Overview and Scrutiny December 2016

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The spotlight was on Transport for London (TFL) and the NHS at the latest meeting of Overview and Scrutiny.

Central Line staffing levels, the possibility of extending tube services from Epping to Ongar and an ‘inadequate’ care rating for Princess Alexandra Hospital, were all subjects for discussion on Monday 19 December 2016.

Following the closure of many of Epping Forest District’s underground station ticket offices earlier this year, Epping Forest District Councillors expressed their concerns about the lack of visible staff presence at off peak times at stations within the Epping Forest district.

Improvements to be made

In response, Chris Taggart (General Manager of the Central Line) and Mark Hart (Stakeholder Engagement Manager for the Bakerloo, Victoria and Central lines) explained that TFL intend to improve staff visibility at stations by ensuring staff work in well lit, focal points, to make it easier for customers to find them later in the evening. The changes are already underway, since a recent Travel Watch survey raised similar concerns.

Late night trains

TFL have no current plans to extend the late night train service to Epping, at the very end of the Central Line. The late night trains terminate at Loughton, this being the most appropriate location as the night fleet is small and at Loughton, they are able to turn quickly and easily.

TFL plan to review the late night service in 2017 but say that it has been successful so far and they have had very few issues since starting the new timetable.

Any possibility for an end-to-end service would be subject to further assessments.

Quashed rumours

Rumours that the Central Line may be extended from Epping to North Weald and Ongar were set straight on Monday evening. TFL do not own the North Weald to Ongar part of the railway and so have no jurisdiction over any decision to extend the line. Epping Ongar Railway (EoR) owns this part of the track and any decisions made would be subject to a feasibility study.

Councillors also discussed various issues surrounding high temperatures, quality of ride, frequency of maintenance works, frequency of trains round the ‘loop’ since a recent timetable change and Wi-Fi access.

Princess Alexandra Hospital ‘inadequate’ rating

A line of questioning was agreed by Epping Forest District Councillors before the meeting of Overview and Scrutiny on 30 January 2017.

At which, Councillors will meet the Chairman and Chief Executive of the Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust and will have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the recent report of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which left the Princess Alexandra Hospital with a quality care rating of ‘inadequate’.

Christmas contact information

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We are closed from 5pm on 23 December 2016 until 9am on 3 January 2017. There are still ways you can get in touch with us when you need to over the Christmas holiday period.

Christmas message from Chairman Jeane Lea

Report it

Report it online (non-emergency) – report missed bin, noise, flytipping, fraud, abandoned vehicle, etc.

Report by email (non-emergency) – emails sent here will not be looked at until 3 January 2017.

Phone (emergency) 01992 564000

Housing repairs (emergency) 01992 564199

Social media

We monitor our main Twitter and Facebook accounts every day.

Pay it

Pay online 24/7 – pay Council Tax, rent, business rates, leasehold charges, etc.

Pay by phone 24/7 01992 564600

Our Debden cash office & Epping kiosk will close at 4:30pm on 23 December 2016 and reopen 9am on 3 January 2017.

Our Waltham Abbey library kiosk is subject to Waltham Abbey library opening hours.

Waste and recycling

Christmas 2016 revised collection dates

  • Collection date Tuesday 27 December 2016 revised to Wednesday 28 December 2016
  • Collection date Wednesday 28 December 2016 revised to Thursday 29 December 2016
  • Collection date Thursday 29 December 2016 revised to Friday 30 December 2016
  • Collection date Friday 30 December 2016 revised to Saturday 31 December 2016

Recycling real Christmas trees

Leave your real Christmas trees with your food and garden waste in January 2017. Remove the pot, all decorations and if over 6ft, cut in half to ensure safe collection.

Special collections

Our special collections service closes at 5pm on 23 December 2016 and resume at 9am on 3 January 2017.

Lost or found dogs

Call 07815 512833 weekdays from 7am to 9pm, weekends and bank holidays from 10am to 7pm.

Car parks

Free weekend parking in December – all of our car parks are free on weekends throughout December and bank holidays.

Epping Forest District Museum

Epping Forest District Museum is closed from 4pm on 22 December 2016 and reopens 10am on 3 January 2017.

