Cabinet 5 February 2009

Written on . Posted in Community, Consultation, Council tax, Councillors, Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Housing, Meetings, Residents, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home, Your money

A Council Tax increase of 2.5 per cent is being recommended by Cabinet for adoption at the next full meeting of Epping Forest District Council. Members of the Cabinet also agreed a further extension of the ongoing public consultation on future provision of sites for Gypsies and Travellers.

Watch the webcastView webcast of Cabinet meeting on 5 February 2009 (opens in a new window)

Budget

Against a very difficult national economic backdrop, Epping Forest District Council is set to achieve a low Council Tax precept increase of 2.5 per cent. For a family in an average Band D property, it means an increase of just £3.60 in the District Council precept for the entire year, or less than seven pence per week. It is likely to be one of the lowest Council Tax precepts set in Essex.

This comes despite reductions in income from investments, a very low financial settlement increase from Central Government of just £46,000, no increase in car parking charges and lower income from fees and charges. Drawing on reserves and finding compensatory savings of £300,000 per year, the Cabinet is charting a medium term strategy designed to bring the budget back into balance whilst assisting local businesses and residents through the forecast economic turndown.

Councillors re-iterated recent commitments to make faster payments for services provided by local businesses, an increase in rental loans to homeless people and introduction of a mortgage rescue scheme in partnership with the Citizens` Advice Bureau and Moat Housing Association.

The District Council will re-allocate money from the defunct Lighthouse Furniture Project in Epping Forest to Voluntary Action Epping Forest (VAEF). If successful in bidding for the tenancy of 15 Market Square, Waltham Abbey, VAEF will use District Council funding to support a new Furniture Exchange Scheme designed to help people on lower incomes who need good second-hand furniture and are unable to afford normal High Street prices. Long-term, the project aims to become self-financing.

Major investment in the domestic waste and recycling service is included within the budget. Councillors previously agreed to implement the favoured option of residents in recent public consultation. Enhancements to the service will see extension of recycling to include kitchen waste, collected weekly with garden refuse in a new wheelie bin.

Traveller and Gypsy Consultation

Rescheduled training, originally planned for late 2008 but actually received in January prompted Members to agree a further extension to the consultation period on traveller and gypsy site provision. The extension to 20 February will give local residents an additional two weeks in which to submit their views.

Customer Transformation

In a far-reaching report, Members of the Cabinet considered proposals for changing the way Epping Forest District Council serves its residents. Councillor Brian Rolfe Chairman of the Customer Transformation Task and Finish Panel outlined improvements the Council could make in how it deals with the public. The report looks directly at face to face contact, contact by phone and through other channels such as The Forester magazine and website.

Recognising current financial constraints, Councillor Mitchell Cohen proposed a temporary increase in resources to the Council website, engaging a second member of staff to support the website for a fixed three-year term.

Councillor Diana Collins Leader of the Council congratulated Councillor Rolfe on the Panel report and supported the principles. She asked Councillor Rolfe for a further report providing guidance to Cabinet on the priorities of the Panel.

Councillors Visit The Broadway

Written on . Posted in Business, Community, Councillors, Democracy, Leader, Local business, Loughton, Residents, Supporting business, Your area, Your community, Your council

Councillors Diana Collins and Anne Grigg lend a hand

The Leader of Epping Forest District Council Councillor Diana Collins and the Planning and Economic Development Portfolio Holder Councillor Anne Grigg visited The Broadway in Loughton on Wednesday 28 January 2009. They met with representatives of local traders and reassured them that every effort is being made to reduce the impact on local businesses whilst work to regenerate the area is being carried out.

This is following concerns expressed earlier by local traders and residents at a Town Centre Partnership meeting that steps should be taken to minimise disruption to businesses and residents. A number of steps have been taken to keep the Broadway accessible for traders and shoppers.

Access is being maintained to all the shops on The Broadway, only the eastbound carriageway has been shut for now. Crossing over points have been provided so shoppers can get from one side of The Broadway to the other, Vere Road Car Park has been re-designated for short-stay and permit holders only and free parking has been retained for The Broadway.

