Leader calls on residents to Shop Local

Written on . Posted in Arts, Business, Council tax, Countrycare, Democracy, Health, Housing, Leader, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Olympics, Our activities, Our attractions, Our countryside, Out and about, Parking, Private housing, Sports, Sports centres and pools, Supporting business, Travel, Trees and landscapes, Your money

Hello,

When I became the new leader of Epping Forest District Council back in the summer, the country was poised for the Olympic Games.

The Olympics proved to be the most fantastic success. As a Country, we staged probably the best Olympic and Paralympic games ever. At a time when the economy is flat and families are struggling to make ends meet, we all showed the rest of the world what Great Britain can achieve.

I am very proud to say that Epping Forest District played its part in our national success. The Lee Valley White Water Centre outside Waltham Abbey was completed on time and budget, giving thousands of people their first taste of the Olympic rapids before any of the other new venues had opened.

But this was just the platform – we helped to provide a stage but it was the people, the volunteers, the spectators, and most of all, the athletes that made the Games such a success. And as we look ahead to 2013 that is how I see the job of Epping Forest District Council – to provide the stage and the conditions in which the residents of Epping Forest can perform to their maximum potential.

So how do we do that?

To begin with we must leave as much of your money in your own pocket as possible. We are a low tax council. It is three years since the last increase in the Epping Forest District element of the Council Tax. We have one of the lowest Council Taxes in Essex.

We are pro-business. A healthy business sector means jobs and services for local people. Pay and Display parking charges in our towns are among the lowest you can find. Many car parks are free at weekends in the run up to Christmas. Working with local businesses, we promote our town centres, visitor attractions and tourism for local residents and visitors alike.

We are pro the environment. There is terrific demand on local housing because people want to live here. We do all we can to defend the Green Belt and we are trying to provide homes to meet the needs not only of people today, but our children and grandchildren in the future.

Healthy living and an active social life go hand in hand with a good life at home and work. We provide leisure centres, support a Youth Council and keep our older residents fit and active. Much of our work is supported by volunteers. Whether you are clearing country paths and coppicing trees with Countrycare or leading a walk for older people through Epping Forest or the Lee Valley Regional Park, the work of the council is magnified and enhanced by the generosity and spirit of volunteers.

Everyone has a part to play and there is never a better time than Christmas to show your support for the district. I want everyone who lives and works in Epping Forest to join with me in making 2013 the year our district takes off.

Use your local high street

One Shops Local and Visit Epping Forest are two websites designed to support local business. Created by Epping Forest Chamber of Commerce, local businesses, the council and other members of our Local Strategic Partnership, these sites are the place to find all the information, deals and recommendations you need to support your local high street.

If you have a few hours to spare and want to make another kind of difference, why not contact Voluntary Action Epping Forest to find out what you could do.

So next time you are thinking about a day out, looking for a good tradesperson or writing your shopping list remember the answers are all online and available on your doorstep.

On behalf of all the councillors and staff at Epping Forest District Council may I wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Chris Whitbread
Leader – Epping Forest District Council

Council on 18 December 2012

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Local Plan, Housing, CCTV, Ash Dieback, The Box and more discussed at Council on 18 December 2012.

Local Plan

Progress on the new Local Plan and associated work was reported to the latest meeting of Epping Forest District Council on 18 December by Councillor Richard Bassett, Planning Portfolio Holder. In a written report, Councillor Bassett said that work on the Local Plan is continuing. All the issues and options consultation responses will be entered into the analysis system by the end of December.

Analysis of the data is ongoing for forthcoming workshops involving Town, Parish and District Councillors and MPs during the first 3 months of the new year. A further workshop will be held later in the year that will consider the implications of further evidence and a preferred option for the emerging Local Plan to be published in late summer or early autumn 2013 for consultation.