Housing benefit payments revised dates

  • Payments due 26 December 2016 will be now be available in bank accounts around 23 December 2016
  • Payments due 02 January 2017 will now be available in bank accounts around 29 December 2016

Normal payment cycle will resume from 9 January 2017.

 

Housing benefit payments over Christmas

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Residents receiving housing benefit should be aware that payments will be available earlier than usual due to the Christmas holiday.

Image of money

Housing benefit payment revised dates

  • Payments due 26 December 2016 will be now be available in bank accounts around 23 December 2016
  • Payments due 02 January 2017 will now be available in bank accounts around 29 December 2016

Normal payment cycle will resume from 9 January 2017.

Due to the earlier payment dates it will be longer until the next payment date – please remember to budget accordingly.

 

Free weekend parking in December 16

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There will be no pay and display car park charges in Epping Forest District Council car parks in the run-up to Christmas this year!

car parks

It will be free to park in Council car parks on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays throughout December 2016.

Making shopping locally easier

Safer, Greener and Transport Portfolio Holder, Councillor Gary Waller said: ”We have relaxed the car park charges throughout the month of December again this year, to make shopping as easy as possible for our residents in the run up to Christmas.”

Supporting local retailers

He continued: ”We hope that this will help to support our local retailers and town centres too, encouraging our residents to shop locally rather than taking their custom outside the district.”

Our civil enforcement officers will be patrolling as usual and all other conditions of the council car parks will still be in force.

Cabinet 1 December 2016

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The draft Local Plan, changes to the district’s off-street parking and the Council Tax Support Scheme were all subjects for discussion at Cabinet on 1 December 2016.

Changes to draft Local Plan will be public

Responding to a public question at Cabinet on 1 December, Planning Portfolio Holder John Philip gave assurances that all changes to the draft Local Plan would be made public. Councillor Philips said that the council had factored in comments from previous consultation as well as new evidence in formulating the draft Local Plan. He expected further changes to the draft Plan following analysis of the latest consultation. Separately Councillor Philip provided a financial update on the production of the Local Plan.

Partnership savings

Governance Portfolio Holder Councillor Richard Bassett received Cabinet approval to extend the shared Internal Audit arrangements between Epping Forest District Council, Harlow and Broxbourne. Thanks to the partnership, savings of more than £58,000 a year for 2016/17 and 2017/18 have been achieved.

Amendments to Council Tax Support Scheme

Review and amendment to the Local Council Tax Support Scheme and capital budget were presented by Finance Portfolio Holder Councillor Gagan Mohindra. Major capital projects within the £124 million budget include Loughton Shopping Park, St John’s Road and improvements to council housing and new-build housing projects. Many of the Council’s capital projects are aimed towards long term revenue generation, helping Epping Forest District Council become financially self-supporting.

Councillor Mohindra also assured Cabinet colleagues of his determination to achieve value for money with a £100,000 fund to support joint working with other organisations.

Update on Biffa collection costs

Councillor Gary Waller presented a report on domestic waste collection and recycling on behalf of Environment Portfolio Holder Will Breare-Hall. Collection costs have gone up since the introduction of the new Biffa contract. Provision of more recycling sacks combined with cross-contamination reducing income and additional collections due to the building of new houses has led to an increase of £343,000 in the contract.

Changes to off-street parking ahead

“Car parks are essential to our town centres” said Council Leader Chris Whitbread as he welcomed changes to off-street Pay and Display parking. Councillor Waller reported a saving of £58,600 a year from 2017/18 after moving off-street Pay and Display parking enforcement, cash collection and machine maintenance from the North Essex Parking Partnership (NEPP) to NSL Ltd.

Later on the agenda, Councillor Waller received Cabinet approval to manage Waltham Abbey car parks owned by the Lee Valley Regional Park. He also received approval to demolish and replace garages in Vere Road with 20 new parking spaces. A further 11 spaces are to be created behind shops 49 and 41 in The Broadway.

Planning wait times improved

Residents can expect to see planning decision times improved by up to five days. Councillor Richard Bassett secured Cabinet approval for a new officer and further computerisation to speed up the planning application and validation process.

