Celebration of grant aid success

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Saying thank you to our local community and voluntary groups for their hard work was the focus of our first grant aid celebration event on Friday 3 March 2017 in Epping.

Grant aid celebration

Click to enlarge photo and then click to see more photos

Grant aid celebration

The groups all received grant aid to spend on equipment for community projects that benefited residents. The money was used for a wide range of items ranging from tents to specialist beds and from uniforms to bee keeping equipment.

Presentations by the Chigwell Disabled Group, Ongar & Villages Voluntary Care and Lambourne End Centre showed how the money they received in grant aid helped their groups to operate or buy specialised equipment.

Keep up the great work

Chairman Jeane Lea said: “On behalf of the people of the Epping Forest district I’d like to say a big thank you to all the groups for their hard work and dedication. Without their wonderful contributions our district would be a much poorer place to live. keep up the great work!”

Help you to help your community

Councillor Helen Kane, Leisure and Community Services Portfolio Holder said: “This year we have £83,450 grant aid to spend. You can apply for grant aid up to £5,000 if your group needs help to buy a new, or replace an old item of equipment. Get in touch and let us help you to help your community.”

“We want to support, enhance and develop the contribution that local community and voluntary groups make to improve the wellbeing of people in the Epping Forest district.”

Want to know more?

Overview and Scrutiny 28 February 2017

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The newly-appointed principal of Epping Forest College, Saboohi Famili came before councillors at the meeting of Epping Forest District Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 28 February to discuss the damning recent OFSTED report.

Principal sets out college improvement plans

Ms Famili joined the college a matter of weeks before the inspection and is addressing the wide range of short-comings identified in the report. She was joined in Overview and Scrutiny by Councillor Gagan Mohindra in his capacity as the newly-appointed chairman of governors.

A new senior leadership team is in place. Ms Famili confirmed that recruitment of the next level of high-quality leadership and management was already underway. Action plans monitored and assessed on a monthly basis are being introduced. The Board of Governors led by Councillor Mohindra are undertaking regular scrutiny. Ms Famili also confirmed OFSTED will be making frequent repeat inspections to ensure changes are implemented. Councillor Mohindra confirmed that the board of governors would be ‘robust’.

OFSTED carried out its inspection during November 2016. Councillor Stephen Murray suggested the problems were deeply ingrained and asked Ms Famili how she felt these issues had come about. Ms Famili described a previous culture of ‘blame and fear’. This resulted in a tendency to hide problems. Ms Famili said the new culture could be characterised as ‘Proud to share and not afraid to ask’. By bringing issues into the open and recognising the problems she believed the cultural was changing.

Councillors applauded the accessible approach being adopted Ms Famili.

Highways, rail and health scrutiny

Councillors also noted the latest responses of Transport for London, Essex County Council Highways and Princess Alexandra Hospital to previous scrutiny enquiries.

TFL reported on the evolving organisational structure and engagement with non-Greater London councils. It supplied further information on the provision of Oyster cards and improvements to the line between Epping and Loughton.

Councillors noted difficulties in resolving issues with highways and disappointment with the County Council’s reluctance to attend a meeting of Overview and Scrutiny. In the absence of the County Portfolio Holder, councillors supported the formation of a delegation to attend County Hall in order to put the district’s concerns in person.

Councillor Ricky Gadsby updated fellow councillors regarding the concerns of the Care Quality Commission on the performance of Princess Alexandra Hospital. Councillors noted the commitment of the Chairman and Chief Executive of Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust to attend Overview and Scrutiny on 6 June 2017.

Full Council 21 February 2017

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A council meeting dominated by budgets and finances took time out to remember one of its finest public servants and wish another a speedy recovery from illness.

Ron Barnes OBE

Council Chairman Jeane Lea invited councillors and staff to join her in a minute’s silence as Epping Forest District Council remembered former chairman Ron Barnes OBE. Tributes were led by Council Leader Chris Whitbread who remembered Ron as a most decent man as well as an excellent councillor.

Councillor Liz Webster said he was admired by all while Councillor Richard Morgan recalled Ron as a great friend to everyone and offered the council’s condolences to his wife Felicity. Councillor Caroline Pond spoke of the opening of Barnes Court in Cripsey Avenue, named after Ron Barnes and the anecdotes of his many friends.

Councillor Brian Surtees reminded colleagues of his strength of character and his ability to endure, as a young man on the Atlantic convoys but also towards the end of his life as illness took hold.

Ron Barnes represented the people of Ongar through the Shelley ward from 1979 to 2003.

Councillor Tony Boyce

Councillors were delighted to learn of the continuing recovery of Councillor Tony Boyce who was taken ill in October. Councillors agreed unanimously to grant an extension to his leave of absence until August 2017.