Councillor Bassett has also asked the Forward Planning team to compile a list of the “Brownfield” sites they have considered as part of the Local Plan process. It is hoped that this will help councillors identify any which were not identified in the Strategic Land Availability Assessment part of the process. He reminded councillors that brownfield sites which would accommodate less than 6 houses would not be part of the identification process as they are considered as windfall sites and applications for these normally appear through the normal planning process.

Councillor Bassett noted further work on population projections due to take place in the next few months following recent releases of Census 2011 data. He is also due to hold a follow-up meeting with Harlow District Council in January to discuss cooperation focusing on planning and economic development.

Housing

In other updates, Councillor David Stallan reported progress towards the council’s new house building programme. It is envisaged that the development of the first sites will commence in 2014 and be completed in the winter of 2014/15. He also reported on the use of government grants to support the Council’s Homelessness Prevention Service, Epping Forest Citizens Advice Bureau and 20 additional loans under the council’s successful Rental Loan Scheme.

CCTV

In his written reports, Councillor Gary Waller, Safer, Greener and Highways Portfolio Holder updated councillors on the reallocation of existing money and new money to enhance CCTV in Loughton High Road as well as a further £40,000 to expand and maintain other new CCTV systems across the district. Councillors agreed a further £10,000 towards the upgrade of Loughton cameras.

Following late-night disorder in Epping, Councillor Waller has also authorised more cameras with funding by club licensees. He also announced a combined operation by the council and Essex Police including more police patrols, use of drug dogs, checking taxi licensing and live CCTV monitoring.

Ash Dieback

Ash Dieback has now been reported in the Epping Forest district. Council staff are advising concerned members of the public and referring possible cases to the national helpline. Tree wardens are also being advised about the disease and are encouraging local surveys to supplement those being undertaken by the Forestry Commission and Woodland Trust. Councillor Waller reported that infection is unlikely to be found on council owned trees in the short term, because there have been no recent plantings of ash saplings. The council’s regular survey of its own stock will include a check for signs of the disease in future.

Councillor Waller’s report noted that although ash is an important tree in the district it is not the major tree of the local countryside or towns. It is a minor component of the district treescape compared to oak in the wider countryside and beech in Epping Forest. The loss even of a high percentage, would be significant but could be mitigated by an active planting programme of other species on council land and by larger landowners and farmers.

The Box – Epping

A late question by Councillor Ken Angold-Stephens informed District Councillors of an emerging funding concern at The Box – a facility for young people in Epping High Street. It would seem, funding by Essex County Council through to April is in doubt and the facility is in danger of closing without intervention. Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Council thanked Councillor Angold-Stephens for bringing the matter to the council’s attention. He is to instruct District Council Officers to contact the organisers of The Box without delay and encourage an application for grant aid to support The Box until the end of the Financial Year.

Local Council Tax support scheme adopted

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Community, Consultation, Council tax, Councillors, Democracy, Housing, Meetings, Older people, Private housing, Residents, Your community, Your council, Your home, Your money

Epping Forest District Council’s Local Council Tax Support Scheme has been agreed and adopted by Full Council at its meeting on 18 December. From 1 April 2013 Council Tax Benefit will be replaced by the Local Council Tax Support Scheme (LCTS) as a consequence of the Welfare Reform Act.

From April 2013 people of working age who pay no Council Tax may have to pay some, and those who currently pay some may have to pay more. Key elements of the new scheme are:

  • The calculation of support based on 80% of the Council Tax bill, rather than 100% at present
  • Anyone of working age who lives in a higher Council Tax band, will have their support calculated as if their property was a Band D
  • Inclusion of child maintenance in the calculation (excluding the first £15 per week per family)
  • The capital limit (personal savings) 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
  • The inclusion of an Exceptional Hardship Fund to help the most vulnerable customers affected by the changes

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.