Town and Village Centres Fund

The Town and Village Centres Opportunities Fund has been renamed the Epping Forest District Economic Opportunities Fund. The rebranding reflects widening the availability criteria beyond town and village centres.

Empty homes week

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Empty homes week runs from 28 November to 2 December 2016. During this week we will highlight the incentives to bring empty homes back into use.

In the Epping Forest district there are 410 properties which have been empty for more than 6 months.

Empty homes week

Why are properties left empty?

Properties are left empty for a variety of reasons but they can be the source of much misery to neighbours who have to live nearby. It is estimated that the home next door to an empty property can be devalued by 10%. There is also the worry of nuisance, vermin, arson, vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

For the owner, an empty property is a wasted resource and can be costly in terms of increased insurance, increased council tax premiums, property fraud, emergency repairs and break-ins.

Financial help

We are committed to reducing the number of empty properties on the district and can offer financial help in certain circumstances. It is recognised that a stumbling block can be that the empty property is in disrepair and cannot be lived in, let or easily sold in its condition.

We can therefore offer the following schemes

  • The Empty Homes Repayable Assistance offers up to £10,000 if there is an empty property that you intend to live in yourself, but is in poor condition. The money is repaid when you eventually sell the property
  • The PLACE Loan offers up to £25,000 if you have a property that you would like to have renovated in order that you can sell or rent it out. This is an interest free loan and is paid back within 2 years in the case of a loan to sell, or 5 years in the case of the loan to let

We always prefer to work with owners in a constructive way. We have certain enforcement powers that we may use to ensure an empty property is brought back to use, particularly if it has been empty a long time and is problematic to the local community.

Help owners in every way we can

Councillor Syd Stavrou Deputy Leader and Housing Portfolio Holder said: “As a council we are fully committed to bringing empty properties back into use and are looking to help owners in every way we can. However where all other measures have failed, we are prepared to take enforcement action as a last resort.”

Report an empty property

If you are aware of an empty property let us know. We will need the address and any other information. We will do our best to contact the owner, work with them to bring the property back to use. All calls are treated in confidence.

Report an empty property to the Empty Property Officer

 

The Freezer Fairy is coming

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The Food Standards Agency’s Freezer Fairy is coming to the Epping Forest district to leave tips on how to pre-prepare foods, how and what foods can be frozen and the best way to defrost foods safely.

She will also leave handy tools like a portions planner and recipe tips for those delicious leftovers.

Freezer Fairy says ...

The Freezer Fairy advises

  1. Freeze up to the use by date
  2. Plan portion sizes
  3. Separate raw foods when shopping
  4. Cook in advance and freeze
  5. Label food in the freezer

You can find all this information and more from the Freezer Fairy, helping you to have a less stressful and wasteful Christmas.

Change wasteful behaviour

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has been looking at the issue of food waste and enabling consumers to help change wasteful behaviours. In the UK we throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink every year, most of which could have been eaten. The average cost to each household for wasting this food is £470 a year.

The FSA has set out to educate people on reducing waste and increasing safe freezer use.

A happy and a healthy Christmas

Councillor Will Breare-Hall, Environment Portfolio Holder said: “At this time of year, when residents might be cooking for more people than normal, it’s helpful for them to be reminded how they can use their freezer most effectively and how to defrost food properly.”

“I encourage residents to follow the FSA Freezer Fairy’s advice. Not only could it save you time and money but it’ll help ensure everyone has both a happy and a healthy Christmas.”

 

Beware Council Tax refund scam

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Residents are warned be on their guard against a recent Council Tax refund scam.

We have been made aware of an email scam where residents receive an email appearing to be from HM Revenue & Customs – GOV.UK advising that they are due a Council Tax refund and asking them to click a link. This is a scam do not click the link in the email.

Example of the scam

Council Tax scam

HMRC does not deal with Council Tax

Council Tax is the responsibility of Epping Forest District Council. We will never text or email residents for a refund. If a refund is due or there is any change to a resident’s bill then statements will be sent through the post.

Anyone who receives such a message should not reply to it.

