Awards for Human Resources Partnership

Written on . Posted in Business, Local business, Our performance, Supporting business, Your council

Thousands of local authority employees across Essex, including those working for Epping Forest District Council, will benefit from ViNE (Virtual Network Essex), the innovative partnership between the Human Resources departments of the 15 Councils that serve the county.

Designed by the Essex Strategic Human Resource Partnership, ViNE enables local authorities to deliver their staff training and development programmes more effectively and at a much lower cost. Savings of £100,000 can be achieved by making much greater use of e-learning rather than by employing costly external trainers, by sharing resources and by developing training programmes that each authority can then easily and quickly adapt to its own needs. Employees can also access the training programmes on line 24 hours a day so they can further their knowledge outside of working hours and at times that suit them.

Paula Maginnis and Julie Dixon receiving the award from Councillor Mrs Anne Grigg

The Essex Strategic HR Partnership recently won an award for its collaborative work from the national training organisation Learning Pool. This was presented by the Chairman of Epping Forest District Council, Councillor Mrs Anne Grigg, to Paula Maginnis, Assistant Director (HR) and Julie Dixon, Learning and Development Manager. The Partnership is also to receive a £500,000 award from Improvement East to enable ViNE to be extended across the East of England.

Quality Reaccreditation for Ongar

Ongar Town Council`s Vice Chairman, Councillor Diana Roberts accepted the congratulations of her district-level counterparts on Tuesday 28 September 2010. Councillor Anne Grigg, Chairman of Epping Forest District Council joined Canon John Brown, Chairman of the Essex County Accreditation Panel in presenting Councillor Roberts and Mr Mark Squires with the reaccreditation of Quality Status for the services provided by Ongar Town Council.

Mark Squires, Councillor Diana Roberts, Councillor Anne Grigg and Canon John Brown

Drawing out many of the achievements including the surgeries held by parish councillors, Canon John Brown also singled out the Town Clerk Mark Squires for his distinction in the Certificate in Local Council Administration.

Council`s Energy Efficiency Scheme Wins Awards

Written on . Posted in Our performance, Your council

Epping Forest District Council`s energy efficiency scheme (Herts Essex Energy Partnership) which offers grants, loans and discounts to homeowners and private tenants in the Epping Forest area to help generate and save energy, has just been notified that it is among the major winners in the Green Apple Awards which will be presented in November.

Herts Essex Energy PartnershipThe award for ‘Best Environmental Project’ was presented to Herts Essex Energy Partnership (HEEP) by BBC`s Ethical Man and star of the One Show, Justin Rowlatt. Judges described HEEP as, “not only a brilliant green project, but also a way to improve people’s lives.”

This is the second award the scheme has received recently, having won ‘Best Environmental Project’ in the Hertfordshire Green Awards.

HEEP was set up by 15 local authorities including Epping Forest District Council, to help alleviate fuel poverty and increase the income of fuel poor households by helping them cut their fuel bills.

To find out more about HELP call free on 0800 980 6026

King Harold Day Shortlisted for Tourism Award

Written on . Posted in Community, Our performance, Out and about, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your community

King Harold Day LogoWaltham Abbey`s hugely popular King Harold day, has been shortlisted to receive an Essex Tourism award. The medieval style family day out is competing with two other local attractions in the `Events and Festivals` category.

The Essex Tourism awards were introduced last year and are run by the Archant Media Group in conjunction with Essex County Council to promote local tourism in Essex. The winners will be announced at an awards dinner on 23 September 2010 at Le Talbooth in Dedham, Colchester. The successful candidates will be nominated in the Regional Tourism Awards and then on to National Awards.

King Harold day is held each year on the nearest Saturday to his death (14 October) and takes place in the beautiful Abbey Gardens at Waltham Abbey. The day which this year takes place on Saturday 16th October 2010, consists of a variety of activities and exhibitions based on the style of living in the middle ages, including a medieval village, crafts, food, weaving, calligraphy and the preparation and care of weapons and armour.

People dressed in historic costume for King Harold Day

This year due to the success in previous years, an extra event has been organised. Helen Hollick, Author and screen writer of the film 1066 and a number of other historical books will be giving a talk at the Abbey Church centre, Waltham Abbey on Saturday 18 September 2010, at 7.30pm. Tickets will be £10 and include cheese and wine. For further details contact The Tourist Information Centre, Highbridge Street, Waltham Abbey in person or by telephoning 01992 652295.

