Be on your guard against Council Tax scams

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Business, Chigwell, Community, Council tax, Crime and safety, Epping, Loughton, Older people, Ongar, Out and about, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Working with the council, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home, Your money

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

Council tax scam warning

Cold caller scam

We have been made aware of a cold call scam in which a resident received a call from a person that falsely presented themselves as an employee of a company called GFM, claiming they can the resident a Council Tax refund of £5,000 for an upfront cost of £150.

This is a scam.

GFM are a legitimate Marketing company based in Colchester and are not responsible for any of these calls. GFM are now aware that they are being impersonated.

Be alert

Be mindful of cold callers that contact you, especially if they ask for money up front to get a refund or cash back and be especially vigilant if you have vulnerable relatives, friends or acquaintances.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Report it

If you are unsure whether a call is genuine, please report them to Action Fraud

  • Call the Action Fraud team on 0300 123 2040

Paying for policing, the PFCC needs #yourviews

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Business, Chigwell, Community, Consultation, Council tax, Crime and safety, Democracy, Emergencies, Epping, Loughton, Media, Older people, Ongar, Out and about, Regulations, Residents, Uncategorized, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home, Your money

Do you want to increase the levels of policing in Essex? Willing to pay more Council tax to do so? The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex (PFCC) want your views.

Police car

Roger Hirst, the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex is asking Essex residents to fill in an online survey to gauge whether or not residents would be happy to pay more, so more resources can be invested in policing across the county.

Essex Police’s Funding comes from two sources

  • Central Government
  • Local Council Tax

Essex Police receives the lowest funding per resident of any police force in the country and has the sixth lowest council tax for policing.

Have your say

The survey will be live from 01.00 am Monday 6 November to 00.00am on Sunday 19 November.

The PFCC want you to join in the conversation on social media by using the #yourviews.

Providing the best service possible

PFCC Mr Hirst said: “I want to provide the best service possible for the people of Essex and increasing investment will help me deliver this. I’m not expecting any increase in central Government funding for this year but I can raise the police precept. However, before I make that decision I want to know what the views of the public are so I can take them into account.”

He added: “At every public meeting I attend I hear that the residents want more police on the streets and whilst both Essex Police and I are doing everything we can to make that happen, we don’t have the money or resources to deliver it in the best way that we want to. The demand on the police service is rising. New crime types are emerging and existing crime is rising in its complexity, this is against a backdrop of an unprecedented shift in the national security environment. My question to the public is this – do they want to pay more for those extra resources?”

Council Tax Support Scheme consultation extended

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Consultation, Council tax, Democracy, Epping, Loughton, Older people, Ongar, Our activities, Out and about, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home, Your money

The Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme consultation has been extended, due to a problem with a link that was published on social media. You are now able to make comments until midnight on Wednesday 25 October 2017.

We’re asking for your views on the future of our Local Council Tax Reduction scheme (LCTS) to see whether any changes should be made. It’s important we get the views of our residents as it could affect the amount of Council Tax you pay, or the services you receive.

Council Tax Reduction Scheme consultation

Government grant

“The Government gives us a grant to pay Local Council Tax Support which is reducing each year” explains Finance Portfolio Holder Councillor Gagan Mohindra, “if we spend more than the grant, we have to decide how we pay for the excess.”

Making changes

“This year, in addition to looking at how the scheme is funded, we are deciding whether changes should be made to reduce the number of different Council Tax bills that people get when they receive Universal Credit, and whether Bereavement Support Payments should be disregarded. There are also changes to the way that we treat decisions by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).”

Generate savings

Councillor Mohindra said: “We’ve looked carefully at the LCTS scheme and are aiming to providing a fair level of support to those residents on a low income as well as identifying potential changes which would generate savings for the council.

We will of course continue to fully fund support for those who suffer exceptional hardship, and none of the changes would make a drastic change to the amount of council tax individuals would pay.”

Let us know what you think

“Let us know what you think on this important issue” Councillor Mohindra asked residents. “ It takes just 10 minutes to complete the online questionnaire which runs until midnight on Wednesday 25 October 2017.

Any recommendations from this consultation will be considered by Full Council later in the year, with a view to bringing in changes from April 2018.”