Report it

Scams like this should be reported at Action Fraud

 

Green light for draft Local Plan consultation

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Epping Forest District’s Full Council met on Tuesday 18 October 2016 and approved the draft Local Plan for public consultation.

Next stop for the Epping Forest1

Consultation with residents

The Council will now run a consultation on the draft Local Plan for six weeks from 31 October to 12 December 2016 to gain feedback from the Epping Forest district community.

A dedicated website (www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk/planningourfuture) has been available since 15 September, and acts as a one stop shop for information on the draft Local Plan and the consultation process. A questionnaire will also be available on the website for people to feedback to the Planning Policy team.

Visit an exhibition in your area

The Council is organising public exhibitions in Epping, Chigwell, Waltham Abbey, Loughton, Ongar and North Weald in early November, with a number of static information points available throughout the consultation period across the district so people can find out more. More information about these events will be published on the website and through a district wide newsletter.

The draft Local Plan sets out the proposed strategy to meet the economic and housing growth in the district up until 2033, identifying potential sites for development and regeneration and sets out proposed draft development management policies. It also outlines the necessary infrastructure to support the development.

Influence how the district grows

Councillor John Philip, Epping Forest District Council Planning Policy Portfolio Holder, explained: ”A Local Plan is your best opportunity to guide how the district grows and to protect ourselves from inappropriate development. Without a Local Plan we are vulnerable to developers taking the opportunity to submit applications for sites that we do not consider appropriate or sustainable.

“This Plan has been progressed with over 130 pieces of evidence and technical work, and has been shaped through thousands of pieces of feedback we received from residents through consultations in 2010/2011 and 2012.

“The draft Local Plan represents a balance between the requirement from Government to deliver the identified and evidenced need for economic and housing growth, and the need to protect the greenness of our district. We are trying to do this by ensuring it is delivered in as sensitive, sustainable and fair a way as possible across the whole district.

“With 92% of Epping Forest district designated as Metropolitan Green Belt, we have been clear all along we will do our best to follow what you told us and so it seeks to ensure that, as far as possible, the Green Belt is protected for future generations, whilst providing for our housing needs.”

Working with neighbouring councils

Epping Forest District Council has been working with neighbouring authorities in Harlow, East Hertfordshire and Uttlesford in order to achieve a cross border understanding of the level of growth needed up until 2033.

With a growing and ageing population, current evidence shows that Epping Forest district needs to deliver approximately 11,400 new homes over the draft Local Plan period. However, with around 2,500 new homes already built or in the pipeline with planning permission, the main aim of the Plan is focused on where the remaining 8,900 or so properties and infrastructure should go.

The draft Local Plan proposes the allocation of approximately 3,900 new homes on strategic sites within Epping Forest district on the edge of Harlow and the remaining number distributed across the district.

Get involved

Epping Forest District Council is urging as many people to get involved as possible in the next stage of the consultation for the draft Local Plan.

Councillor John Philip commented: ”This will be your Local Plan and the consultation is our opportunity as a community to ensure development in Epping Forest district takes place how and where we want it to.”

Find out more

You can find out more information at the consultation events across the district and by visiting the website www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk/planningourfuture before providing your feedback. The council can only accept feedback on the draft Local Plan until 12 December 2016.”

Grant aid scheme for community groups

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You can apply for a grant of up to £5000 from Epping Forest District Council, if your organisation is providing community work, cultural or sporting activities.

Grant Aid Scheme

Applications welcome

Epping Forest District Council Community Services team are welcoming grant applications of up to £5000 to support organisations involved in providing community work, cultural or sport activities.

An amount of money is set aside each year and priority is given to those groups delivering Council objectives and targets.

Valuable contributions

Councillor Helen Kane, Leisure and Community Services Portfolio Holder said:  ”Epping Forest District Council makes grants to voluntary and community organisations. They range from sports and social clubs to charities and support organisations. At its core, each is making a valuable contribution to the social and physical wellbeing of our residents.”

”Some are major national charities making a very significant contribution across the district whilst others contribute in smaller ways to enrich the tapestry of community activities that make our district such an enjoyable place to live. In tough economic times, the Council’s contribution can make all the difference.”