Residents who are currently in receipt of Council Tax Benefit will be contacted in the New Year with details of the impact of these changes. Residents are being advised to go online in advance of this communication to find out whether they will be affected by the introduction of LCTS at www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk/index.php/residents/council-tax

Councillor Syd Stavrou, Finance Portfolio Holder said: “Councils across Essex have worked together to implement schemes that limit the impact of the central government grant cuts on our most vulnerable residents. The district is losing approximately £1 million a year compared with the old scheme. Pensioners are protected and people in some of the other most vulnerable groups. We have had to make some difficult decisions about who gets help and how much but we feel that the proposals are as fair as possible to the majority of people within the resources available.”

Funding allocated to Councils for LCTS has been cut by 10% and is frozen at 2011 levels; this results in a drop of £1m for Epping Forest District.

 

Benefit cap changes

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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.

Comment on potential changes to planning permission for extensions

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The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has issued a consultation document for 6 weeks seeking comments on possible temporary changes to permitted development rights on extensions.

Among its proposed course of action is to allow homeowners and businesses to make larger extensions to their homes and business premises without needing to submit a planning application. For example, this could allow a maximum 8 metre depth for a single storey rear extension to a detached house and 6 metre depth for any other type of house, without needing planning permission. If approved, this would be a temporary measure for 3 years.

You can comment on this consultation direct to the DCLG, which ends on 24 December 2012, on a downloadable response form by following the link below. This form also includes details of the proposals.

Comment on the DCLG consultation document

New planning application fees

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As from 22 November 2012, there will be a new level of planning application fees, which  will increase by 15 percent above the current level.  This is the first national increase since 2008 and therefore any planning applications received from this date will require the new fee. 

 Please follow this link to view the new charges

 

Important information for housing tenants

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Housing, Residents, Your community, Your money

The September 2012 edition of Housing News is currently being delivered to council tenants.

It has come to our attention that the Welfare Reforms article on page 4, point 3, contains a small error.  It states that From April 2013 all council tenants of non-pensionable age will receive their benefit direct and will then have to pay their rent themselves. In fact only people who make a new claim for universal credit, which will replace housing benefit from October 2013, will have to pay their rent themselves out of the universal credit they will receive directly.

All tenants in receipt of housing benefit will continue to have their housing benefit paid directly to their rent account until they are migrated to universal credit. It is the Government’s intention to migrate existing housing benefit claims over to universal credit some time between October 2013 and 2017, although the date for Epping Forest District Council’s caseload to be transferred is not yet known.

Essex Key Facts: Latest edition of district area data published

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Image showing many datasets being compared
 

Data is everywhere!

With moves to a more open approach to publishing statistical information and data being encouraged across the public sector, more and more datasets, covering more and more subjects, are becoming widely accessible to all.

Unfortunately, amongst the biggest constraints on accessing the data you need can be knowing where to look, finding the time to visit the many varied websites that publish data and identifying the information you require from amongst what can appear to be an overwhelming amount of statistics that you don’t need.

To make this task a little easier and to help our residents, businesses, students and visitors find relevant data in a more straightforward and direct way, we publish a regular compilation of many of the datasets that are available. ‘Essex Councils Key Facts’ pulls together information on a wide range of subjects and allows readers to see how Epping Forest District compares with its Essex neighbours. The figures give a context to the environment in which we live, work, study and do business, and help paint a picture of some of the issues that face us all on a day to day basis.

Our latest issue, ‘Essex Key Facts Volume 4’, has recently been published and covers Business Data, Jobs and Skills Mismatch Analysis, Access to Key Services and Rural Accessibility to Services. You can find this issue, alongside copies of our previous editions, on our website by following the link below:

 
We hope you find these publications useful and easy to use. If you have any comments on the documents, please drop us a line by email on performance@eppingforestdc.gov.uk
 
The following previous editions are also available:
 
Volume 1: Political control, council tax, population, ethnicity, health, welfare, education, business & employment, carbon emissions, land use mix
Volume 2: Planning, housing, deprivation, mortality, older people care needs, crime
Volume 3: Audit Commission Value For Money profiles

Full Council 27 September

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Members of the Epping Forest Youth Council attended the Full Council meeting on 27 September 2012. On the agenda to be  discussed were Council Tax, the Local Plan consultation, annual accounts, the St Johns Road development and North Weald Airfield.