Make a detailed reply or comments

If you want to make a detailed reply or comments, email benefits@eppingforestdc.gov.uk and enter ‘consultation’ in the subject heading. If you don’t have access to a computer, you can get a paper copy from the Benefits Division at the Civic Offices.

We cannot respond individually to each response.

Woman guilty of subletting council property

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Chigwell, Council tax, Equalities, Housing, Loughton, Our performance, Performance, Private housing, Prosecutions, Regulations, Residents, Uncategorized, Working with the council, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home, Your money

Ms Paula Callaway of Dunmow Essex has been given a 12 month suspend sentence and 150 hours community service after being found guilty of 2 counts of Social Housing fraud.

Subletting council property

Paula Callaway became a tenant of Moat Housing housing association in 1999. The tenancy agreement required Ms Callaway to live at the property 49 Ravenoak Way Chigwell as her main home and not to sublet it without prior written permission.

In November 2011 Paula Callaway sought permission to carry out a mutual exchange with the tenant of a one bedroom flat Council property at 9 Felstead Road Loughton.

Reasons given for requesting the exchange was that Ms Callaway wished to downsize following her children leaving home. The mutual exchange was approved and took place in January 2012.

Confidential fraud hotline

Following a report to the Council’s confidential fraud hotline officers launched an investigation which revealed that Paula Callaway had purchased a three bedroom new build property and had been living in Dunmow since October 2009, whilst still claiming to be a tenant at Ravenoak Way, Chigwell.

Ms Callaway had not informed Moat Housing that she had moved out and had left her son at that property and also rented out to property to at least another five people.

The mutual exchange was therefore fraudulent and the reasons given false.

Further fraudulent activity

At trial it transpired that the tenant Ms Callaway carried out the mutual exchange with was her sister in law and the real reason for wanting to exchange was that her sister in law wanted to move to a three bedroom property.

Having then gained the tenancy of the one bedroom flat 9 Felstead Road, Callaway then illegally sublet it again. She moved in two individuals from Ravenoak Way into 9 Felstead Road, whilst still living in her own property in Great Dunmow, acting as the landlord for the 2 council owned properties.

Depriving families of a home

After a five day trial at Chelmsford Crown Court Ms. Callaway was found guilty of 2 offences relating to Social Housing fraud. Having previously pleaded guilty to the criminal offence of dishonestly subletting a property, she was sentenced with a 12 month suspended sentence on both counts of fraud, 150 hours community service and a victim surcharge.

The Judge stated: “You were given social housing once you had bought a home of your own. There is chronic shortage of social homes and you deprived a family from living in a home for six years. This went on far too long. It went on but you must know what you did was wrong.”

Fraudsters cheat us all

Finance Portfolio Holder Councillor Gagan Mohindra said: “Fraud affects everyone. Money stolen by housing tenancy fraud, council tax fraud or business rates fraud is depriving our public services of the vital resources they need.”

“Please tell us if you suspect someone is committing fraud by filling in our online form or by calling our fraud investigation team”

You can report anonymously and don’t have to give your name or contact details unless you want to.

Council Tax Reduction Scheme consultation

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Buckhurst Hill, Business, Business rates, Chigwell, Community, Consultation, Council tax, Epping, Local business, Loughton, Ongar, Our activities, Out and about, Residents, Supporting business, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home, Your money

We’re asking for your views on the future of our Local Council Tax Support scheme (LCTS) to see whether any changes should be made. It’s important we get the views of our residents as it could affect the amount of Council Tax you pay, or the services you receive.

Council Tax Reduction Scheme consultation

Government grant

“The Government gives us a grant to pay Local Council Tax Support which is reducing each year” explains Finance Portfolio Holder Councillor Gagan Mohindra, “if we spend more than the grant, we have to decide how we pay for the excess.”

Making changes

“This year, in addition to looking at how the scheme is funded, we are deciding whether changes should be made to reduce the number of different Council Tax bills that people get when they receive Universal Credit, and whether Bereavement Support Payments should be disregarded. There are also changes to the way that we treat decisions by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).”

Generate savings

Councillor Mohindra said: “We’ve looked carefully at the LCTS scheme and are aiming to providing a fair level of support to those residents on a low income as well as identifying potential changes which would generate savings for the council.

