Cabinet accelerates council housebuilding

Written on . Posted in Community, Conservation and listed buildings, Councillors, Crime and safety, Democracy, Housing, Leader, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Media, Meetings, Recycling and waste, Residents, Supporting business, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home

The new council housebuilding programme is to be accelerated by Epping Forest District Council. Housing Portfolio Holder David Stallan reported progress on a host of new schemes at various stages of planning and development to the meeting of Cabinet on 23 July 2015.

New council housing is being planned and developed across the district including Nazeing, High Ongar, Chipping Ongar, Theydon Bois, Matching Green, Roydon, Buckhurst Hill and Loughton.

Cllr David Stallan at cabinet

Finance Portfolio Holder Syd Stavrou continued the Housing theme with Councillor Stallan as they outlined measures to protect and retain housing related assets within the district.

Councillor Stavrou reported a 97.79 per cent Council Tax collection rate for 2014/15. Councillors then went on to approve the terms of consultation with residents for the Local Council Tax Support Scheme for 2016/17.

The special status of Copped Hall was noted when Portfolio Holder Councillor Gary Waller reported on the latest Character Appraisal for the Copped Hall Conservation Area. Councillor Waller referred to the rich history of Copped Hall as far back as the 13th century and its connections with William Shakespeare and the first performance of A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream. Cabinet approved the Appraisal and amendments to the Conservation Area boundary.

Safeguarding local people

Councillor Waller described the Council’s Safeguarding Strategy and Action Plan as a comprehensive piece of work produced with meticulous care and attention. Councillors and Staff of all councils are required to meet duties of care under Section 11 Children Act and Care Act 2014. Many different people may be considered vulnerable and both councillors and staff receive training in recognising and reporting their concerns.

Cabinet went on to confirm the adoption of the Prevent Policy and Action Plan as part of the Safeguarding agenda directed particularly against radicalisation and extremism. Epping Forest District Council has invested in ‘first-class’ individuals to support safeguarding. Cabinet approved a request by Councillor Waller to include a bid for future staff funding in the next budget.

CCTV

Continuing the theme of protecting local residents, Cabinet agreed a report proposing to review CCTV funding. Councillors heard that around 480 CCTV cameras at around 40 separate sites are currently monitored and maintained by the Council.

Cameras installed several years ago are reaching the age at which replacement will become necessary. Pressure for the installation of additional cameras continues. Cabinet authorised the Director of Communities to prepare a fully costed CCTV Strategy and Funding Plan for future consideration.

Local Plan

Cabinet approved the latest steps for introduction of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). Progress forms an important part of the development of Local Plan policies on which the Council will consider planning applications. Money paid by developers to CIL as part of planning permissions would help to meet the costs of providing smaller infrastructure items to meet local need.

Waste and recycling service improving

Cabinet welcomed recent improvements to the waste and recycling service since the problematic introduction of the four-day collection weeks in May. Portfolio Holder John Philip repeated the Council’s apology to residents. He said that people had suffered difficulties and not all problems had been resolved although the situation was much improved.

Cabinet approved a report that individual compensation to a small number of complainants was not suitable. Further reviews of progress would follow and once the service was working properly it would be more appropriate to look at the issue district-wide.

Broadway and Langston Road developments

Portfolio Holder Councillor Ann Grigg received Cabinet approval to allow Higgins Homes PLC to take responsibility for the construction of a new land-mark building on the site of the Winston Churchill pub in Loughton Broadway.

Cabinet went on to note progress on the Epping Forest Retail Park at Langston Road following the purchase of the T11 site adjoining the Council-owned depot, and a licence to enable temporary car parking on T11 pending development.

Discussions are at an advanced stage with a number of potential retail tenants while plans are progressing for highway improvement works.

 

New repairs mobile app for council tenants

Written on . Posted in Community, Housing, Housing repairs, Media, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home

Request your next repair with My Epping Forest Repairs – a mobile phone app for council tenants only.

Housing repairs

Request a repair

Request a repair, anytime, anywhere!

This app is only for tenants who pay their rent to Epping Forest District Council.