West Essex Primary Prize Awards

Written on . Posted in Community, Our performance, Out and about, Residents, Your area, Your community

On Wednesday 14 July 2010 the West Essex Partnership marked the hard work and achievements of children at primary schools across the Epping Forest District.

The West Essex Primary Prize Awards were hosted by Epping Forest College. Almost 90 local children who had been singled out by their schools for particular praise over the last year were rewarded with book token prizes.

The West Essex Partnership (WEP) is made up of the three local strategic partnerships from Epping Forest, Harlow and Uttlesford. WEP have established the prize as a way of supporting local schools and recognising and celebrating the achievements of children of primary school age.

The prizes included certificates and £20 book tokens for pupils selected by their teachers as the most improved over the last year in areas such as literacy, numeracy, science/ICT, sport and music. Schools were also asked to award a special prize in any subject or category they wished.

Primary Prize Winners from Limes Farm Juniors with Chairman of Epping Forest District Council, Councillor Anne Grigg

A total of 32 schools with almost 6,000 pupils participated across west Essex. Members of the partnership have also attended ten local school assemblies to hand out some of these award certificates. Sponsorship for the prizes and the event was also provided by Essex County Council.

Councillor Diana Collins Chairman of One Epping Forest (LSP) and Leader of the District Council commented: I have been very happy to be involved in the primary prize. It has given us the opportunity to recognise and celebrate all the great work that is going on in our primary schools across the district. The children who have won a prize today range from foundation to year six and the prizes are a simple way of recognising their achievements and coming together as a community to say very well done.

The event was also attended by the Chairman of Epping Forest District Council, Councillor Mrs Anne Grigg who presented the prizes, Jeanie Wright principal of Epping Forest College, Councillor Valerie Metcalfe representing Essex County Council and Derek Macnab deputy Chief Executive of Epping Forest District Council.

The awards event got off to a great start with a musical performance from students of Roding Valley High School.

Website Up for Environmental Award

Written on . Posted in Business, Local business, Our performance, Supporting business, Your council

iPlan and pinpoint logos

Epping Forest District Council`s online interactive planning website has been nominated in the National eWell-Being Awards 2010.

The website applications iPlan and pinpoint were selected in the `Improving Public Services` category for improving public access to information, generating cost savings and reducing carbon emissions. The results of the nomination will be held at the reception at the offices of UNISON Yorkshire and Humbershire in Leeds on Wednesday 16 June 2010.

UK CEED National eWell-Being Awards 2010

The National eWell-Being Awards identify and promote the environmental and social benefits of Information and Communication Technology. Over 120 entries were received this year and the judges have narrowed down to the 41 finalists.

Using pinpoint and iPlan to view maps and access Planning information

Over many years, Epping Forest District Council`s Planning and Economic Development Directorate has steadily moved away from using paper based work. They have successfully integrated into the Council website the applications iPlan and pinpoint allowing residents to view planning permissions online all year round.

The website is easily accessible to the public and has made savings in the cost of printing documents, postage and file storage, and also decreasing carbon emissions by using less paper.

The Council is able to supply a well-organised web-based service to provide available information to anyone involved in the planning process – from home owners and businesses to planning professionals and Government officials.

iPlan enables residents to search planning application records including documents and plans, view Committee Agenda and webcasts showing how decisions are made and search Planning Appeals and Building Control Records online. Residents can view most records that are going back 50 years.

Councillor Di Collins, leader of Epping Forest District Council said: I would like to congratulate the Planning Team on reaching the finals. The Internet has its benefits because it is easier to use, costs less and saves on raw materials. Using the Internet gives us more of a chance to reduce the carbon emissions and upgrading our services to the Internet helps to save the environment by not cutting down trees to create piles of paper.

Council Website Rated in Top Nine

Written on . Posted in Media, Our performance, Your council

Socitm Insight - Better connected 2010: a snapshot of all local authority websites

Residents who access services via Epping Forest District Council online have good news. The Council website was rated as one of the top nine in England with three stars in the latest survey of shire district councils by the Society of Information Technology Managers, SOCITM.

Epping Forest District Council has a small Web Team. Councillors doubled its capacity to two employees late last year and the investment paid dividends almost immediately. Among the reasons given for the Council`s enhanced rating was its online response to the severe weather during December and January.

Over the course of four weeks the Council issued 19 separate updates ranging from cancellation of meetings to revised refuse collections and how neighbours could help each other during the wintry conditions.

