue with counting through to the small hours of the morning might be difficult. He felt that by allowing staff to go home and get a good night`s sleep before commencing the count the following day, he could produce a `less exciting` but more reliable count.

 

Link to webcast

Where District and Parish elections were being held on the same day, another alternative was to count District Council votes immediately following the close of polls but to wait until the following day for the count of parish Council elections.

Councillors noted that despite the extension in polling hours, other councils continued to hold the count straight after the close of polls and Mr Willett agreed to consider the matter.

The last count was held at Waltham Abbey Town Hall. Mr Willett also raised the issue of whether Theydon Bois Village Hall, previously used for counts was a better venue. He explained that a full election count required the use of two separate rooms at Theydon Bois whereas Waltham Abbey Town Hall could host the entire count within one room. However, Theydon Bois had superior parking facilities and advances in Epping Forest District Council`s use of technology such as large display screens reduced the disadvantage of holding the count in more than one room. Mr Willett also confirmed the purchase of large signs to help candidates identify tables where particular wards were being counted.

Councillors also asked Mr Willett to consider if it was possible to speed up the publication of the nomination of candidates. Publication before the most recent elections had been delayed to take account of public holidays and similar circumstances were not envisaged for several years. However, Mr Willett undertook to review the matter.

Thanks to John Scott

The Chairman of Overview and Scrutiny, Councillor Richard Morgan, paid tribute to retiring Joint Chief Executive John Scott who leaves the Council in July. Councillor Morgan thanked Mr Scott for his great support to Overview and Scrutiny and to the Council as a whole. As one of the longest serving councillors he had known John Scott for more than 25 years. He had always been a great support to Councillor Morgan personally as a councillor and as a friend. He had made an outstanding contribution and Councillor Morgan wished him well in his retirement.


London Underground Comes Under Spotlight at Scrutiny

Written on . Posted in Meetings, Out and about, Residents, Travel, Your area, Your council

Simon Williams of London Underground Limited proved to be a master of his brief when he gave a detailed account of the latest developments on the Central Line to Members of Epping Forest District Council`s Scrutiny Committee on Thursday 7 June 2007.

In a very detailed and wide ranging presentation available to view online via the Council webcast facility, Mr Williams covered the upgrade and refurbishment of local Central Line stations and services including the extension of station opening times and staffing hours. He reported that since January, many of the local stations had become part of the travel zone 4 meaning lower prices for many travellers.

As more travellers switch to alternatives such as Oyster Cards, the provision of traditional ticket offices was being reduced but Mr Williams emphasised that all stations would be staffed while open. He outlined many of the improvements to stations such as Epping, Chigwell, Loughton, Theydon Bois, Roding Valley and Epping. Work was continuing at Loughton and Debden.

Refurbishment at Grange Hill is scheduled to take place in 2008.

Mr Williams described many enhancements and investments to the track and infrastructure of the Central Line in the period leading up to the London Olympics of 2012. He acknowledged that some of the network investment works would also cause periods of short-term disruption to some rail users.

However, while many improvements had been made or were planned, Mr Williams also had to answer a number of concerns. Delays and uncertainties about the upgrade of Buckhurst Hill Station which is not likely to receive significant attention before 2011 prompted Councillor Mrs Ann Haigh to enquire what might be done in terms of staff visibility, ticket facilities and access arrangements. Councillor Stallan appealed on behalf of rail user at Epping for the retention of the station kiosk in any future changes to the station, while several councillors asked questions about parking provision for commuters.

Original plans for the extension of the existing car park capacity had been shelved but a feasibility study was underway intot he scope for use of the builders yard at Epping Station.

Councillor Lesley Wagland emphasised the need not only to staff stations such as Chigwell where service hours were recently extended, but to ensure a higher level of staff visibility to reassure late night travellers.

Crime prevention in the form of CCTV cameras for stations and car parks featured in the improvements outlined by Mr Williams along with staffing of stations during open hours.

Councillor David Bateman and Councillor Doug Kelly put a number of strategic questions to Mr Williams. They asked what consideration was being given to the potential for extension of the Central Line, either out to Ongar on the existing privately owned track bed or for more ambitious projects such as extending the line to Stansted.

Mr Williams said that on the current population increase projections for the East of England Plan, LUL did not believe a business case could be made for repurchase of the Epping Ongar Line. Extension to Stansted would be prohibitive for a number of reasons including journey time.

Generating significant additional passenger numbers from within the district or further a field would also have implications on the Central Line capacity in central London. Mr Williams said that at peak times Central Line trains were running at approximate two minute intervals and while there might be some further scope to increase capacity this was limited. Councillor Mrs Wagland came back on these points as a commuter who frequently struggled in overcrowded trains.

Many of the decisions relating to congestion lay within the strategic remit of the Mayor of London. Mr Williams said that beyond improvements to the Central Line itself, Cross Rail and other solutions such as enhancements to the bus network were part of the Mayor`s thinking.

Allowing for a degree of investment to the rail network essential to the success of the Olympics in 2012, Councillor Heather Harding sought information on the impact of the recently publicised Metronet funding problems. Mr Williams was unable to provide a full response but speculated on the balance between the public purse and private enterprise in meeting some of the funding gap.

Councillor Ken Angold-Stephens, chairing Overview and Scrutiny in the absence of Councillor Richard Morgan drew the questions session to a close with thanks to Mr Williams for his very detailed presentation and responses.

Councillor Angold-Stephens said: Simon Williams certainly did his homework. Even though he had advanced notice there were many supplementary questions. While there are a number of welcome improvements to London Underground, there are also still issues of real concern to us. However, Mr Williams had a very good grasp of the subject and I think Members appreciated the manner in which he was able to reply.


