Nature Reserve wins Bags of Help

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Thanks to the Tesco Bags of Help scheme we’ve improved the landscaping for both visitors and wildlife at Nazeing Triangle Local Nature Reserve (LNR).

Construction of the new dipping platform

Click to enlarge photo and click on photo to see more photos

Nazeing Triangle LNR received £8,000 from Tesco and Groundworks for a community project. It was to improve the habitat for local wildlife and provide better access for visitors. The money was raised by the 5p carrier bag charge which is to be used for grants to improve local parks, hold community events, support sports groups and more.

The first stage is complete

The community project is run by our Countrycare team who were thrilled to receive the grant. Assistant Countryside Manager Nicola Ceconi said: “This exciting project has just begun. We’ve installed a new dipping platform, similar to a jetty, giving wildlife lovers safe access to the waterside.”

“Next, we will plant native aquatic pond plants around the pond edges using preplanted coir matting. This will improve the habitat for amphibians and invertebrates, providing an important refuge and food source. The plants should then grow and spread around the pond.”

Pond experience

“We want visitors to get the most out of their pond experience. A panel showing the different species living in the nature reserve will boost their knowledge and appreciation of pond life. The final stage is to let nature take its course. I’m hoping the natural colonisation by plants and wildlife will occur surprisingly quickly.”

Thanks to the funding from Tesco

“The old dipping platform had become rotten and unsafe” said Councillor Gary Waller, Safer, Greener and Transport Portfolio Holder. “This new platform will be wheelchair accessible, allowing people of all ages and abilities to enjoy the pond.”

“The habitat for invertebrates and amphibians will improve with time, and this will encourage a greater biodiversity in the pond, all thanks to the funding from Tesco Bags of Help and Groundworks.”

Full Council 21 February 2017

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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

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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.”

Police recognise community safety work

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Helping victims of crime can seem like a thankless task but a community safety officer and a volunteer crime prevention assistant have been recognised for their commitment and hard work by Essex Police.

Caroline Wiggins accepts an award on behalf of Tony Ellis

Certificate of Achievement

Paul Gardener, Community Safety Officer at Epping Forest District Council and Tony Ellis, volunteer Crime Prevention Assistant at Essex Police, were presented with Certificate of Achievement awards at Essex Police Headquarters on 31 January 2017.

Presentations were made to over 50 volunteers who work to support of Essex Police. They were presented by The High Sheriff of Essex Lorna Rolfe, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex Jane Gardner and Assistant Chief Constable Maurice Mason.

Paul Gardener received a special presentation from Assistant Chief Constable Maurice Mason, acknowledging the commitment to working in partnership with Essex Police, the first award of its kind.

Keep our community safe

Councillor Gary Waller Safer, Greener and Transport Portfolio Holder said: “I’d like to say a big thank you to Paul and Tony on behalf of the people of the Epping Forest district.”

“You support and help people when they are vulnerable after falling victim to domestic abuse, bogus callers or burglary, showing them a way forward. Essex Police have recognised you both for the positive work you do to help keep our community safe.”

Stop Hate UK helpline for Essex

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Stop Hate UK is a new helpline covering Essex providing independent, confidential and accessible reporting and support for victims of all forms of hate crime and discrimination.

Their 24 hour number 0800 138 1625 acts as a source of emotional support, advice, and as a reporting pathway for the user. The existence of the helpline now gives Essex a true 24 hour service for reporting hate crime.Stop hate crime 0800 138 1625 24hour helpline

Stop Hate UK helpline

The main advantages of the helpline are

  1. It is 24 hours
  2. They will provide immediate support and then refer the caller to Victim Support if they need further local support (and the service user consents)
  3. They can advise over a number of matters. Service users can approach them for advice over what to do, how to report, how to access support, whether something is or isn’t a hate crime\hate incident, the police process, etc.
  4. They can take reports of hate crime\hate incidents. This can be done anonymously

A zero tolerance policy on abuse

Councillor Gary Waller Safer, Greener and Transport Portfolio Holder said: “We live in a relatively tolerant country but we must not be complacent. Last July Epping Forest District Councillors unanimously backed a motion condemning racism, xenophobia and hate crime.”