  • The app intuitively guides you through requesting a repair
  • Report new repairs, or view repairs you previously requested
  • Take photos of the fault you are reporting and send them to us using your smart phone app
  • Choose from a range of repairs options, then choose an appointment that suits you

View photos in a slideshow by clicking on a picture below and then click start slideshow.

Operated through our partnership with Mears, you can use the app to request repairs and book an appointment – quickly and easily – from your smart phone.

The app will register the repair request directly into the repairs system then it will be picked up by our Housing Repairs Service planners, in the same way as other repairs reported by phone or email. The system cleverly asks you to upload a photo of the repair, giving us a clearer idea of what to expect when we get to your property.

Download now

Mears have developed this service on our behalf, as a service enhancement linked to their contract as our Repairs Management Contractor.

 

Waste contractor taken to task

Written on . Posted in Community, Councillors, Democracy, Housing, Leader, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Media, Meetings, Out and about, Recycling and waste, Residents, Supporting business, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home

The changes to waste and recycling leading to significant problems with kerbside collections must improve according to Cabinet Portfolio Holder Councillor Will Breare-Hall. In a statement to Cabinet on 11 June 2015, Councillor Breare-Hall outlined a list of different problems and steps being taken to get the service improved.

Cllr Will Breare-Hall at cabinet

Waste and recycling statement

Councillor Lesley Wagland pressed Councillor Breare-Hall on the underlying problems of the contract. Council Leader Councillor Chris Whitbread apologised to residents for the disruption and assured councillors that the issues would be resolved.

Cabinet 11 June 2015

Health, planning and housing at cabinet

Councillor Richard Morgan, Chairman of Overview and Scrutiny Committee briefed Cabinet on the presentation by Barts Health NHS Trust and the serious failings at Whipps Cross Hospital.

Among other items, Planning Portfolio Holder Richard Bassett brought a report to Cabinet on the designation of North Weald Bassett Neighbourhood Plan. He also asked Cabinet to agree the updated Local Development Scheme and consider future spending on the Local Plan. Council Leader Chris Whitbread stressed the importance of getting the process right and ensuring the final Local Plan is sound.

Housing Portfolio Holder David Stallan reported on housing-related support charges to council tenants and private users of the Careline service. Councillor Stallan sought Cabinet approval to ask the Housing Select Committee to look at the merits of de-designating some council properties reserved for older people so that they can be let to younger tenants.

Subject to the support of residents, Cabinet also approved a proposal by Councillor Stallan to bring forward construction of the proposed Torrington Drive off-street parking scheme. Each of 64 households in the affected area of Torrington Drive would be offered a permit at a cost of £43 per year.

Cabinet went on to approve the final set of Standard Licensing Conditions for Holiday Caravan and Camping Sites in Epping Forest District proposed by Councillor Stallan.

Making way for Epping Forest Shopping Park

Cabinet accepted the £2.4 million tender from T J Evers Ltd to design and build a new Grounds Maintenance and Fleet Operations depot for the Council at Oakwood Hill. Asset Management Portfolio Holder Anne Grigg recommended approval of the tender. The new depot is needed to accommodate services vacating Langston Road depot prior to its redevelopment as Loughton’s new Epping Forest Shopping Park.

Insurance

Epping Forest District Council has saved £125,000 on the renewal of its insurance policies with Zurich Municipal.

 

Waste and recycling statement by Councillor Will Breare-Hall

I’m grateful for this opportunity to update the Cabinet, Members and residents on the latest situation with the waste, recycling and street cleansing services, delivered by our contractor, Biffa.

I’d like to begin by making it clear that I consider Biffa’s failure to deliver a universally acceptable service, of the standard we require and our residents expect, to be extremely serious. I share the very real anger and frustration of all those who Biffa have let down, and especially those who have suffered repeated missed collections. I want to reiterate my sincere apologies to all those affected, and assure them that I and the council’s officers are doing all in our power to compel Biffa to urgently resolve these problems. My statement this evening is not, therefore, a defence of this situation. Rather, it is an account of what has happened and what is being done to correct it.

I’d like to briefly remind the Cabinet of the procurement exercise that led to the appointment of Biffa.