Watch the webcast in full

Chairman’s announcements

Councillor Brian Rolfe, Chairman of Epping Forest District Council began his announcements with a special welcome to Glen Chipp. Mr Chipp is due to take up his new duties as Chief Executive of Epping Forest District Council on 1 October 2012. North Weald Airfield featured prominently in the Chairman’s report of his activities during September.

The close ties of friendship between the district and the people of Norway was reinforced by a recent visit of Norwegian RAF veterans and serving members of the Royal Norwegian Air Force. The Chairman also formed part of the welcome to serving and veteran members of No 56 Squadron RAF on Battle of Britain Sunday. 56 Squadron served with distinction, flying from North Weald during the Battle of Britain. Battle honours of 56 Squadron are displayed on its old Standard which was dedicated to St Andrew’s Church in North Weald.

Epping Forest District Council lost the Annual Petanque match with Epping Town Council. Councillor Rolfe and Councillor David Stallan represented the District Council. ‘Dubious tactics’ were alleged before congratulations were offered to the Town Council represented by dual-hatted councillors Jon Whitehouse and Will Breare-Hall.

No increase for Council Tax

Councillor Syd Stavrou, Finance Portfolio Holder, briefed councillors on future financial settlements. She left councillors in no doubt of her belief in the desirability of a zero per cent council tax increase next year.

Local Plan consultation

Councillor Richard Bassett, Planning Portfolio Holder updated councillors on Community Choices. 224 formal responses have been received in response to the Local Plan consultation so far. Council staff have been meeting residents. Almost 1,000 people have attended the Community Choices meetings held across the district over the last six weeks or so.

Annual statement of accounts

The annual statement of accounts for 2011/12 was presented by the Chairman of the Audit and Governance Committee, Councillor Antony Watts. Councillor Watts recommended interested councillors watch the webcast of Audit and Governance committee on 24 September where Finance Director Bob Palmer gave a comprehensive presentation.

Councillor Watts drew attention to a number of changes in production of the latest statement including assessments of depreciation on council assets and the pension fund. He also highlighted the major financial commitment of £185 million stemming from changes to the Housing Subsidy system. He concluded by thanking the Auditors and the Council’s own finance officers before recommending the report. Councillor Syd Stavrou responded to Councillor Watts. She assured councillors of the long term benefits to the Council by making a single one-off payment of £185 million instead of on-going annual payments to central government of £11 million.

The Council’s financial position is better than anticipated despite cuts in central government funding. Councillor Stavrou also recommended acceptance of the annual statement of accounts which met with the approval of the Council. 

St John’s Road design and development brief

Asset Management Portfolio Holder Anne Grigg recommended approval of the St John’s Road Design and Development brief to Full Council. Fellow cabinet member and Epping Councillor, Will Breare-Hall welcomed the brief as amended following consultation earlier in the summer. In particular he drew attention to the shift in emphasis from retail to leisure provision in line with the views expressed by local residents.

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Council looked forward to discussion based on the brief with other landowners. Ward Councillor Tony Church sought reassurance on the issue of a supermarket. Councillor Grigg responded by drawing a distinction between a supermarket which drew wide-spread public opposition and other forms of retail such as a department store which found favour with some local residents. Councillor Janet Whitehouse asserted that she would have preferred a stronger plan and abstained when councillors voted in favour of the adoption of the Brief.

North Weald Airfield

A budget of £150,000 was agreed to enable Epping Forest District Council to commission further work on the future of North Weald Airfield. Referring to recommendations by Ernst and Young, Asset Management Portfolio Holder Anne Grigg encouraged councillors to approve the two-stage process looking at aviation and non-aviation options.