Councillors and local traders view work at the Broadway

Councillor Diana Collins said: I understand the concerns of local traders but every effort is being made to minimise the impact of this scheme to local traders and shoppers. Unfortunately large engineering projects can cause disruption but at the end we will have a much improved and enhanced town centre.

European Elections 2009

Written on . Posted in Community, Democracy, Elections, Older people, Residents, Your community, Your council

It has been confirmed that European Parliamentary elections will take place across Europe between 4 and 7 June 2009. The UK polling day is Thursday 4 June 2009. Epping Forest District residents will be voting to elect seven Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) for the Eastern region. Those elected will represent the Region for a five-year term. A total of 500 million European citizens in 27 countries will be voting for 736 MEPs on the same date. The election will be run from a regional policy centre in Huntingdon by the Regional Returning Officer. On the same date an election for seven the County Councillors for the Epping Forest District will also be held.

The Electoral Services Team at Epping Forest District Council would like to remind residents that if your name does not appear on the Register of Electors 2009, you will not be able to vote in either election. There are no scheduled elections for District Councillors this year.

The Register of Electors (also known as the Electoral Register, the Electoral List, the Electoral Roll or even the Voters’ Register) was published on 1 December 2008 following the Annual Canvass of Electors. If you moved house after 15 October 2008 your name might not appear on the Register at your new address. To update your registration call the Electoral Services Team on 01992 564411 for a voter registration form (even if you are paying Council Tax at your new address it does not automatically mean you are on the Register of Electors). You can check your entry in the Register of Electors by contacting the Electoral Services Team on 01992 564411 or view the Electoral Register at the Civic Offices in Epping, Waltham Abbey Town Hall or at the Council`s Information desk inside Loughton Library.

The Council must receive voter registration forms by 5pm on 19 May 2009 for them to take effect for the 2009 European elections. If you are unable to vote in person on polling day and you have not already registered for a postal or proxy vote, please contact Electoral Services for details about how to apply. If you have moved or changed your name since applying for a postal vote, it will now be invalid so you will need to complete a new application. The closing date for completed postal applications is 5pm on 19 May 2009 and for proxy applications is 5pm on 27 May 2009.

Epping Forest District Council`s Ian Willett is the local / deputy Returning Officer for these elections said: “This year polling day is on 4 June 2009 and not the usual day in May. This is because the Government has decided to delay the County Council elections so that they are held on the same day as those for the European Parliament. Voters should bear this in mind if they want a postal or proxy vote and make sure they are registered to vote on polling day.

Mr Willett continued: “The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy but if you don’t register and obtain a postal or proxy vote if you need one, you lose that right and won’t be able to vote. If you don’t have a vote, you can’t have your say. If you are not sure about what you need to do, call the Electoral Services Team on 01992 564411 now.”

Provisional Site Allocation Reduced

Written on . Posted in Community, Countryside and wildlife, Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Leader, Local plan / planning our future, Older people, Our countryside, Planning, Residents, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

Go East, the regional office of the Government says the provisional allocation of additional gypsy and traveller site pitches for Epping Forest district has been reduced by ten from 49 to 39. The announcement is contained in the Examination in Public (EiP) Report into the Review of Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation in the East of England published on 18 December 2008. The EiP report now forms the basis of recommendations to the Government which will hold further consultation before issuing its final allocations next year.

Councillors and Planning Officers have consistently argued for a reduction in the number of pitches allocated to Epping Forest district. While Councillors feel the allocation remains unfairly high for Epping Forest in comparison to other districts, the reduction is a vindication of their stance. The Council will continue to press for further reductions.

The reduction for Epping Forest district is in marked contrast to most other parts of the region. Overall, the EiP has increased the regional allocation of extra traveller and gypsy pitches by a further 50 from 1,187 to 1,237.

The Government announcement comes as residents continue to respond to local consultation on the future provision of traveller and gypsy sites in the district.