The previous waste management contract expired in November last year. In March 2013 we began the procurement process by means of Competitive Dialogue, with initially eight bidders, which was reduced to 4 by the time we reached the final stage. In the early stages of the exercise the tender assessment criteria was based 60% on price and 40% on quality, but at the final stage this was changed to 50% for both price and quality, to reflect and emphasise this council’s focus on quality. The 50% awarded for quality was subdivided into 40% for a technical assessment by officers and 10% for a Member interview panel.

The procurement process was led by a project team that consisted of officers from this council and representatives from Essex County Council and the Council’s specialist consultants, WYG Limited. Key elements of the assessment process included considering company structure; company finances and insurances; the ability to deliver the services being tendered; health and safety; equalities, and business continuity.

At the Final Tender stage the council asked the 4 remaining contractors to bid on 2 service levels – a Monday to Friday service and a Tuesday to Friday service – and agreed that the lowest priced submission for each of these would be considered for assessment. The highest scoring tender bid was from Biffa and that was based on a 4 day collection service – something they deliver in authorities elsewhere in the country. Biffa’s bid was assessed by technical officers and the council’s expert consultants, WYG, who confirmed that the level of resources Biffa had allocated for the new service were sufficient and that there was no operational reason why a 4 day service would not be feasible.

The decision to award the 10 year contract to Biffa was made by Cabinet on 19 May 2014. There followed a mobilisation period to ensure a smooth transition from the previous contractor and this was completed on the 4 November last year, when Biffa assumed responsibility for the service.

In their tender bid, Biffa proposed that the 4 day service commence in March of this year but, mindful that such a major service change would require considerable preparation, I instructed that this be put back to at least May. Accordingly, the new service commenced on the 12 May. Biffa had, therefore, operated the service successfully for 6 months prior to the introduction of their new fleet, new technology, and the 4 day collection schedule.

Unfortunately, as is now widely recognised, a number of problems have beset the service from the 12 May, not all of which are directly linked to the introduction of the 4 day service.

These include

  • IT failures affecting the in-cab technology that contains the new collection rounds and the supply of live information back to Biffa management and the council
  • issues with the compactors on some of the new freighters not operating whilst the vehicles were in motion
  • problems with safety sensors on the bin lifts
  • faults with the on-board weighing equipment, that prevented the freighters from accepting the full pay load
  • the need for the work force to familiarise themselves with new rounds and adapt to longer working days

For many residents, the switch to a 4 day service also necessitated a change in the day, and time of day, of their collection. For some, notably those in Chigwell, Debden and Waltham Abbey, it also resulted in a change in the collection week of their recycling and black bin. A letter was sent to every household in the district detailing these changes, but a number of residents remained unclear as to the new arrangements and I accept that this communication could have, and should have, been clearer and measures put in place to mitigate the impact of the week change. I have instructed officers to issue a reminder to residents of their collection day, mindful that the numerous catch-up collections Biffa have had to undertake has caused many people additional confusion. Further publicity will be distributed once the collection service is stabilised.

Of course, not all the services that Biffa provides have been affected. The vast majority of collections are completed successfully, and street cleansing services have continued with little or no disruption, but a significant number of residents, located across the district, have endured some, sometimes severe, disruption and inconvenience. It is estimated that the number of missed collections over the initial 4 week period was around 15,000, out of a total of 432,000. To date, this has generated around 9,000 phone calls and 3,000 emails to the council’s customer contact centre.

As an outsourced service the ability of the council to directly influence its delivery is inevitably limited but, from the moment these problems were identified, the council’s officers and staff have been working tirelessly to help Biffa address them, and to minimise the impact on residents. They have worked long hours, and in many cases over weekends, in often difficult circumstances. I would like to thank each of them for all they continue to do on behalf of our residents. If effort alone were sufficient to solve the problems Biffa have encountered they would have been resolved a long time ago.

Biffa themselves have committed significant additional resources to dealing with the problems they have encountered, bringing in extra staff and vehicles and undertaking catch-up collections on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. However, the problems are not yet resolved, and collections are still being missed, so, together with the Leader, Chief Executive and the Director of Neighbourhoods, I continue to put pressure on Biffa at all levels of the company. Meetings are taking place with the Managing Director of Biffa Municipal, the Director Commercial, the Director Operations, the Regional Manager, the Business Manager, the Project Mobilisation Manager, the Process, Quality and Information Manager, and the Senior Business Manager, amongst others. The next of these is tomorrow morning, after which I will be able to update Members again.