“We must have a zero tolerance policy on abuse based on people’s ethnic origin, nationality, religious belief or sexual orientation.”

A devastating impact

Councillor Waller continued: “Hate crime can have a devastating impact on victims and witnesses who may feel unable to speak to the police. The Stop Hate UK helpline offers callers many ways to report hate crimes and incidents. These include phone, text, text relay, web chat, online forms, post and email.”

“All contacts are confidential and ongoing support will be offered. They will refer people to other services, including the police, but only where consent has been given by the caller.”

Cabinet 2 February 2017

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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.

Know a cheat in your street?

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Every year thousands of pounds of your money is stolen by cheaters, money that should be used to improve your local community.

Don’t let them get away with it.

Report fraud

Know a cheat in your street?

Right now, fraudsters are cheating us all. Here’s how they do it …

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

Have you spotted a cheater?

Finance Portfolio Holder Councillor Gagan Mohindra said: “Have you spotted a cheater? Tell us immediately. Your report will be treated in the strictest confidence and can be given anonymously.”

“Fraud is not a victimless crime. It is taking money from honest taxpayers. Every penny lost to fraud means we have less money to spend on providing the services you want.”

“Spot the cheater and don’t let them get away with fraud!”

New phone system rings in changes

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Business, Chigwell, Community, Council tax, Councillors, Emergencies, Energy efficiency, Epping, Housing, Housing repairs, Loughton, Media, Older people, Ongar, Our performance, Performance, Residents, Supporting business, Uncategorized, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home, Your money

New phone connections saving Epping Forest District Council and its tax payers £12,000 a year are set to go live this weekend (17 February to 20 February).

Cllr Lion promoting EFDC's new phone connections

Out of hour’s services

Subject to go ahead, temporary emergency numbers will be used during the switch.

The council has planned the switch at the quietest time of the week to minimise service disruption.

During the switch the two emergency out of hours contact numbers (01992 564000 and 01992 564199 for housing) will temporarily change while the council works with BT.

To contact EFDC out of hours from 5pm on Friday 17 February to 9am on Monday 20 February please call:

  • Housing Repairs Emergency 0203 589 3012

  • Any other Emergency   0203 589 3013

Protecting services

Moving phone connections from an analogue to a digitally based internet system will:

  • Make an annual saving of £12,000
  • Makes it easier to move phone answering to other locations
  • Improve phone resilience
  • Protect vital services

There will be no difference in how residents contact the council via phone as all phone numbers will remain the same and there will be no increase any call charges.

Small changes making a big difference

Technology and Support Services Portfolio Holder Councillor Alan Lion said: “We are planning another 0% increase in Council Tax this year. This is the latest in a series of investments. From double glazing to LED lighting and solar panels it all adds up. Relatively small savings like our new connections to our phone system can play a large part in keeping Council Tax down at the end of the year.”

Talk about crime in the Epping Forest area

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Do you care about the way your community is policed and do you want to know the facts about crime in the Epping Forest area?

If you are, come and talk to Roger Hirst the Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex (PCC) who will be hosting a meeting at the Civic Offices in Epping on Thursday 16 February 2017 to discuss these issues.

PCC poster Epping 16 February 2017

The Police and Crime Commissioner wants to talk with you

  • Do you care about the way your community is policed?
  • Do you want to know the facts about crime in your area?
  • Come along to Roger Hirst’s public meeting and have your say

This is an open meeting and all members of the public are welcome.

When

Thursday 16 February 2017.

Time

6.30pm to 8.30pm – you may join or leave the meeting at any time.

Where

Council Chamber, Civic Offices, High Street, Epping CM16 4BZ.

Ask a question

You can ask PCC Roger Hirst a question at the meeting.

Can’t come to the meeting? Email your question to pcc@essex.pnn.police.uk.

Watch

This meeting is being webcast so you can watch it live or after it has finished.

Be part of the debate

Councillor Gary Waller, Safer, Greener and Transport Portfolio Holder said: “This meeting gives the people of Epping Forest a chance to meet and talk to Roger Hirst, their Essex PCC. They can find out the facts about crime in their area, how Essex Police deal with that crime, and how our Community Safety Partnership (CSP) deals with ‘hidden harms’ in the district.”