Councillor Mrs Anne Grigg, Planning and Economic Development Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council said: The announcement is a move in the right direction but I don`t think it goes far enough. Local residents are very concerned about the high number of extra traveller and gypsy pitches the district is being asked to accommodate. Epping Forest district already has more gypsy and traveller accommodation than most other areas. Even with the potential reduction from 49 to 39 extra pitches, we are still being asked to take substantially more than many other areas. We will continue to argue for further reductions.

The Secretary of State will consider the Review of Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation in the East of England and the recommendations of the EiP before issuing any proposed changes in the Spring. There will then be a further period of consultation. Go East says that the Secretary of State will publish the finalised policy in the Summer of 2009.

Cabinet Decisions 15 December

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In a step that Councillors hope will help local retailers, the Cabinet of Epping Forest District Council has agreed that there will be no increase in pay and display car park prices next year. Instead, any increased spending on car parks will be met from a further £60,000 of savings identified within the Council`s current budget. The Cabinet also reaffirmed its intention not to increase the District`s Council Tax precept by more than 2.5 per cent.

Watch the webcastwebcast of cabinet meeting on 15 December 2008
(opens in a new window)

Epping Forest District Council already provides some of the lowest pay and display car parking fees in Essex and the surrounding area, with the cheapest ticket costing 10 pence. Some free parking is also available in each of the district`s principle towns on Saturdays. All of the district`s pay and display car parks are also free on Saturdays in the run up to Christmas.

Councillor Richard Bassett, Civil Engineering and Maintenance Portfolio Holder confirmed that the freeze on charges would not mean any cuts in other services. He said: Council staff have managed to find savings in the budget and we will still continue with our improvement plans. Bakers Lane Car Park in Epping will benefit from investment of £120,000 including new lighting, CCTV, drainage, resurfacing and lining. Everyone knows that the Country is facing difficult economic times in the New Year. I hope that these measures will go some way towards helping our businesses by encouraging people to shop locally.

In another move to address the problems of people finding themselves victims of the economic downturn, the Cabinet recommended a bid to the Full Council of £20,000 for a scheme to help people afford rental payments in the private sector. Housing Portfolio Holder, Councillor David Stallan hopes the extra money will go to the Rental Loan Scheme from next April and will help to deal with any potential increase in people forced to register with the Council as homeless after home-repossessions.

In other matters discussed by the Cabinet held on 15 December, Councillor Mary Sartin gained approval for the Council to take on powers to remove untaxed cars from the district`s roads. National statistics suggest that 80 per cent of untaxed cars also lack insurance and many are also found to be unroadworthy. The presence of such vehicles is also linked to criminal activity and it is hoped that their removal will lead to a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour.

Council Pays Tribute to Local Hero

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Community, Councillors, Democracy, Leader, Meetings, Older people, Young people, Your community, Your council

Tributes to Georgie Sparks at the Epping memorial

Councillors from Epping Forest District Council stood in silence at the beginning of the Council meeting on Tuesday 16 December 2008 in tribute to Royal Marine Georgie Sparks who was killed in action in Afghanistan.

 

Tributes at the Epping memeorial

Personal tributes were paid by Chairman of Council John Knapman and Council Leader Diana Collins. The Council offered its condolences to his family and friends including his sister Katie.

Watch the webcastwebcast of Council meeting on Tuesday 16 December 2008 (opens in a new window)

The following article first appeared on the website www.everythingeppingforest.co.uk (opens in a new window)

Epping came to a standstill on Saturday morning as the town remembered Royal Marine Georgie Sparks who was killed in action in Afghanistan. Hundreds of people packed into St John’s Church to pay tribute to the serviceman, on what would have been his 20th birthday.

A guard of honour stood outside as Royal Marine colleagues carried his coffin, draped in a Union flag, into the church. Georgie died along with Marine Tony Evans after both were on foot patrol with J Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines. They were north-west of Lashkar Gah, in Helmand province, when they moved on to the roof of a compound. There was an attack by insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades and both were badly wounded.

Colleagues and war veterans joined members of Georgie’s family and local dignitaries – including Epping mayor Ben Murphy and Epping Forest District Council chairman John Knapman for his funeral service which included tributes from Georgie’s sister, Katie. She described how proud she was to have a brother like Georgie – who was known as Sparky to his friends – and also paid tribute to the four Marines who just hours earlier had also been killed in Afghanistan.