At the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on Tuesday of this week I asked that they undertake a thorough review of the implementation of the 4 day collection service, which I’m grateful to them for agreeing to do. It’s very important that the causes of the problems we’ve faced are both identified and understood, and that lessons are learnt for the future. In the meantime, I can assure the Cabinet that my priority, and that of all those involved, is to bring a swift resolution to this situation.

 

New arrangements for pre-application planning advice

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Building control, Business, Chigwell, Commercial properties, Community, Conservation and listed buildings, Crime and safety, Doing business with the council, Epping, Garages, Housing, Local business, Local land charges, Local plan / planning our future, Loughton, Older people, Ongar, Out and about, Planning, Private housing, Residents, Supporting business, Travel, Trees and landscapes, Uncategorized, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home

New arrangements for pre-application planning advice on domestic extensions, adverts and other commercial alterations will be starting from 1 May 2015.

Planning

We are expanding our pre-application planning service in order to ensure prospective planning applications are well-prepared and have the appropriate information and drawings.

The fee for this service is £48 (including VAT) which is payable at the time of the enquiry. This fee can be paid by debit or credit card over the phone or by sending a cheque or banker’s draft to the planning office.

Find out more

 

Housing benefits payments notifications stopping

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Housing, Media, Residents, Your area, Your council, Your home, Your money

Residents who receive housing benefit from us will no longer receive a BACS schedule each time we make a payment to them. We currently send these out every 2 weeks.

Housing benefit recipients will receive an initial notification letter explaining how much they are entitled to and how it has been calculated. Payments will continue but they will only be sent a notification letter when there is a change in circumstances or the amount paid.

If you’re concerned about whether you have received a payment, please check your bank statement first.

Contact the benefits team

  • Call 01992 564157 (surnames A-L) or call 01992 564156 (surnames M-Z)
  • Email Benefits@eppingforestdc.gov.uk
  • In person at the civic offices in Epping or the Limes Centre in Chigwell (Wednesdays only)

Full contact details at How to contact the benefits team.

 

Housing schemes move forward at Cabinet

Written on . Posted in Councillors, Crime and safety, Housing, Leader, Meetings, Your council, Your home

Cabinet 9 March 2015

Housing moves forward

More council housing is in the pipeline. Twelve feasibility studies covering sites in Loughton, Stanford Rivers, North Weald, Epping and Coopersale are to be taken forward to the next stage following Cabinet approval at Epping Forest District Council on Monday 9 March. The recommendations put forward by Housing Portfolio Holder David Stallan were originally discussed in detail at the Housebuilding Cabinet Committee in December.

Cabinet also supported revisions to the Council’s Tenancy Policy and Housing Allocations Scheme following extensive reviews by the Housing Scrutiny Panel. Councillors added a recommendation to review the Tenancy Policy again after two years. Presenting the report on behalf of the Panel, Councillor Stephen Murray stressed the high level of consultation with the Tenants and Leaseholders Federation.

On a busy night for Councillor Murray, he then took councillors through his Panel’s report on proposed enhancements and improvements to the Council’s housing service in 2015/16 including further funding of the CAB and services delivered at Limes Farm, Chigwell.

Corporate Plan – Vision

Council Leader Chris Whitbread introduced ‘a positive vision and aspiration’ for the district over the next five years in the new Epping Forest District Council Corporate Plan. Having been supported previously at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, the Plan will be recommended to the meeting of all councillors at Full Council for approval and adoption.

Safeguarding

Safer, Greener and Transport Portfolio Holder Gary Waller updated councillors on safeguarding at Epping Forest District Council. Reminding councillors of high-profile cases in other areas, and the importance of training for staff and councillors, he welcomed the Council’s investment in safeguarding and revisions to the Safeguarding Policy and Procedures.

Nominating parking schemes to Essex County Council NEPP

Councillor Waller was also given authority to nominate minor parking and waiting restriction schemes for consideration to the North Essex Parking Partnership. Councillors welcomed the steps to increase the speed at which schemes are taken forward. The NEPP manages on-street parking regulation and enforcement under Essex County Council highways authority.

