Monday night’s Cabinet meeting included an update on the Council’s letter to the Rt Hon John Healey, MP concerning the Gypsy and Traveller Direction, a briefing from the representatives of the Youth Council and discussion on compensation for residents in the vicinity of the O2 mast erected in Honey Lane, Waltham Abbey.
Letters to the Minister
Councillor Diana Collins confirmed to members of Epping Forest District Council`s Cabinet that the letter to the Rt Hon John Healey, MP demanding the lifting of the Gypsy and Traveller Direction had been sent, before hearing that the Council was also calling on Mr Healey to look again at the financial rules governing Council house building.
Families struggling to get a first foot on the housing ladder received a boost at Cabinet on 1 February after ¬£168,000 was re-allocated to provide six ¬£28,000 Home Ownership Grants. A further ¬£182,000 has been allocated to help a Housing Association to purchase homes for affordable rent from the open market. However, the Council`s aspiration to re-start its own building programme has run into problems due to the Government`s rules on public spending. Epping Forest District Council is to appeal to Mr Healey, Minister for Local Government for more flexibility.
Youth Councillors Connor Latimer and Harrison Jardine invited members of the Cabinet to attend the next Youth Council. The Youth Councillors briefed the Cabinet on the forthcoming Youth Council conference in March. Harrison Jardine also provided feedback on recent training days. Further training is aimed at catching the interest of the local media, building local democracy, raising the profile of the Youth Council and consulting local young people on measures for change.
The forthcoming Youth Conference will focus on key areas, publicity, a debate on lowering the voting age and five discussion groups. Issues will range from the environment to cyber-bullying.
Under Budget Broadway CCTV Upgrade
Councillors received notification of the final completion of the Broadway Town Centre Enhancement at a cost of ¬£3,631,000 including a saving of ¬£595,000 thanks to a smooth and rapid conclusion to the project. Councillors will now be asked to consider potential uses for the savings, including enhancements to CCTV.
Fixed Penalty Notices between ¬£50 and ¬£500
Fixed Penalty Notices with discounts for early payment were agreed by Councillors. Where Government guidance exists, the Council adopted the lowest penalty levels possible on a range of environmental misdemeanours ranging from abandoned cars, nuisance parking and litter through to keeping dogs under control and noise complaints. The new Fixed Penalty Notices will be widely publicised prior to implementation across the district.
O2 Mast Waltham Abbey
Planning Officers are to investigate the possibility of an alternative site for the O2 mobile telephone mast in Honey Lane, Waltham Abbey. Councillors were set to consider compensation to local residents but the report was deferred after O2 indicated alternative sites in Waltham Abbey might allow them to remove the mast in Honey Lane.
The mast was originally erected after the Council failed to consider the planning notification within the statutory deadline. Councillors and staff took the opportunity to apologise to residents again. Residents who complained have previously received ¬£250 `goodwill` payments from the Council in recognition of the mistake.
Voluntary support through the recession
Epping Forest District Council is to encourage local residents and its own employees to volunteer. The District Council supports the CAB to the tune of ¬£120,000 per year and has recently helped its expansion to meet the additional demands placed on the CAB by people asking for help during the recession. Members of the Cabinet also endorsed the recent work of the Council to support the voluntary work of Essex Credit Unions through The Forester and other publicity.
Recovery of Icelandic Bank Money
Councillors received some good news concerning the potential loss of investments following the collapse of Icelandic banks. The Council`s Finance Director, Bob Palmer was able to report the latest predictions from Ernst and Young, administrator for Heritable Bank now predicts the recovery of between 79 pence and 85 pence in the pound. Mr Palmer was also able to report a VAT refund likely to cover any remaining loss from Heritable Bank.
Cabinet endorsed the 1.5 per cent Council Tax increase recommendation to Council on 16 February. Councillor Chris Whitbread described the budget as affordable and manageable. The proposed budget would see the District Council precept on a Band D property increase by just four pence per week.