Epping Forest Youth Council

Among the announcements by Councillor Jeane Lea was a recommendation of fellow councillors to follow the example of the district’s youth council currently supporting the MiLife mental health initiative.

Budget 2017/18

Epping Forest District councillors confirmed Cabinet recommendations not to increase the council’s share of Council Tax. Setting another low budget, councillors extended the freeze on Council Tax for a 7th year.

Councillors then noted the Council Tax precepts for Essex County Council, Essex Police, Essex Fire and Rescue and local town and parish councils for 2017/18. Residents will pay the new rates from April.

Good outcomes

Safer Greener and Transport Portfolio Holder Gary Waller reported with satisfaction on excellent progress in tackling anti-social behaviour in Epping. He reported on the joint work with Essex Police using CCTV images of young people to persuade their parents to take action.

He was also happy to report plans for electric vehicle charging points at the new Epping Forest Shopping Park.

Councillor Chris Whitbread was also happy to report progress following the purchase of former St John’s Road school site in Epping as well as good news on the council’s latest treasury management financial strategy reports.

Council Tax set for 2017/18

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Despite a freeze at Epping Forest District Council, most residents will pay more Council Tax from April.

Some town and parish councils are also freezing or lowering their Council Tax but Essex County Council, Essex Police, Essex Fire and Rescue and many local town and parish councils are putting their share of Council Tax up.

Council Tax agreed

Councillors at the meeting of Epping Forest District Council on Tuesday 21 February agreed the new Council Tax for 2017/18.

Epping Forest District is the local collection authority. Council Leader, Councillor Chris Whitbread said: “I am delighted we have managed to freeze our own share of the Council Tax for the seventh year running. Looking forward it is our ambition to remain a low-tax council giving our residents best possible value for money. I am sorry that bills have gone up overall. I have sympathy for the Police and Crime Commissioner and those councils which have to increase their budgets. I congratulate those town and parish councils like us that have also been able to freeze or even lower their part of the bill.”

“Epping Forest District Council has set another remarkably good budget. Local government finance is incredibly confusing but I hope residents will understand the difference between the Council Tax we collect and the Council Tax we keep.”

Good news budget and 0% increase

Councillor Whitbread covered the main items of the budget including capital investment of up to £125 million over the next 5 years. He said: “We are investing in capital to generate revenue. There is good news everywhere in this budget, good judgement, protection for front line services and good news for our residents.”

The budget found favour with cross party support throughout the Council Chamber.

Rent reductions

Rent paid by thousands of Epping Forest District Council tenants is also set to reduce by one percent in line with national guidelines. The average rent now stands at £96.17 per week.

Invest to Save

Details of the district council budget were set before Cabinet previously – Cabinet 2 February 2017.

Councillor Whitbread said: “We are working better and we are working smarter. Year on year we have become a tighter ship, investing in people, processes and policies to produce the most efficient council we can – a council fit for the future, delivering frontline services our residents need at prices we can afford.”

Cabinet 2 February 2017

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The budget, Careline, Epping Forest District Council’s 24 hour emergency monitoring service for older people and investment in the Council’s housing stock were among items discussed at Cabinet 2 February 2017.

Council Tax freeze recommended

Cabinet recommended another nil-percent increase on Epping Forest District Council’s share of the Council Tax when the budget goes to Full Council on 21 February.

Leader of Council Councillor Chris Whitbread complimented Finance Portfolio Holder Councillor Gagan Mohindra and his staff on the freeze for the seventh successive year.

Councillor Whitbread also updated Cabinet on the progress of the Council’s transformation programme which continues to look at more efficient ways of working and using the Civic Offices to its full potential.

Careline monitoring

Councillors have taken steps to protect the future provision of Carline, the Council’s 24 hour emergency monitoring service for elderly and vulnerable people living within the district.

Cabinet received a report presented by Communities Select Committee Chairman Councillor Yolanda Knight setting out proposals for the long term enhancement and protection of the service in partnership with an external provider, instead of providing the monitoring service by the Council itself.

Councillor Knight reassured councillors that the Careline service itself will still be provided by the Council, it was only the monitoring service that would be provided by a new provider, on behalf of the Council.

She said that the Council’s own Monitoring Control Centre has provided an excellent and reliable service since June 1984 and has always meet every requirement set by the TSA (Telecare Service Association). However, as the ageing population of the district continues to grow, demands upon Careline have increased leading to difficulty maintaining staff cover to the levels expected by the Council and now required by the TSA.