Councillor Gary Waller ended with: “Come along and raise crime and policing issues that matter to you. Help the police find out what’s working well and what’s not so good from your point of view. Join in and be part of the debate to help make our district a safer to place to live.”

Council Tax frozen for 7th year

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Good financial planning over many years is being credited with keeping Epping Forest District Council’s share of the Council Tax down for a record 7th year.

Chris Whitbread and Gagan Mohindra at Oakwood Hill Depot

Keeping Council Tax frozen

The average payment of a Band D property to the District Council is set to remain at £148.77 until at least April 2018. Rents for Council House tenants are also set to come down by 1% in line with national guidelines.

The District has not increased its share of Council Tax since 2010.

Protecting services

Finance Portfolio Holder Gagan Mohindra presented the 2017/18 budget to Cabinet on Thursday 2 February. Confirmation of the nil-increase is expected to follow at Full Council on 21 February 2017.

Epping Forest District Council has successfully managed to maintain low taxes and the protection of frontline services against a background of long term reductions in central government funding and public sector service cuts elsewhere.

Councillor Mohindra said: ”This hasn’t been achieved overnight. Even before the financial crisis of 2008, Epping Forest District Council was setting out our stall as an efficient low-tax council. As central government funding has reduced year on year, we set our sights on becoming financially independent.”

Remaining as efficient as possible

The Council has managed the process through a combination of reduced costs and increased income.

Councillor Mohindra said: ”Over the years we have cut our costs dramatically. Our Revenue budget not many years ago was over £18million. That has been reduced to a little over £13million for next year.”

”We have adapted and moved with the times. We have changed the way we work, making better use of technology wherever possible, changing our structures and streamlining our services to ensure we remain as lean and efficient as possible. That process is ongoing. We are now embarking on a more intensive transformation which may see much more use of flexible and home working, reductions in office space and more productivity.”

Working in partnership

He continued: ”We have also embraced private sector partnerships wherever we believed it could deliver better services. Next month Places for People takes on the management of our Sports and Leisure Centres. We already had a good track record with our previous provider. This new contract will see not only reductions in the cost to the council but will also potentially see the development of a brand new leisure centre in Waltham Abbey and improvements to other facilities. This is against a backdrop of other councils cutting back and closing down their leisure offering.”

”Our residents also play a huge role in our success. Recent fluctuations in recycling have seen the cost of our waste collection service increase, but overall, with the help of our residents diverting domestic waste from landfill to recycling, our new contract is saving many thousands of pounds every year. ”

Members of the Cabinet and senior officers inspected progress on Epping Forest Shopping Park just before Christmas. Yearly income from the park could be as much as £2.7 million and will be used to support local public services.

”And while our costs are coming down, we are increasing our income. Epping Forest District Council is one of the biggest land owners in our area. Our portfolio of shops, industrial estates, commercial units, car parks and North Weald Airfield brings in a significant rental income. This money is ploughed back into providing local services. That income is set to be boosted by as much as £2.7million per annum when Epping Forest Shopping Park opens later this year.”

”These major contracts, developments and investments are years in the planning and delivery but they are paying tremendous dividends.”

Bucking the trend

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Epping Forest District Council congratulated Cllr Gagan Mohindra and thanked the finance team for their hard work on another strong budget.

He said: ”The hallmark of a good council is to be low tax whilst protecting front line services. Councillor Gagan Mohindra and his team have done a marvellous job in bringing forward this budget. Times are tough. We are seeing substantial increases in Council Tax everywhere else. But we have been able to buck the trend at Epping Forest District Council.”

”The foundations of our financial strength can be found in years of careful management and investment. It has been a job well done but we must continue to look forward. Later this year I hope to see new changes to the management of our Pay and Display Car Parks which will cut costs without increasing charges. Longer term we are also looking at better use of our offices in Epping.”

”We have excellent management and staff committed to getting the best value out of every penny. It is by far the best way to balance the books but we never forget our purpose is to provide the best possible service at the least possible cost to our local residents.”