Councils were measured against a range of criteria including accessibility, navigation and news value of their websites. SOCITM singled out Epping Forest District Council`s online publicity on the use of small vehicles to collect refuse from roads unsafe for larger refuse trucks and the dangers its own contract staff were running by continuing to provide services in the treacherous conditions.

As well as providing much of the content for the Website, the Council Web Team and IT Officers support a small range of other Council staff in areas such as Planning and Recycling who maintain and update their own content in addition to the day job.

Councillor Di Collins, Leader of Epping Forest District Council is delighted with the SOCITM findings. She said: This is great news. Councillors looked at website resourcing last year. Even then we were doing remarkably well within limited means but we recognised online information is the future and agreed on the need to invest in it. This survey goes to show what dedicated and skilled professional staff can achieve.

Councillor Collins added: The website represents great value for money. Residents can access or find information on practically all Council services. Unlike people, the website never sleeps and makes our services available to residents 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Benefits Service Audit Commission Report

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Democracy, Our performance, Your council, Your money

Benefits Service Inspection Report May 2010

Epping Forest District Council is defending its Benefits Service following the publication of the Audit Commission`s report after its inspection earlier this year.

The Commission reported that the Benefits Service at Epping Forest District Council is `poor and has uncertain prospects for improvement`.

Deputy Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holder for Finance and Economic Development Councillor Chris Whitbread said: I am very disappointed with the conclusions of this report. I know that all Benefits staff work extremely hard in difficult circumstances to make sure Benefits applications are processed accurately and as quickly as is possible. The Audit Commission has stated that frontline staff also provide very good customer care to all our claimants.

Councillor Whitbread went on to say: Over the last 18 months or so, as a direct result of the Credit Crunch, workload has significantly increased with many more people coming to us to claim benefits. Many of these people have not had to do so before and therefore needed much more support.

He continued: The Council had to replace its benefit processing system during 2008/09 as the system in use had become obsolete. This involved the transfer of data between systems and resulted in processing systems not being available for six weeks. Once again, this has meant further delays.

The performance on new claim processing highlighted in the report was for 2008/09 and at an average of 47 days this was too slow. However, the Council has been actively working to reduce the waiting time for new claimants. The average performance for 2009/10 was 33 days, with the average in the final quarter being 28 days, and the Council is striving to reduce this further. Whilst the Audit Commission admits that customers reporting a change in circumstances experienced an improvement in performance little credit has been given for the improvement on new claims.

The Council was already working on improvements to the service, with a re-structure having been approved by Cabinet in July 2009. This restructure provided additional resources and enhanced the customer contact arrangements, which are praised in the report. It is accepted that more work could be done on increasing take up and there are some valid recommendations. The Benefits Service already had plans in place to address most of the issues raised and has produced a detailed response to each recommendation. For example, it will be advertising in local publications including the Council`s publication The Forester the availability of Benefits to those who may be unaware of what they could claim. However, some of the issues raised, such as criticism of the Reception facilities at the Civic Offices in Epping and opening hours of the service, will have to be dealt with corporately. Last month Cabinet approved the refurbishment of the Limes Farm Hall and it is planned to improve access to Council Services by locating Benefits and Housing staff on this site.

Councillor Whitbread concluded: We have taken on board the comments made by the Commission and I am confident that by the time we receive our next inspection, we will have improved. I would like to take this opportunity to express my thanks to all Benefits staff for their dedication and hard work.

Is the Council up to Standard?

Written on . Posted in Community, Democracy, Older people, Our performance, Residents, Young people, Your council

Do you want to have a say on the actions of our councillors? Two vacancies on the Epping Forest Standards Committee have arisen that will allow you to do just this.

The two positions must be completely independent of the District, Town and Parish Councils for which the Standards Committee has responsibilities. Along with a third independent member they will share responsibilities with six councillors drawn from the District and local Town or Parish Councils.

Although the most visible role of the Standards Committee members is to hear complaints and adjudicate on the conduct of councillors, there is much more to the position. Standards committee duties also include monitoring and advising on the code of conduct to which local councillors are bound. It promotes the code and offers training to councillors as well as advice on ethical issues.

There are four meetings of the full Standards Committee each year which are held in the evenings and are up to two hours in length. In addition, various sub committees meet for the purpose of dealing with complaints. These are usually held in the daytime and can vary in length.