In line with the British Standard, moving the Careline monitoring services to another provider will increase the number of operators monitoring the network. It will also:

  • Ensure no gaps in service
  • Enhance capacity
  • Allow other Careline services to be offered
  • Enable more alarms to be fitted across the district
  • Bring safety, security and peace of mind to more residents across the district
  • Reduce the overall cost of the Careline Service

Housing Portfolio Holder Councillor Syd Stavrou, and Councillors Anne Grigg and Will Breare-Hall all spoke in support of the proposal, emphasising the importance of arranging a smooth transfer. They also complimented the service on the high standard that has been provided over the years, while looking forward to the continued expansion of its vital work under new arrangements.

£3.6m investment in repairs to empty Council Homes

Cabinet approved the letting of two major housing maintenance contracts worth £3.6 million over three years.

As existing tenants transfer into vacant Council properties, there is a need to repair, and the opportunity to improve and upgrade the properties, before they are re-let to new tenants.

Housing Portfolio Holder Councillor Syd Stavrou reported that following inviting tenders from six companies, Cabinet was being asked to appoint Graceland’s CMS LTD and Mears PLC. Cabinet approved the recommendations and were pleased to appoint both contactors as both have previously carried out work to empty properties for the Council to a high standard.

Know a cheat in your street?

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Every year thousands of pounds of your money is stolen by cheaters, money that should be used to improve your local community.

Don’t let them get away with it.

Report fraud

Know a cheat in your street?

Right now, fraudsters are cheating us all. Here’s how they do it …

Housing tenancy fraud

Someone who has committed a social housing fraud by

  • illegally sub-letting
  • not living in the property and leaving it empty
  • making a fraudulent Right to Buy application
  • taking (or making) a payment for a mutual exchange
  • living in a property after the tenant has died, where they had no right to succeed
  • giving false or misleading information to get the tenancy

Council Tax fraud

Someone who gets a Council Tax discount by falsely

  • stating the property is empty
  • claiming they live alone
  • claiming they are a student
  • claiming Council Tax Support falsely by doing undeclared work or having capital/property in excess of the limit

Business rates fraud

  • A person or business liable for Business Rates who falsely claims an exemption or relief they are not entitled to

Have you spotted a cheater?

Finance Portfolio Holder Councillor Gagan Mohindra said: “Have you spotted a cheater? Tell us immediately. Your report will be treated in the strictest confidence and can be given anonymously.”

“Fraud is not a victimless crime. It is taking money from honest taxpayers. Every penny lost to fraud means we have less money to spend on providing the services you want.”

“Spot the cheater and don’t let them get away with fraud!”

New phone system rings in changes

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Business, Chigwell, Community, Council tax, Councillors, Emergencies, Energy efficiency, Epping, Housing, Housing repairs, Loughton, Media, Older people, Ongar, Our performance, Performance, Residents, Supporting business, Uncategorized, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home, Your money

New phone connections saving Epping Forest District Council and its tax payers £12,000 a year are set to go live this weekend (17 February to 20 February).

Cllr Lion promoting EFDC's new phone connections

Out of hour’s services

Subject to go ahead, temporary emergency numbers will be used during the switch.

The council has planned the switch at the quietest time of the week to minimise service disruption.

During the switch the two emergency out of hours contact numbers (01992 564000 and 01992 564199 for housing) will temporarily change while the council works with BT.

To contact EFDC out of hours from 5pm on Friday 17 February to 9am on Monday 20 February please call:

  • Housing Repairs Emergency 0203 589 3012

  • Any other Emergency   0203 589 3013

Protecting services

Moving phone connections from an analogue to a digitally based internet system will:

  • Make an annual saving of £12,000
  • Makes it easier to move phone answering to other locations
  • Improve phone resilience
  • Protect vital services

There will be no difference in how residents contact the council via phone as all phone numbers will remain the same and there will be no increase any call charges.

Small changes making a big difference

Technology and Support Services Portfolio Holder Councillor Alan Lion said: “We are planning another 0% increase in Council Tax this year. This is the latest in a series of investments. From double glazing to LED lighting and solar panels it all adds up. Relatively small savings like our new connections to our phone system can play a large part in keeping Council Tax down at the end of the year.”

Council Tax frozen for 7th year

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Good financial planning over many years is being credited with keeping Epping Forest District Council’s share of the Council Tax down for a record 7th year.

Chris Whitbread and Gagan Mohindra at Oakwood Hill Depot

Keeping Council Tax frozen

The average payment of a Band D property to the District Council is set to remain at £148.77 until at least April 2018. Rents for Council House tenants are also set to come down by 1% in line with national guidelines.

The District has not increased its share of Council Tax since 2010.

Protecting services

Finance Portfolio Holder Gagan Mohindra presented the 2017/18 budget to Cabinet on Thursday 2 February. Confirmation of the nil-increase is expected to follow at Full Council on 21 February 2017.