No increase in Council Tax

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Business, Community, Council tax, Councillors, Housing, Leader, Local business, Loughton, Media, Meetings, Older people, Ongar, Out and about, Parking, Planning, Residents, Supporting business, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home, Your money

Another freeze in Council Tax is being recommended by the Epping Forest District Council Cabinet on 2 February 2015.

The council has not increased its Council Tax charge of £148.77 for an average Band D property for 5 years. The zero increase in Council Tax has been achieved despite central government funding reduction of approximately 60% over the last 5 years.

Read the agenda

Central government funding

Finance Portfolio Holder Syd Stavrou also provided details of the significant income from investments. As central government funding continues to decline, councillors are looking long-term towards making Epping Forest District Council less dependent on grant.

Councillor Stavrou expressed delight that among the financial achievements was an investment budget of £33 million for new council housing, while stressing the duty to continue searching for savings on council budgets wherever possible.

Thanks to the robust and prudent management of the council’s finances, Councillor Stavrou received support to create a new ‘invest to save’ budget of £500,000. This will be used specifically to put money into projects designed to make long term savings. Epping Forest District Council remains a low-tax council.

Council Leader Chris Whitbread welcomed the budget report. He described it as a really good budget, protecting front line services while never forgetting that it is residents’ money. Every pound should be spent as carefully possible.

Council house building programme

Earlier in the meeting, Councillor David Stallan Housing portfolio holder updated Cabinet on the new council house building programme including progress at Faversham Hall and Marden Close, and ground-breaking for the first completely new properties in Waltham Abbey. Further consideration is being given to plans for the development of council housing at Burton Road in Loughton.

Councillor Whitbread invited Councillor Stallan and Assistant Director Paul Pledger to elaborate on the design standards being applied to new council housing. Councillor Whitbread went on to emphasise the importance of delivering high-quality homes in the shortest possible timeframe to meet the needs of local people.

Work continues to provide off-street parking on council housing estates. Councillor Stallan reported on the completion of 182 spaces at an average cost of £3,340 per bay. Councillors received an updated list of schemes to come including two new sites in Waltham Abbey.

The next 8 schemes subject to consultation with residents and planning applications are

  1. Roundhills (Red Cross site), Waltham Abbey
  2. Etheridge Green, Loughton
  3. Watermans Way, North Weald
  4. Alderwood Close, Abridge
  5. Tillingham Court, Waltham Abbey
  6. Sycamore House, Buckhurst Hill
  7. Roundhills (Site 4), Waltham Abbey
  8. Rochford Green, Loughton

Councillor Stallan stressed that schemes can only go forward with the support of local residents. Councillors are also to look carefully at the potential impact of new council house building projects on off-street parking schemes.

Car parking strategy

The revised pay and display car parking strategy was presented by Portfolio Holder Gary Waller. The strategy sees some modest increases in income from council-run car park tariffs. Parking charges will be kept lower in Waltham Abbey and Ongar which do not benefit from ready access to London Underground stations. The new structure seeks to protect local town centre businesses and shoppers while also investing in maintaining and improving the car parking services.

Weekend shoppers will continue to enjoy free parking for the first 2 hours of their stay where car parks were previously free, but will have to pay £1 after that. The half hour 10p weekday charge will increase to 20p. New ‘smart meters’ and additional CCTV are among the improvements to convenience and security.

Ongar Academy

There is good news for the district’s children. Cabinet provided support for the new Ongar Academy secondary school by agreeing the principle of selling 8.98 hectares of land next to Ongar Leisure Centre. The value of the site to be used by the new school is yet to be assessed.

 

Energy efficiency grants

Written on . Posted in Grants, Housing, Housing repairs, Media, Private housing, Residents, Your area, Your council, Your home

Feeling the cold? Do you need help with the cost of fitting energy-saving improvements in your home?

We offer financial assistance and grants to home owners for small-scale energy efficiency works such as draught proofing or loft insulation. Limited funding is available for homeowners and private tenants who are disabled or over 60, and on a means tested benefit to assist with energy efficiency measures.