Mr Murphy told the everythingeppingforest website: “Today was obviously a highly emotional day for our town, the Royal Marine Corps, and for a family who have had to say goodbye to their brave son on his 20th birthday, just a week before Christmas.” He added: “Family, friends and comrades paid tribute to a remarkable, dedicated young man who valued his family enormously. This young man chose coming home to see his family every weekend he could over going out on the town with his fellow Marines.”

Epping High Street was closed to traffic as shoppers stood in silence. Several men removed their hats as a mark of respect as Georgie’s coffin, flanked by Royal Marines, made its way to the church. Mr Murphy said: “Today, Epping was shown the hard reality this country faces from fighting in a war against terrorism and injustice on behalf of those who are unable to defend themselves. We are all so proud of this young man who wasn’t afraid to stand up and be counted and who sadly lost his life doing so. May he rest in peace eternal.”

Georgie and colleague Tony Evans both received immediate medical attention after they were injured and were moved to a secure location before being put on a helicopter to be transferred back to Camp Bastion. However both died during the flight.

Georgie joined the Royal Marines in June 2006 and passed out from training in July 2007, joining 42 Commando a few days later. During his time at 42 Commando he qualified as a sniper. His parents, Wayne and Toni, and sister, Katie, said: “We have lost our best friend as well as our son. We are so very proud of Georgie – he always wanted to be a Royal Marine. Georgie loved the outdoors – fishing, shooting, paintballing – and was very close to his family.

We miss him so much.” Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Stickland Royal Marines, Commanding Officer, 42 Commando Royal Marines, said: “Marine Georgie Sparks was a quiet, understated professional. He lost his life fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with his comrades, covering their actions with his expert sniper skills.”

EFYC Funding

Written on . Posted in Community, Democracy, Leader, Meetings, Young people, Your community, Your council

At the meeting on 10 November 2008, the Cabinet received a report on funding for the Epping Forest Youth Council (EFYC) for 2009 to 2010. The Cabinet requested the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to receive a presentation from the Youth Council giving an update on developing the Youth Council Programme.

Epping Forest Youth Councillors Claire Gilbert, Holly Whitbread, Alex Martin and Gabrielle Compton attended Overview and Scrutiny on 11 December 2008. Claire Gilbert gave an excellent overview of what the Youth Councillors have been doing this year from a running a district-wide piece of young persons` consultation to organising the recent Big Youth Debate at Woolston Manor.

Epping Forest Youth Councillor Claire Gilbert said: We were able to categorise our main priorities, as 17 individual young people working in sub-groups and have developed four of our five priority areas: Activities, Transport, Environment and Safety issues. In the second year of their term of office, they see firm action through these working groups replacing monthly training needs as the driving force of the Epping Forest Youth Council.

Youth Councillors have been formally contacted through the Council`s website by a number of young people and organisations wishing to use the Youth Council as a consultation sounding board and seek Members` support and involvement. This has included different departments from within the Council – Planning Services, the Safer Communities Partnership, Environmental Services and Community and Cultural Services, as well as external organisations including West Essex PCT, Epping Forest College and the Children and Young People`s Strategic Partnership.

Youth Councillors visited the Langston Road depot

During the summer Youth Councillors toured the district visiting a number of sites including: the proposed new site of the Loughton Youth Project next to Loughton Library, Loughton Police Station, Langston Road depot site and Ongar Sports Centre. The tour gave the Members a far greater geographic perspective of the district and enabled them to meet and discuss issues with a local Acting Police Inspector, a senior Connexions worker, a Recycling Officer and a Sports Centre Manager.

Epping Forest Youth Councillor Claire Gilbert said: We also see more face-to-face work in the community as a vital component of our second year success. Some of our Members have worked very hard to raise the expectations of their School Council and hold them to task in promoting young people`s initiatives. In this second year, we want to build on the good work of local schools` partnerships by holding Youth Councillor drop-in surgeries at lunchtimes and after school and getting more young people engaged in local issues and the opportunities that are out there.