Independent members of the Standards Committee may receive a small allowance in the sum of £500 to cover the personal costs of their role. A larger allowance is payable to the Chairman of the Committee, a position which must be held by one of the independent members.

Potential applicants should contact Ian Willett, Deputy Monitoring Officer at Epping Forest District Council by telephone on 01992 564243 or by email via iwillett@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Housing Strategy 2009

Written on . Posted in Community, Housing, Our performance, Residents, Your community, Your council, Your home

More affordable housing in the district continues to be a priority, according to Epping Forest District Council`s 2009-2012 Housing Strategy which has just been published, following an extensive consultation exercise.

The average cost of purchasing a house in Epping Forest is around £340,000 – 11 times the average full-time earnings of someone working in the district. The latest Housing Strategy sets out the need for properly-planned housing growth with adequate infrastructure. More broadly it states the Council`s vision that `Epping Forest will have safe, decent and attractive housing, meeting the needs of those who want to live in the district.`

The Housing Strategy covers many issues, such as reducing the number of empty homes and improving energy efficiency. It also sets out the Council`s key objectives relating to housing growth; affordable housing; accommodation for people with special needs; homelessness; and housing conditions.

A planned programme is set out in the Strategy indicating where housing is to be developed and how many properties will be built. Plans for the East of England include the provision of 3,500 new homes to be built in Epping Forest by 2021. Around 1,780 homes were built between April 2001 and April 2009, while a further 1,355 dwellings have outline or detailed planning permission. Epping Forest is also required to contribute towards the planned expansion of Harlow, although the number of homes to be provided is currently unknown. Within the growth programme is a provision for more affordable housing. While the Council`s own housing stock has reduced under the `Right to Buy`, partnerships with developers and housing associations are developing new accommodation for many families. This housing may be built for rent or to provide low-cost housing for first-time buyers, such as shared ownership.

People with special needs need suitable accommodation and appropriate support and this is another key aim. Estimates suggest that 10% of residents are aged 75 years or above and population forecasts suggest that the proportion of Epping Forest residents over 65 years of age will increase. The Strategy outlines a number of measures intended to provide support for older people, either in special housing schemes or in their own homes.

The Council aims to prevent homelessness and to house homeless people quickly in suitable permanent accommodation. In 2006 a Homelessness Prevention Team was established to provide advice and help clients look at all the options available to prevent the family from becoming homeless. This approach has proved successful with a 75% reduction in homelessness applications being processed in 2008/09 compared to 2005/06.

The last key objective is to make sure that all homes in the district are in a `decent` condition. The Government has set targets and the Council is on track to deal with all non-decent Council homes by 2010. The Decent Homes Standard is set out in national policy. A range of measures is in place to help vulnerable families who live in non-decent homes in the private sector. In March the Council held a conference in Waltham Abbey and invited partners across a wide range of housing interests to give their views on the draft Housing Strategy. The published Strategy includes these views and sets out an action plan for achieving the Council`s strategic housing aims.

Councillor David Stallan Housing Portfolio Holder said: “This is an important document for the Council and for the district. Nobody knows when they may need help with housing, whether it be housing advice for an elderly parent, low-cost housing for their children who want to get a foot on the home ownership ladder, or Council housing following their home being repossessed due to a business failure.”

He went on to say: “The Housing Strategy is our housing blueprint for the next three years and we will review our progress and success annually. I’d like to thank all those with an interest in housing who have made valuable contributions to working out the best way forward.”

Disability Equality Consultative Group

Written on . Posted in Consultation, Equalities, Our performance, Your council

Do you have a disability or do you know someone who has a disability?

Can you use the Council`s services and does the Council understand what you need to help you to use the Council`s services?

Epping Forest District Council is working hard to make all its services accessible to people with disabilities. To do this effectively we need your help. We need to know what we need to do so that you can use our services.

    You are invited to join our Disability Equality Consultative Group. The next meeting is:

  • on Tuesday 5 May 2009
  • at 2:30pm
  • and will take place at the Civic Offices, High Street, Epping, Essex CM16 4BZ.

The Disability Equality Consultative Group is helping us to main stream disability equality into our services. Group members are helping us to identify what we need do to make our services more accessible to people with disabilities. Together we have drawn up a Disability Equality Action Plan to make sure the concerns of members are addressed.

The group needs more members who can work with us to progress the action plan and to ensure we have a diverse range of experience to guide us.

Meetings take place at council offices 4 times a year.