Epping Forest District Council has successfully managed to maintain low taxes and the protection of frontline services against a background of long term reductions in central government funding and public sector service cuts elsewhere.

Councillor Mohindra said: ”This hasn’t been achieved overnight. Even before the financial crisis of 2008, Epping Forest District Council was setting out our stall as an efficient low-tax council. As central government funding has reduced year on year, we set our sights on becoming financially independent.”

Remaining as efficient as possible

The Council has managed the process through a combination of reduced costs and increased income.

Councillor Mohindra said: ”Over the years we have cut our costs dramatically. Our Revenue budget not many years ago was over £18million. That has been reduced to a little over £13million for next year.”

”We have adapted and moved with the times. We have changed the way we work, making better use of technology wherever possible, changing our structures and streamlining our services to ensure we remain as lean and efficient as possible. That process is ongoing. We are now embarking on a more intensive transformation which may see much more use of flexible and home working, reductions in office space and more productivity.”

Working in partnership

He continued: ”We have also embraced private sector partnerships wherever we believed it could deliver better services. Next month Places for People takes on the management of our Sports and Leisure Centres. We already had a good track record with our previous provider. This new contract will see not only reductions in the cost to the council but will also potentially see the development of a brand new leisure centre in Waltham Abbey and improvements to other facilities. This is against a backdrop of other councils cutting back and closing down their leisure offering.”

”Our residents also play a huge role in our success. Recent fluctuations in recycling have seen the cost of our waste collection service increase, but overall, with the help of our residents diverting domestic waste from landfill to recycling, our new contract is saving many thousands of pounds every year. ”

Members of the Cabinet and senior officers inspected progress on Epping Forest Shopping Park just before Christmas. Yearly income from the park could be as much as £2.7 million and will be used to support local public services.

”And while our costs are coming down, we are increasing our income. Epping Forest District Council is one of the biggest land owners in our area. Our portfolio of shops, industrial estates, commercial units, car parks and North Weald Airfield brings in a significant rental income. This money is ploughed back into providing local services. That income is set to be boosted by as much as £2.7million per annum when Epping Forest Shopping Park opens later this year.”

”These major contracts, developments and investments are years in the planning and delivery but they are paying tremendous dividends.”

Bucking the trend

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Epping Forest District Council congratulated Cllr Gagan Mohindra and thanked the finance team for their hard work on another strong budget.

He said: ”The hallmark of a good council is to be low tax whilst protecting front line services. Councillor Gagan Mohindra and his team have done a marvellous job in bringing forward this budget. Times are tough. We are seeing substantial increases in Council Tax everywhere else. But we have been able to buck the trend at Epping Forest District Council.”

”The foundations of our financial strength can be found in years of careful management and investment. It has been a job well done but we must continue to look forward. Later this year I hope to see new changes to the management of our Pay and Display Car Parks which will cut costs without increasing charges. Longer term we are also looking at better use of our offices in Epping.”

”We have excellent management and staff committed to getting the best value out of every penny. It is by far the best way to balance the books but we never forget our purpose is to provide the best possible service at the least possible cost to our local residents.”

Multi-agency free advice in Loughton

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We’re offering residents free support and advice on a range of issues every other Wednesday at Loughton Jobcentre.

The Multi-agency Centre (MAC) has multiple agencies at the same place at the same time to deal with residents complex issues.

Multi Agency Centre poster

Advice on

  • Dealing with debt
  • Help with budgeting
  • At risk of eviction
  • Council tax arrears
  • Support with mental health issues
  • Training available locally
  • Domestic abuse
  • Housing issues

Who’s there

When

  • Wednesday 18 January 2017
  • Wednesday 1 February 2017
  • Wednesday 15 February 2017
  • Wednesday 1 March 2017

Where

Loughton Jobcentre Plus, 1st Floor, 284 High Road, Loughton IG10 1RH (map)

Time

1.30pm to 3.30pm

Recycle your real Christmas tree

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Recycling your real Christmas tree in January this year really couldn’t be easier!

  • Remove the tree from the pot or stand

  • Remove all decorations and remove any artificial snow

  • If the tree is bigger than 6ft tall, saw in half

  • Place the tree by your green wheelie bin on your food and garden waste collection day

Collected throughout January

Councillor Will Breare-Hall, Environment Portfolio Holder said: ”We have made recycling your Christmas tree as easy as we possibly can. It’s simple, just leave your tree to be collected with your food and garden waste bins, following the four step instructions. If you are unsure of the date of your food and garden waste collection, check using our online tool, all you need is your postcode. Trees will be collected throughout January 2017.

Great for the environment

He added: ”Our food and garden waste is composted to produce a high quality soil improver which is used on farms to enhance the soil, helping farmers produce high quality veggies. It’s great for the environment and benefits us too!”