Energy efficiency image

If you are not eligible for this funding, there are other ways we can assist you in making your home more energy efficient.

Grants available

We also offer grants to homeowners, private tenants and landlords for

  • Disabled facilities grants up to £30,000
    (including widening doorways, installing stairlifts, building ramps, etc)
  • Decent homes repayable assistance up to £10,000
    (including work that is necessary to make the property meet the Decent Homes Standard, etc)
  • Small works repayable assistance up to £3,000
    (including repairs to roofs, gutters, windows and improvements to paths, steps and stairs both inside, etc)
  • Empty homes repayable assistance up to £10,000
    (including any work necessary to make the property meet the Decent Homes Standard)

Find out more

Look at our Private Sector Housing information or contact the Private Sector Housing Team (Grants and C.A.R.E.) for details

 

Gale warnings and power cut advice

Written on . Posted in Business, Commercial properties, Community, Crime and safety, Emergencies, Housing, Local business, Media, Our countryside, Out and about, Private housing, Residents, Supporting business, Travel, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home

The Met Office has issued severe gale warnings for Essex for Wednesday 14 February and Thursday 15 February. Gusts may exceed 60mph.

Find out more on the Met Office website.

Advice from UK Power Networks

Our electricity network is built to be resilient but extreme weather can affect overhead power lines. Our emergency plans have been put in to place, with hundreds of extra engineers and other staff on duty to deal with situations as and when they arise. In communication with customers, we urge the public to stay well clear from power lines and anyone spotting a damaged power line needs to report it to UK Power Networks.

For any power cut enquiries please contact us 24 hours a day by

UK Power Networks has a Priority Service Register for those who may be more vulnerable and require extra assistance in a power cut. You can find out more information at http://bit.ly/1c3CkOO. We currently work with the British Red Cross who can activate their volunteers to support vulnerable customers if power is affected.

Preparing for a power cut

Advice on how our customers can prepare for a power cut

  1. Keep our freephone number handy
  2. See the website for some useful videos offering you advice during a power cut
  3. Keep spare batteries for radios and torches – local radio stations often broadcast helpful information
  4. Keep an old-fashioned corded phone which you can plug in, as cordless phones won’t work in the event of a power cut
  5. Dress warmly in several layers of clothing, stay in one room or even get into bed
  6. Take care if using candles, tea-lights and other naked flames
  7. Keep fridges and freezers closed, with a blanket over as they will stay cold for many hours
  8. Switch off all your electrical equipment, except one light which will let you know when the power comes back on
  9. Remember the street lights may also be off so take care if you go out
  10. Look out for elderly neighbours – please consider taking them round a flask of hot water or hot food

 

Council Leader talks to the Guardian

Written on . Posted in Business, Commercial properties, Council tax, Councillors, Housing, Leader, Local business, North Weald Airfield, Our attractions, Recycling and waste, Supporting business, Your council, Your home, Your money

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Epping Forest District Council has responded to a request from the Epping Forest Guardian for his reflections on the past year and some thoughts on the future.


Councillor Whitbread is also a local businessman based in Epping.

Councillor Whitbread says that looking back, 2014 was a generally good year for Epping Forest District Council. The Tour de France stands out as a fantastic event and showed what can be achieved by the community. He is optimistic about the local economy, saying that it has definitely picked up with busier high streets.

The Council continued to cut costs and improve services such as the new waste and recycling contract. Councillor Whitbread says it was with great pride that councillors started building new council houses for local families for the first time in many years.   However, the year was tinged with a note of sadness as the Council lost three dear friends and colleagues, Councillors Penny Smith and Ken Avey and former Councillor Joan Davis.

Looking ahead, Councillor Whitbread says the Council faces further challenging savings targets but he is confident and committed to protecting services that matter to residents as well as keeping the Council Tax low. He explains that Epping Forest District Council has always used its assets to fund services. It has industrial estates, shopping parades and North Weald Airfield.

Following the award of the new refuse and recycling collection contract, the Council is looking to turn Langston Road depot in Loughton into a brand new retail park. As the income from the park comes on stream in years to come, Councillor Whitbread says there is good reason to be confident for council services going forward.