Overview and Scrutiny Annual Report

Written on . Posted in Democracy, Meetings, Your council

Epping Forest District Council has issued its Overview and Scrutiny Annual Report for the year May 2006 to April 2007. This full colour report shows information about how the Overview and Scrutiny Committee goes about its work, how the Standing Panel`s and the Task and Finish Panel`s work was organised, as well as giving a more detailed description of the work they undertook.

The Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Richard Morgan commented: This is the second year of the Council`s new scrutiny system, breaking down the topics being scrutinised into Standing and Task and Finish Panel`s and the main Overview and Scrutiny Committee, enabling a larger workload to be tackled and scrutinised. This has proved to be a very successful way of working through the large amount of topics that a Council`s Scrutiny structure is asked to consider over an average year. I would like to thank the many Councillors who have worked hard on behalf of residents to help shape the effectiveness of the Council in such a positive way.

The Committee has taken on numerous topics this year members have been asked to look at many different subjects, including: Housing, Car Parking, Leisure, Nature Reserves, Finance and Budgets, the Constitution, Environmental and Planning items, Crime and Disorder, Older Persons, Disable Persons, Town Centres and the Local Strategic Partnership, Epping Forest College, the Essex Police Merger with Bedford and Hertfordshire and the draft Council Plan for 2006-10.

Joint Chief Executive, John Scott commented: The resource of Overview and Scrutiny for this Council is proving itself to be very valuable in enabling decisions, strategies and policies to be examined in detail before they are implemented. This annual report provides our residents with an excellent flavour of the kind of work covered over the last year.


Pupils Visit Council Offices

Written on . Posted in Civic events, Democracy, Your council

Year Six pupils from Leverton Junior School in Waltham Abbey made a great impression when they visited Epping Forest District Council on Wednesday 2 May 2007 to meet the Chairman of Council, Councillor Mrs Ann Haigh.

Councillor Mrs Haigh and Ian Willett, Head of Research and Democratic Services took the young people into the Council chamber were they were able to see themselves on the screen as the meeting was videoed with the Council’s webcasting equipment. Ian Willett gave a talk on the Council chamber itself, the Council’s coat of arms including its historical associations and showed how councillors would vote on various topics. Mr Willet explained how Councillors are elected and the special role the Chairman before answering a range of questions.

Year Six pupils from Leverton Junior School with Epping Forest District Council Chaiman Councillor Mrs Ann Haigh pictured by the Coat of Arms in the Council chamber

Councillor Mrs Haigh then invited the young people to the Members Room where refreshments were served while the question and answer session continued. Mrs Haigh talked about the importance of local Government engaging with young people as residents and potential councillors of the future.

Pupils also explained to Councillor Mrs Haigh how they carry out their own elections to Leverton School’s own student Council. Every pupil left with a ‘goodey’ bag including a range of items designed to promote the recycling message.

Public Consultation for Healthcare in West Essex

Written on . Posted in Consultation, Your council

West Essex Primary Care Trust is currently consulting with local people and other stakeholders on its proposed healthcare for West Essex.

The strategy gives details of the planned healthcare for the next five years and the consultation period runs from 2 April 2007 to 31 May 2007.

Local people are invited to attend the public meetings about to take place across West Essex. These meetings will give people the opportunity to comment and take part in discussions about the proposed strategy.

For the first time, the PCT meeting will be webcast by Epping Forest District Council. The public meeting will be broadcast live and able to be viewed up to six months after the event, allowing more people to take part in the meeting.

Watch the webcastClick here to view the webcast

For more information on the West Essex Primary Care Trust Proposed Strategy For Healthcare In West Essex 2007 to 2012, please contact June Morgans on 01279 827243.


Scrutiny Committee Grill Highways on District Roads

Written on . Posted in Democracy, Meetings, Your council

Councillors returned repeatedly to the problem of potholes, the general condition of roads across Epping Forest area and resources allocated locally to roads maintenance, when representatives of Essex County Council Highways Office appeared before the Overview and Scrutiny Committee of Epping Forest District Council.

Area Highways Manager Davina Millership from the Highways Area Office based in Harlow was accompanied by fellow Highway officers Spencer Brooks and Trevor Baker. Ms Millership gave an initial presentation setting out the structure within which strategic plans, budgets and programmes were established centrally by Essex County Council in Chelmsford before responsibility was devolved to local Area Office level for implementation.

She explained that this involved a number of responsibilities including resurfacing and repairs to footways, paths and roads, junction improvements, road safety and street lighting.

District Councillors had many questions, submitted in advance to allow Ms Millership to research and prepare answers. In broad categories, Ms Millership responded to subjects covering highway maintenance and repair, on street parking and cross- overs, potholes, footpaths, street-lighting and damage caused by heavy vehicles to rural roads.

Further questions related to contact with the Area Office, liaison with District Councillors, phone enquires and resource allocations of both staff and money to the Area Office. In more general terms, Councillors sought information on Essex County views regarding traffic congestion, road safety and the performance of the Area Highways Office itself.

District Councillors voiced a number of concerns. There was some disquiet about the apparent need to carry out repeat repairs as potholes reappeared in the same locations. Councillors also asked for reassurances about speed of response and prioritisation when potentially dangerous potholes were reported. There was concern about staffing levels at the Area Office despite a major recruitment drive for new Highway staff.

Ms Millership also agreed to pass on a request for Essex County Council to reconsider the criteria by which money was allocated to roads maintenance based on road miles in an area. As an alternative means of assessment, District Councillors suggested that measurement of traffic volumes with consequently higher levels of wear and tear on busy roads might be considered.

Councillor Mrs Janet Whitehouse, chairing the meeting of Overview and Scrutiny, thanked Ms Millership and her colleagues for their attendance.

To view the full meeting of Overview and Scrutiny Committee or see the Highways presentation followed by questions and answers – click here to view the webcast.