Their last training session was organised by Community Development Officer Gill Wallis which gave them an introduction to the Chairmen of the four Young People`s Action Groups: Essex Road Safety, Essex Drugs and Alcohol Service, Essex Youth Offending Team and West Essex PCT. They feel that as an elected group, not only must they voice the views of young people to these sorts of service providers but also have a role to play in voicing the services that are being provided back to young people – especially those provided by Epping Forest District Council.

    To date, Epping Forest Youth Council have been successful in securing external funding to the sum of £11,132. This has been made up as follows:

  • £5,500 from the West Essex Area Forum
  • £2,200 from the Epping Forest Children and Young People`s Strategic Partnership
  • £1,832 from the Youth Opportunity and Youth Capital Fund
  • £1,000 from the Grange Farm Trust
  • £300 from the Loughton Youth Project
  • £300 from the Jack Petchey Foundation

Epping Forest Youth Councillor Claire Gilbert said: Without funding from Epping Forest District Council of a similar sum of approximately £12,000 to support our training, meeting, transport and general revenue costs we would not have been able to run this year. On behalf of all our Members I would like to thank Epping Forest District Council for this support and formally request that the same level of support, in the sum of £12,000 be made available for the Youth Council in the next financial year.

Epping Forest Youth Council has successfully developed over the last nine months as a valuable resource to Epping Forest District Council. The 17 Youth Councillors, who are aged between 13 and 17 years, have undertaken a wide range of training and development to support them in their roles and have each taken specific responsibility for a portfolio or area of business.

A WOW of a Gift

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Community, Democracy, Older people, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your council

Councillor John Knapman, Chairman of Council visited Vitalise – Jubilee Lodge in Chigwell for the official opening of the new `Wow` room. Vitalise – Jubilee Lodge is one of the charities to benefit from his fundraising during his year in office. At Vitalise they believe that everyone deserves a break and they offer respite options with real freedom and choice to disabled people and carers alike. They provide an alternative to traditional respite care by offering breaks in a relaxed, holiday environment but with nursing care and personal support available. The new interactive room is specially equipped with a large 46 LCD screen connected to a Nintendo Wii, which Councillor Knapman has donated from his charity fundraising. The Wii will be used by the centre`s visiting guests with physical disabilities.

Chairman John Knapman with guests at Jubilee Lodge

Councillor Knapman said: I am delighted to see the `Wow` room in use. This addition is a great asset to the facilities at Jubilee Lodge as the Wii is very versatile and can be used by guests of all ages and all abilities. I am really glad that my charity fundraising has been able to supply this additional facility to a very worthy local charity.

Centre Manager Steve Trump commented: There are quite a number of the games that can be played and enjoyed by people with limited mobility and after an initial reticence at using the new technology, the Wii with its widescreen TV has quickly become a favourite pastime of many of our guests.

He went on to say: With very little guidance and support required from the staff, racing and bowling games are proving a hit. There are now more opportunities for both guests and volunteers to interact with each other and to use the enhanced computer room facilities at Jubilee Lodge.

The Big Youth Debate – Young People Speak Out!

Written on . Posted in Community, Democracy, Meetings, Residents, Working with the council, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council

Host BBC radio and TV presenter Dave Monk

Around 150 young people packed into Woolston Hall, Chigwell on Wednesday 19 November 2008 evening for the Big Youth Debate.

Moderating the debate organised by Epping Forest Youth Council, was BBC radio and TV presenter Dave Monk. Eleanor Laing MP, Eric Pickles MP, Divisional Police Commander Tim Stokes and Councillor Di Collins, Leader of Epping Forest District Council were among the high-powered panel fielding questions from the audience.

Watch the webcast The Big Youth Debate webcast
(opens in a new window)

No punches were pulled as the district`s young people put their questions. Subjects ranged from crime and safety to transport and teenage pregnancy.

Young people question the Panel Members

Introducing the debate, Youth Councillors Holly Whitbread and Nat Rogers presented the first analysis of a district wide survey of opinions of young people. Lack of activities, inadequate public transport and personal safety were key issues coming through.