We will of course continue to fully fund support for those who suffer exceptional hardship, and none of the changes would make a drastic change to the amount of council tax individuals would pay.”

Let us know what you think

“Let us know what you think on this important issue” Councillor Mohindra asked residents. “ It takes just 10 minutes to complete the online questionnaire which runs until 12 October 2017.

Any recommendations from this consultation will be considered by Full Council later in the year, with a view to bringing in changes from April 2018.”

Make a detailed reply or comments

If you want to make a detailed reply or comments, email benefits@eppingforestdc.gov.uk and enter ‘consultation’ in the subject heading. If you don’t have access to a computer, you can get a paper copy from the Benefits Division at the Civic Offices.

We cannot respond individually to each response.

Do you know a cheat in your street?

Written on . Posted in Business, Business rates, Community, Council tax, Housing, Media, Out and about, Prosecutions, Regulations, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home, Your money

“If you know or suspect someone is committing fraud you should report them straight away” urges Finance Portfolio Holder Councillor Gagan Mohindra.

Fraud affects everyone. Money stolen by housing tenancy fraud, council tax fraud or business rates fraud is depriving our public services of the vital resources they need.”

Know a cheat in your street?

Report someone you think is committing fraud

Don’t let them get away with it. You can report it anonymously. You don’t have to give your name or contact details unless you want to.

Fraudsters are cheating us all

Housing tenancy fraud – someone who has committed a social housing fraud by

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

Council Tax fraud – someone who gets a Council Tax discount by falsely

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

Business rates fraud – a person or business liable for Business Rates who falsely

  • claims an exemption or relief they are not entitled to

Not a victimless crime

Cllr Mohindra said: “Fraud is not a victimless crime. Don’t think that reporting benefit fraud is wrong or underhand. If a fraudster commits fraud in the Epping Forest district we will use the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to seize and confiscate their assets.”

We need your help

“We constantly look for fraud but no matter how hard we try, we cannot do it alone – we need your help” said Councillor Mohindra.

“Please tell us if you suspect someone is committing fraud by filling in our online form or by calling our fraud investigation team on 01992 564444.”

Register for new online self-service

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Buckhurst Hill, Business, Business rates, Chigwell, Community, Council tax, Epping, Loughton, Media, Ongar, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home, Your money

You can now manage your Council Tax and Business Rates accounts online.

Self serve online
 

Self-service is quick and easy 

By registering today you can:

  • Instantly view your account
  • Check payments and other transactions
  • Pay your bill
  • Sign up for Direct Debit

You can also sign-up to receive electronic bills in the future instead of receiving them by post and be able to view all notices that have been previously sent to you.

Manage your finances at a time that suits you

The service is secure, quick and easy to use allowing you to manage your account 24/7 at a time that suits you and your business needs.

Finance Portfolio Holder Councillor Mohindra said: “We are constantly looking at ways to improve our services and want to make dealing with the council more flexible and convenient for you. By registering online residents can now manage both Council Tax and Business Rates any time of the day 7 days a week. Don’t delay, manage your finances at a time that suits you and register today.”

 

Full Council 21 February 2017

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Community, Council tax, Councillors, Democracy, Media, Meetings, Out and about, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your money

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

Ron Barnes OBE

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

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

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

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

Councillor Tony Boyce

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

Epping Forest Youth Council

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

Budget 2017/18

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

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

Good outcomes

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

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

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

Council Tax set for 2017/18

Written on . Posted in Business, Business rates, Community, Council tax, Councillors, Democracy, Leader, Local business, Media, Older people, Out and about, Residents, Supporting business, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home, Your money

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

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

Council Tax agreed

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

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

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

Good news budget and 0% increase

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

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

Rent reductions

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

Invest to Save

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

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

Cabinet 2 February 2017

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Buckhurst Hill, Business, Chigwell, Community, Council tax, Councillors, Democracy, Epping, Housing, Housing repairs, Leader, Loughton, Media, Meetings, Older people, Ongar, Our performance, Out and about, Residents, Uncategorized, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home, Your money

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

Council Tax freeze recommended

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

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

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

Careline monitoring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

£3.6m investment in repairs to empty Council Homes

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

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

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