The lively debate was enjoyed by allAlex Martin with Chairman John Knapman

Epping Forest District Youth Council is less than a year old and the Big Debate was its most ambitious event so far. More than 1,000 young people also responded to the Big Debate survey earlier in the year. Members of the Youth Council have been given open door access to the many of the most influential people in the district. Also at the Big Debate was Aidan Thomas Chief Executive of the West Essex Primary Care Trust and Derek Macnab, Deputy Chief Executive of Epping Forest District Council.

A special hoodie was awarded to all who asked a question

An ipod was awarded to the person who in the view of Epping Forest District Council Chairman, Councillor John Knapman asked the best question. To resounding applause he chose Alex Martin who sparked a major discussion with her question about under-age drinking..

Cabinet 10 November 2008

Written on . Posted in Chigwell, Community, Democracy, Local land charges, Meetings, Older people, Residents, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

Limes Farm Community Hall, Epping Forest Youth Council, Travellers and Domestic Violence were all featured at the meeting of Cabinet on Monday 10 November 2008.

Watch the webcastCabinet meeting 10 November 2008 webcast
(opens in a new window)

 

Limes Farm Community Hall

Epping Forest District Council has ensured the short-term continuation of community services from Limes Farm Hall. Members of the Cabinet agreed to take over management and funding up to the end of March 2010 after Chigwell Parish Council signalled its intention to relinquish the hall next March.

Leisure and Young People Portfolio Holder, Councillor Heather Harding, urged members to support the hall. In so doing, opportunities could be developed by the District Council with Essex County Council, West Essex Primary Care Trust and other partners to provide long-term facilities.

Epping Forest Youth Council

Councillor Harding asked members to note the success of the Youth Council since its formation less than a year ago. The Youth Council requested funding to ensure the continuation of its development and operation.

Members of the Cabinet were very supportive of the Youth Council and noted funding already provided by Epping Forest District Council and other agencies. Before agreeing to provide regular long-term funding, the cabinet asked for a report by the Youth Council to be presented to Overview and Scrutiny, setting out achievements and plans in greater detail.

Main River Management

Members of the Cabinet noted that the Council would no longer provide contracted services for the management of main river watercourses and flood alleviation schemes on behalf of the Environment Agency.

Despite a high quality bid, the Council had not matched the lower cost of the successful builder for the Environment Agency contract.

Local Land Charges

Councillor Mitch Cohen, Portfolio Holder for Corporate Support and ICT Services reported on the reduction in income from Local Land Charge searches, a service carried out on behalf of people preparing to buy a new home. The reduction reflected the general downturn in the housing market.

Car Park Investment

Bakers Lane Car Park in Epping will benefit from investment of £120,000. Among the proposed improvements supported by Cabinet were new lighting, CCTV, drainage, resurfacing and lining.

Travellers

In response to a question by a member of the public, Councillor Anne Grigg confirmed that alternative suggestions for potential traveller and gipsy sites to those in the consultation document would be considered.

Building Maintenance

Cabinet asked staff to do more work on prioritising planned maintenance work to council buildings and facilities.

Reduced Energy Cost and Carbon Footprint

Investment in new computer technology should lead to savings on fuel bills and reduction of the Council`s carbon footprint. With energy prices at high levels, the payback period for `virtualisation` of the Council`s computer storage solutions should be complete in four to five years.

Domestic Violence

Councillors supported the adoption of a policy to help members of staff suffering from or dealing with the effects of domestic violence.

Tree Maintenance and Sports Hall

Cabinet supported a bid for £64,000 which if successful will allow the Council to catch up on a backlog of tree maintenance. Members also agreed to £6,000 to fund a feasibility study on the provision of a new sports hall at Waltham Abbey Swimming Pool.

Capital Strategy

Cabinet agreed to recommend the draft Capital Strategy 2008 to 2013 to Full Council.

Report of Overview and Scrutiny

To see a transcript of report to Cabinet of Councillor Richard Morgan, Chairman of Overview and Scrutiny click on the link below.